Brief post today—as the scheduled-poster publishes this I'll be a half an hour into the GRE.
Now is as good a time as any to talk about what we can reasonably expect from Joe Mather next year. Yesterday's fanpost on the subject made me think, more than anything else, about how little I usually think about Mather. I think he gets lost in the shuffle because the major potential outfield move of this offseason, trading Rick Ankiel, segues so neatly into the major prospect move of this offseason, promoting Colby Rasmus.
But as said fanpost demonstrates, by comparing Mather's AAA mashing and subsequent debut with Rick Ankiel's AAA mashing and subsequent debut, it was a rookie year worth more consideration than I've been giving it. Here's what it looks like with his AAA rampage converted into MLB-equivalent stats. (MLEs courtesy Baseball Prospectus.)
I like this because both his major league debut and his last stint in Memphis demand to be looked at with a little suspicion—his AAA stint because it was so great, his MLB time because it was so sporadic. What it reminds me of, off-hand, is the jump from AA to the PCL that he made in 2007.
Eerie, right? I bolded the numbers that I didn't have to change after I copied and pasted this table, for maximum eeriness, but the broader point is a little less parlor trick and a little more interesting: both years Mather, who has been notoriously slow to develop—2007 was the first year in seven that he managed an .800 OPS—started off slugging .600 and, after a promotion, continued to hit for power but struggled with his previously solid plate discipline. Since Mather followed up his first taste of AAA with the second slugging outburst, this is a pretty optimistic line of reasoning.
There are reasons for tempered optimism. For one thing, he's not all that young for a guy who's got 133 major league at-bats; he's just a little over a year younger than Chris Duncan, for instance, with whom he'll be competing for playing time come Spring Training. (The MLB promotion had the opposite effect on Duncan, too; in his two pre-hernia half-seasons he far outperformed anything he'd ever done in the minor leagues.) ZiPS, for its part, expects the man called Bombs to regress even from his MLB debut, hitting all of .243/.308/.425.
But after the unlikely emergences of Ludwick, Ankiel, and Duncan over the past few years I'm having a hard time maintaining anything resembling hard-line skepticism about uncelebrated slugging AAA outfielders. What's your Joe Mather projection, from playing time to venue to production? (He's an impressive player to see in person—I think there might be a significant correlation between positive projections and the amount of time you've spent watching him take long home run swings and lope around the outfield.)