Sunday, September 21, 2008

AL Hitters for '09

We've covered NL hitters who could surprise people in 2009; now it's the American League's turn. Guys like Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, and Alex Rodriguez are obvious choices. But who are the good players, who do not pose much of a risk, that should exceed expectations in 2009? Below are a few of the guys we have our eyes on.

1. Dustin Pedroia

Prior to this season Pedroia was a middle-of-the-pack second basemen who provided teams with a good batting average, but not much else. His minor league stats seemed to confirm that analysis. But all that changed this year, as Pedroia showed that he is a five category fantasy player. With the season coming to an end, Pedroia has already hit for .324-17-80-19. While his value will go up in 2009, we think he has a chance to exceed expectations, largely because of his league leading 52 doubles. The doubles lead us to believe that Pedroia could hit for more power in 2009 as he continues to mature. We expect a similar season to '08, but with more homers.

2. Nick Markakis

No stranger to fanballers, Markakis performed below most expectations in '08. He performed well - .300-20-86-10 is good, but many were disappointed with only 20 homers. Looking deeper into the stats, however, shows that Markakis hit 47 doubles. We expect Markakis to show greater power in 2009, with a season of .305-28-105-12 likely.

3. Evan Longoria

Longoria started the year in the minors, but began pummeling the ball after an early season call-up. To date Longoria has hit .278-25-82-7 in only 417 at-bats. Project that out to a full season, and you're talking about some serious offensive stats. Longoria is young, surrounded by other good, young hitters, and should only get better as he moves into his prime.

4. Kelly Shoppach

Shoppach has hit .268-21-55 in 396 at-bats. He routinely hit 20+ homers in less than 400 at-bats in the minors. If he gets 600 at-bats next season, 30 homers should be reachable. Beware, however, the possibility of a decline in batting average.

5. Denard Span

A virtual unknown before the season, Span has come on strong for the Twins. Most had expected Carlos Gomez to hold down the leadoff job for the year, but Span's .382 OBP% and 17 steals in only 322 at-bats convinced Ron Gardenhire to give him a shot in the role. Span has not disappointed, and has compiled a .298 BA, six homers and 42 rbi's to go with his impressive OBP%. If Span gets 600 at-bats in 2009, he could contend for the stolen base crown and should have a good batting average to boot.

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