Three Rookies Under the Radar

With the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, and Carlos Santana in the majors this season, I wanted to take a look at some rookies who have performed well under the radar in 2010.

OF Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds
2010 Debut: 5/3
2010 WAR: 0.9

Despite playing in just 39 games this season, Heisey has put up 0.9 WAR for the year, which would be worth 3.5 WAR over 150 games. At twenty-five, Heisey is a little older than some of the more hyped-up rookies, and his Triple-A numbers this year (.241/.307/.430) weren’t too pretty. He started 0 for his first 7 big league at-bats, striking out three times. However, Heisey has hit .271/.371/.542 for the entire campaign, good for a .386 wOBA. He’s also done well in the field with 3.1 runs saved (UZR) while playing all three outfield positions.

1B Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins
2010 Debut: 4/5
2010 WAR: 2.2

Sanchez, twenty-six years old, had two cups of coffee in the big leagues prior to 2010 totaling 31 plate appearances. However, he’s broken out in a big way this season as the Marlins’ regular first baseman by hitting .308/.376/.481; that’s a .379 wOBA and 137 wRC+. His .342 BABIP may be above his true talent level, but ZiPS still projects a .356 wOBA going forward. Sanchez has also played well in the field with 1.9 runs saved at first base.

3B David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals
2010 Debut: 4/5
2010 WAR: 1.4

Freese may be the most interesting prospect of the bunch. At twenty-seven years old, his relatively low .404 SLG this year is odd considering his minor league rate of .532. With a .361 OBP, that’s a .342 wOBA and a 115 wRC+. His .376 BABIP is generally unsustainable, and with a 7.8 BB%, his rate of getting on base may see a dip in the future. His defense has been slightly below average this year according to UZR, but his 1.4 WAR overall has to have the Cardinals happy.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

12 Responses to “Three Rookies Under the Radar”

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  1. JoeS says:

    Soon as I saw the headline for this I thought to myself “Neil Walker!” but sadly..

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    • GrtSm says:

      Walker has been very surprising, but the three listed above are doing well on competitive teams, and STILL they hardly get talked about.

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      • JoeS says:

        I agree. Walker hasn’t been a good fielder at all, which is keeping his WAR down. Gaby Sanchez gets talked about a pretty good amount, but only because he’s keeping Morrison in the minors.

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  2. OremLK says:

    Chris Johnson. Small sample size, but already 0.6 WAR in just 19 games.

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    • Toz says:

      I wrote about Chris Johnson over at the RotoThinkTank blog a couple of weeks ago. While he’s started off hot, he’s only played 19 games and, frankly, I’m not sure how great of a long term propsect he really is. Of course, he is certainly better than the trash Pedro Feliz put out there, so “pleasant surprise” is a term the Astros are happy to hear.

      Pat, glad to see you recognize Gaby Sanchez. He really started the year in the fishbowl and has performed admirably … how long he can hold off the Logan Morrison train remains to be seen, but Sanchez has really out-performed most of our expectations.

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      • OremLK says:

        Prospect analysts like to think they have the inside track and pretend they really know who’s a future all-star and who will be lucky to stick in the major leagues.

        That’s only true to an extent. Players sometimes make adjustments; something clicks, and suddenly they perform better than anybody expected. Every year, you have rookies who explode that prospect guys didn’t even have on their radar, and rookies who were considered top prospects who barely keep their head above water.

        I’m not saying Johnson is one of those guys who will surprise everyone. I don’t know for sure. All I know is, he was tearing it up at AAA and he appears to my eye to have made significant adjustments to his swing. His strikeout rate is much improved over both levels. He appears ready to be a productive major league player. I won’t say anymore than that I expect him to stick in the majors… need to see more to determine exactly *how* productive he’ll be.

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  3. Shane says:

    A lot of really good rookies this year??? Are there far more standout rookies this year, or does it just seem that way with the internet allowing for more access to prospects? If there are more rookies, is it just because this happens to be a good class, is it because of less PEDs that fewer older players are staying in the league, is it a fundamental change in baseball leading to more speed and defense that favor young players, are gm’s attempting to maximize value with lower cost young players??? I m sure its a combination of all of these, and would love to see analysis of why this is occuring, if in fact it actually is at all.

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  4. philosofool says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Jhoulys Chacin. At least, I think he’s still a rookie. He was on BA’s 2010 top prospects list, which usually means the guy’s a rookie. 3.8 xFIP, 1.5 WAR

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  5. spike says:

    Jonny Venters is doing a fine job as a relief ace for ATL – 1.38 ERA, .9 WAR 294 ERA+, leads team in relief IP, and almost all of them are high leverage.

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