By Eriq Gardner //
Andres Torres spent 13 years in the minors before finally getting a shot to play every day in the majors this season. His numbers on the farm were decent, but nothing that hinted he’d be any better than a serviceable backup. He showed some promise in 2009, hitting .270/.343/.533. This year, Torres has hit 15 homers, knocked in 61 runs, scored 83, and stolen 23 bases in 549 plate appearances. He’s certainly earned an outfield spot again next season, even though he’ll be 33 with a light pedigree. The guy who came out of nowhere edges the spectacular comeback year of Aubrey Huff as the team’s biggest surprise.
Pablo Sandoval was coming off a 25-HR season in 2009 and looked like a good bet to develop as one of the league’s most valuable corner infielders. After all, Kung Fu Panda has an elite ability to make contact with the ball — hardly ever striking out. So what happened in 2010? Sandoval hit only a dozen home runs and his batting average dropped from .330 all the way down to .267. It’s hard to explain his complete absence of power this year except to speculate about his body weight, a hidden injury, or just pure bad luck. It’s also possible that Sandoval enjoyed a career year in 2009 (including a very high .350 BABIP) and that he had little to no shot to repeat that performance.
2011 Keeper Alert
Buster Posey arrived on the scene in late May and quickly established himself as one of baseball’s top catchers. This season, in just 426 plate appearances, Posey has hit 16 HR, knocked in 64, and hit .311. Posey was highly touted coming into the league, but few catching prospects are ever this good, this quickly. Now, he has made a case that he could possibly be the most valuable catcher in baseball next year, especially if Joe Mauer fails to regain his 2009 power stroke. Posey’s value is helped by the fact that he plays nearly every day — another rarity among catchers — and hits high up in San Francisco’s lineup.
2011 Regression Alert
Expect better things from Sandoval next season. He’s still making contact and putting the ball in the air, but a 6.6% HR/FB rate is flukishly low and bound to improve.