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2013 Predictions: Colby Rasmus
Colby Rasmus was a first round selection (28th overall) of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2005 amateur draft. Between the ages of 18 and 21, Rasmus demonstrated power (29 HRs in 128 AA games), speed (stealing as many as 28 bases in a single season) and patience (a .366 OBP across four minor league seasons) all the while playing a premium defensive position in centre field. Not surprisingly, he was ranked the #3 overall prospect by Baseball America leading into the 2009 season. Those lofty expectations appeared to be translating into major league stardom when, at age 23, he posted a .276 / .361 / .498 batting line. However, his last two seasons have been disappointments, revealing Rasmus to be a streaky hitter that only briefly offers glimpses of his potential. With the Jays in a win-now frame of mind, 2013 is a critical year for Colby Rasmus – another slow start, coupled with the continued development of Anthony Gose, and Rasmus could find himself on the bench and potentially even a non-tender candidate next offseason.
Batting Stats (Past Three Seasons):
For Colby Rasmus, there are only two likely scenarios for this season: improve on last year or lose his job as the Jays starting centre fielder. Rasmus has shown the ability to be a very good major league hitter (in 2010 and again last June), but he has struggled to find consistency. With Anthony Gose waiting in the wings, Rasmus will need to find that consistency if he is to remain in the lineup every day. I tried to ascertain what the difference was between ‘good’ Rasmus and ‘bad’ Rasmus by comparing his numbers from last year to his numbers from 2010 and I found that there is a thin line separating the two. In 2012 Rasmus actually struck out less often and put the ball in play more often (64% of plate appearances vs. 56% in 2010), but he also took fewer walks. Luck may play a role (Rasmus had a .354 BABIP in 2010 and a .259 BABIP in 2012) as his real problem seems to be that the contact he’s making just isn’t as good as it was in 2010. His ground ball percentage is up (from 32.0% to 37.6%) as is his infield fly ball percentage (14.4%, up from 5.2%) while his fly ball percentage has dropped from 48.6% to 42.2%. It strikes me as strange that both his ground ball rate and infield fly ball rate are up since one would suggest that he’s getting on top of the ball too often while the other indicates that he’s getting under it too much. This is especially perplexing since pitch values would suggest that fastballs are the pitch he’s struggling with the most. It would seem that he’s ‘just missing’ too often and though he’s probably not as bad of a hitter as his 2012 numbers suggest, the reality is that he’s likely not as good as his BABIP inflated 2010 either. As such, I think it’s reasonable to expect Rasmus’ numbers to improve this year, but only modestly.
There is no question Colby Rasmus has the talent to succeed at the major league level. What I do question is his approach. His long swing, coupled with an open stance, makes him extremely susceptible to pitches away from him, particularly those from southpaws. He’s been labelled a streaky hitter, however, outside of a hot June, in which he managed a .878 OPS, Rasmus didn’t post better than a .747 mark in any other month. He was absolutely dreadful in the second half, posting a .515 OPS that wouldn’t keep him employed as a backup shortstop. This combination of minor league success and major league struggle makes him a difficult hitter to project. In some respects, his situation bears resemblance to another former draft hope, Travis Snider, although Rasmus has been given much more rope. I think he’s nearing the end of that rope in 2013, and it’s up to him whether he uses it to climb to new peaks or hang himself.
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