Monday, May 21, 2007

Baseball Banter

May 21, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

One of the great aspects of baseball is the fact that there is always somebody you’ve never heard of ready to burst onto the scene. These are a few guys who are making names for themselves this season:

1. JJ Hardy, SS, Milwaukee (.320, 14 HR, 41 RBI). I’m sorry Mets' fans, but Hardy has been the best shortstop in the NL this season. Easily the biggest shock of the 2007 campaign, Hardy has exploded onto the scene after two ho-hum seasons. He’s the main reason behind the Brewers’ turnaround and should (but won’t) start the All-Star game.

2. James Shields, SP, Tampa Bay (3-0, 2.94 ERA). And you thought Scott Kazmir
was the only pitcher you needed to know on Tampa Bay. Well, let me introduce you to James Shields. The 25-year-old right hander has 62 strikeouts in 67 1/3 IP and a miniscule WHIP of .92. When all is said and done, he might have a better career than Kazmir. Either way, Tampa Bay has two excellent young starters at the top of its rotation.

3. BJ Upton, 2B, Tampa Bay (.309, 7 HR, 25 RBI). Two Devil Rays in a row? This must be a typo. A highly touted prospect drafted out of high school, Upton struggled in parts of two seasons in the majors. This year he’s made the most of getting regular playing time and is one of several talented youngsters in the Devil Rays’ lineup. His strikeout numbers, however, are worrisome with 54 in only 139 at bats. Still, Upton is a guy you’ll be seeing in the All-Star game sooner than later.

4. Jack Cust, DH, Oakland (.306, 8 HR, 20 RBI). Talk about a grand entrance. Acquired from San Diego less than three weeks ago, Cust was called up and has belted eight homers in 49 at bats. Now 28, Cust languished in the minor leagues for several years as he routinely hit 20 homers or more in five seasons. His problem was his lack of a position. He now DHs and hits cleanup in the A’s lineup. This guy doesn’t look like Roy Hobbs, but he sure hits like him.

5. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cleveland (.275, 10 HR, 31 RBI). Peralta had his breakout year in 2005, but followed it up with a miserable 2006. Now he’s rebounded and is on pace for his best season in 2007. Although he’s often lost in the midst of a potent Cleveland lineup, pitchers around the league are beginning to fear him. He’s already a top five shortstop in the AL and by the end of the year, you may slot him in right behind the Yankee Captain as number two.

6. Tom Gorzelanny, SP, Pittsburgh (5-2, 2.43 ERA). Gorzelanny is turning heads in Pittsburgh, that is, if there is anyone watching. He’ll be 25 in July and he’s surpassed Zach Duke as the top lefty on the staff. I was debating between him and teammate Ian Snell, but since Gorzelanny has an extra win and the lower ERA of the two, he gets the nod.

7. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati (.292, 8 HR, 25 RBI). For years it seemed like Phillips was a bust, but he finally stepped up last year. Even though Josh Hamilton has stolen his thunder this year, Phillips is establishing himself as a top five second baseman in the NL. Turning 26 in June, Phillips still has time to improve his OBP, which is lower than you’d like for a guy that runs as well as he does.


Arun said...

I have never heard of any of these guys before. You're doing a better job than ESPN; keep up the good work.

Loura said...

You write very well.