Allow me to present to you a list of numbers:
Great. Read over them? Now, pick out the two players who are supposed to be Hall of Fame, once-in-a-generation kinds of talents.
What you're seeing above are the statistical performances to date of this year's top rookies. Many of them, anyway. Not all of them. Included therein are Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg, as you'd expect, since they're both rookies and they're both really really good. Included therein as well are other guys like Jaime Garcia, Brennan Boesch, and Gaby Sanchez, who have turned in similar, if not superior performances so far.
I don't mean to come down on Strasburg or Heyward. Stephen Strasburg had a breathtaking debut and is still putting up video game strikeout numbers. Heyward had an amazing debut all his own, and has had to battle through a hand injury that's sapped a lot of his production. These are two phenomenal players who could and should remain phenomenal players for the next 15 years. But these are also the two players who drew the most hype. There's a reason all eyes were on Heyward and Strasburg when they first showed up. They'd been talked about. Everywhere, they'd been talked about. They were being billed as the best hitter and pitcher talents of the next generation.
Which, hey, they might be. Strasburg's certainly on the right path. But hype has a way of focusing attention. Hype is like a pair of binoculars. You can see a lot more of whatever you're looking at, but you miss out on the context. You miss out on the surroundings, on the bigger picture. Had you asked the average baseball fan before the year to name some talented rookies, he would've named Heyward and Strasburg, and maybe Mike Stanton, but probably not anyone else. The others just weren't and aren't as well-known. Partly because many of them might be less talented, but partly because hype can't be spread around. Hype has to be specific and selective. Hype is exclusionary.
Stephen Strasburg has a 2.03 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. But are you familiar with Cleveland's Carlos Santana? Do you have any idea what he's been doing? Carlos Santana - who is only 24 years old - is a catcher with a .998 OPS, 11 more walks than strikeouts, and a 35% caught steal rate for good measure. Santana was Baseball America's preseason #10 prospect, and all he's done since then is kick his game up another level and put himself in the discussion for best catcher in baseball. He's a rookie. How many people have any idea how good he is?
What about San Francisco's 23 year old backstop Buster Posey? More people are familiar with Posey than Santana, it seems, but he still never drew wild hype, and right now he's sitting on a .959 OPS. St. Louis' Jaime Garcia came out of nowhere to become a groundballing, run prevention machine. Two-thirds of Detroit's productive outfield came in with a combined zero previous games of big league experience. And so on. I don't know if this has been an unusually successful rookie crop, but it's been a successful one, and I wonder just how many people are aware of the degree to which it's succeeded.
Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg are terrific young players who should blossom into two of baseball's brightest stars. They were worthy of hype, and they are worthy of attention. They are not, however, the only two exciting rookies in the class, and I fear that the attention they received and receive has in some way or another caused people to miss out on the other names. Carlos Santana might be the best all-around catcher in baseball. He really might. He's probably not, and it's probably far too early to make that sort of statement, but the very fact that I can write that without cringing is incredible. He has been that good. And it seems time that people recognize his success, and the success of his many young peers. They've been superb.
Now let's leap forward to the rankings!
SBN Blog: Camden Chat
2010 record: 29-63
Last week's rank: 29
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 28
Same old same old for the Orioles, who dropped their first four games out of the break. Good news, though, as they have built their lead on Pittsburgh for the first overall pick in next year's draft. Strasburg and Harper may be gone to the neighboring Nationals, but Anthony Rendon (broken ankle and all) could be a nice consolation prize.
SBN Blog: Bucs Dugout
2010 record: 32-60
Last week's rank: 30
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 30
There's still a lot of baseball left to be played, but the Pirates appear poised to make a strong run at the #1 pick in the 2011 draft. They're already the worst team in the NL by 2.5 games, and now sit just three games ahead of the Orioles in the overall standings. They're on pace to win just 56 games, and yet somehow they're still outperforming their Pythagorean record (27-65) by five wins.
SBN Blog: AZ Snakepit
2010 record: 35-58
Last week's rank: 27
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26
With this year's unexpected first-round draft pick failing a physical, and a sweep at the hands of San Diego, I'm wondering if Arizona has decided to tank this season and go for high picks in the 2011 draft. They are now 4-10 under new manager Kirk Gibson.
27. Seattle Mariners
SBN Blog: Lookout Landing
2010 record: 36-57
Last week's rank: 25
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26
Monday's three pitchers for the Mariners: David Pauley, Jamey Wright, and Garrett Olson. For a while, it seemed that the M's were just a decent team that was both getting unlucky and caught in a rut. It's amazing the speed with which things got legitimately ugly. Chone Figgins can't hit. Bat him second! Jose Lopez can't hit. Bat him fourth! It took three months for this team to go from contender to dreadful. On the plus side, the future core is coming together in AAA and the bigs as the team prepares for 2012.
26. Houston Astros
SBN Blog: The Crawfish Boxes
2010 record: 38-55
Last week's rank: 26
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 29
Jeff Bagwell can move onto other projects now: the Astros' offense is fixed. After scoring ten runs just one time in their first 92 games the team shuffled their lineup for Monday's game against the Cubs, batting Jeff Keppinger sixth and flipping Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence. The result? A season-high 11 runs. Mission accomplished.
SBN Blog: Let's Go Tribe!
2010 record: 39-54
Last week's rank: 28
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 25
The Indians have shown some life of late, going 6-2 in their last eight games. Cleveland has scored over five runs per game during that span, as a young lineup has shown some ability. It will be interesting to see if important future pieces such as Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana can sustain good seasons and establish themselves for 2011. The city of Cleveland kind of needs it.
SBN Blog: Federal Baseball
2010 record: 40-53
Last week's rank: 23
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 24
With the Nationals 15 games out of first place, and White Sox GM Kenny Williams apparently offering them ""anyone and anything he has in the minor leagues," it would almost be a travesty if the Nationals didn't trade Adam Dunn. They can't use the ticket excuse either, as Strasburg is going to draw well no matter who's on first.
SBN Blog: Royals Review
2010 record: 40-52
Last week's rank: 22
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 19
The Royals are an astounding 7-2 in extra inning games in 2010... and 33-50 in normal games. Can anything account for that other than luck? It's difficult to find a clear answer. The Royals have a good closer, Joakim Soria, which helps, but not enough to account for that record. Likewise, the bullpen as a whole has been better of late, but not all of those seven wins have come late. Mostly, it's just something that's randomly happened, as it's not like the Royals can't use their bullpen in other games. Still, wins are wins, and the Royals and their fans might as well enjoy the drama.
SBN Blog: Brew Crew Ball
2010 record: 43-51
Last week's rank: 21
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 21
On this week in 2008, the Brewers acquired Ray Durham to play second base. This time a year ago they acquired Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks, again to play second base. The Brewers aren't very good this year, but at least their second base problem seems to be solved: Rickie Weeks set a franchise record for second basemen with his 18th home run Monday, and is hitting .275/.373/.471 on the season.
21. Chicago Cubs
SBN Blog: Bleed Cubbie Blue
2010 record: 42-52
Last week's rank: 24
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 22
Before July 11, Carlos Silva had seven straight quality starts and a 2.96 ERA on the season. Since then, he's failed to complete the second inning in back-to-back starts, allowing 11 earned runs on 13 hits in 2.1 innings. Finally, Mariner fans can say "I told you so." Or they could, if they weren't otherwise occupied with their own complete misery.
20. Florida Marlins
SBN Blog: Fish Stripes
2010 record: 45-47
Last week's rank: 19
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 16
If the Marlins can keep their current three-game winning streak going for a few more weeks, they'll be back in the race. Otherwise, expect them to start listening to offers for, and maybe trading, good arbitration-eligible players like Dan Uggla, Leo Nunez, Ricky Nolasco and Cody Ross. Meanwhile, the All-Star Game provided a nice showcase for Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, two players who definitely will be with the team when they open their new stadium.
SBN Blog: True Blue LA
2010 record: 49-44
Last week's rank: 10
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 13
A sweep at the hands of the Cardinals stung Los Angeles - Sunday's defeat may have been the worst of the season, as the team was four runs up with one down in the bottom of the eighth, and four outs later, had lost. LA was outscored 22-9 in the series and is stumbling right out of the race.
18. New York Mets
SBN Blog: Amazin' Avenue
2010 record: 49-44
Last week's rank: 15
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 20
The Mets have started an 11-game road trip on the West Coast 1-4, which puts them on pace to return east with a new manager and an empty Citi Field. Meanwhile, the Braves are pushing ahead--their lead on the Mets currently stands at 5.5 games. The returns of Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo help, but won't provide a miracle if the Mets play themselves out of the race early on.
SBN Blog: Bluebird Banter
2010 record: 47-46
Last week's rank: 18
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 10
They may be virtually out of contention even with their recent winning streak, but the Blue Jays are making the best out of a bad situation. Yunel Escobar has collected eight hits including a grand slam since the Jays acquired him for Alex Gonzalez. Escobar may not push the Jays to the postseason this year, but he has all the skills to be a strong piece for a young Blue Jays team in the future.
16. Detroit Tigers
SBN Blog: Bless You Boys
2010 record: 48-43
Last week's rank: 7
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 8
A shocking four-game sweep in Cleveland was not how the Tigers wanted to start the second half, but there's nothing to do about it now. Detroit scored just eight runs in those four games against the Tribe, despite Cleveland's less than stellar pitching staff. In the last loss, the Tigers were shut down by someone named Jeanmar Gomez, in his first career start. If the Tigers fall just short again, they'll likely remember a lost July weekend against the Indians.
SBN Blog: Athletics Nation
2010 record: 46-47
Last week's rank: 17
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 14
The A's pulled themselves all the way back up to .500 with a weekend sweep of Kansas City before losing on Monday to Boston. Their team run differential is actually 29 runs better than the Angels', giving them some hope that they can jump into second place before the year comes to an end. Did you know that Trevor Cahill made the All-Star Game? That came completely out of nowhere. Funny things can happen to a nondescript team.
SBN Blog: Halos Heaven
2010 record: 50-45
Last week's rank: 20
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 23
Nothing like a little Mariners to pull a team out of a slump, but the Angels are still having a devil of a time right now gaining any ground. Who knew the Angels would be so happy to have Kevin Frandsen? They've watched Brandon Wood bat .168 with 52 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances, and they've watched Frandsen bat .290 with six strikeouts in 142 plate appearances. If Frandsen stays in and the Angels make a run, they'll have a new local hero.
SBN Blog: The Good Phight
2010 record: 48-44
Last week's rank: 11
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 17
If you had told the April-Phillies that the July-Phillies would still be starting Kyle Kendrick every fifth day, they'd probably brace themselves for a long season. Meanwhile, Placido Polanco returned to the lineup, allowing the Phillies to cut Juan Castro. Polanco hit a game-tying single in his return, but is a poor substitute for the much-needed return of second baseman Chase Utley. And with Juan Castro-clone Wilson Valdez playing second in Utley's absence, the Phils have no contingency plan for another Jimmy Rollins DL trip.
12. Minnesota Twins
SBN Blog: Twinkie Town
2010 record: 49-44
Last week's rank: 16
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 3
Minnesota fell 4.5 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central last Thursday, before rallying back to take three straight against the Southsiders. Capped by Sunday's dramatic ninth inning comeback, Minnesota crawled back into the thick of the division race. The Twins appear poised to replace Nick Blackburn with Brian Duensing in the rotation, though that doesn't solve the Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker problems. They don't have Cliff Lee, but the pitching staff still has a surplus of guys with generic-sounding names.
11. Cincinnati Reds
SBN Blog: Red Reporter
2010 record: 52-42
Last week's rank: 12
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 12
If you walk by a barrel today, don't be surprised if Walt Jocketty is inside scraping the bottom. The Reds have already signed 41-year-old reliever Russ Springer to a minor league deal, and now they're reportedly interested in Jason Isringhausen, who is 37 and hasn't appeared in a game since last June. David Weathers and Jesse Orosco had better keep their cell phones nearby.
SBN Blog: McCovey Chronicles
2010 record: 51-42
Last week's rank: 13
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 18
San Francisco won the first three games against the Mets, including shutouts won by Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, and lost the fourth in extra innings, stopping their winning streak at five. A road trip to the struggling Dodgers and D-backs this week may help further. Monday's win was a nice start as the Giants gun for the Padres and the Reds.
SBN Blog: Purple Row
2010 record: 50-42
Last week's rank: 9
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 11
The Rockies managed four runs in Cincinnati, though they did at least win the finale, 1-0, behind Aaron Cook. Colorado scores over two runs more per game at Coors than on the road; the NL home/away difference averages only 0.43 runs. Food for humidor conspiracists? Of note: following Monday's rough start, Ubaldo's ERA is now three times what it was at the end of May.
SBN Blog: South Side Sox
2010 record: 51-41
Last week's rank: 6
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 15
After taking the first game of a four-game set in Minnesota, the White Sox had a golden opportunity to really put some distance between themselves and their northern nemesis. Instead, the Twins stormed back to win the next three games, and a 4.5 game gap shrunk to 1.5. One positive for the Sox is that Gordon Beckham may be finally starting to hit like a Major Leaguer. In an eight-game stretch wrapping around the All-Star Break, Bacon (yes, this is supposedly his nickname) hit .571/.586/.929. It's not a big sample, but it is something. Worth noting that Chicago's current 2.5-game lead is its biggest lead in the Central since September 2008.
SBN Blog: Over The Monster
2010 record: 53-40
Last week's rank: 4
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 4
Dropping three of four to the Texas Rangers was not what the doctor ordered right out of the break, but the injured Red Sox are finally starting to get healthy. With both Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett expected to return to the club this week, the question will be whether or not the Sox can stay close enough in the race for heath to matter.
SBN Blog: Lone Star Ball
2010 record: 54-39
Last week's rank: 8
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 5
Texas' only loss since the break saw Cliff Lee allow two runs in nine innings. One looks at this team now and wonders where the weaknesses lie. Chris Davis? Is that it? The front of the rotation is strong, the core of the lineup is strong, and the top four in the bullpen have a 4.5 K/BB and a 2.63 ERA. The Rangers are ready. They're not the deepest team in the world, but they could give any and every other team in baseball a run for its money. They look better every time I look at them. That's the mark of a solid roster, because I'm usually really negative and cynical.
SBN Blog: Viva El Birdos
2010 record: 52-41
Last week's rank: 14
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 7
The Cardinals have won six in a row to reclaim first place in the NL Central, and have allowed just 2.6 runs per game since the break...third baseman David Freese must have built up some terrible karma. While rehabbing a bone bruise in his ankle, he dropped a weight on his left big toe and fractured it.
SBN Blog: Gaslamp Ball
2010 record: 54-37
Last week's rank: 5
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 9
San Diego scored 26 runs over three games against the Diamondbacks, setting a Petco record. They clubbed eight homers in the series and overall hit .353/.446/.657. Even if Arizona is woeful, it doesn't look like San Diego will be going away anytime soon. After facing the prospect of losing their division lead entirely just a week ago, the gap is back up to a full four games.
SBN Blog: Talking Chop
2010 record: 54-38
Last week's rank: 3
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 6
Atlanta opted to trade Yunel Escobar for an older, more expensive version of Yunel Escobar with a supposedly better attitude. It's also worth noting that Alex Gonzalez had 15 homeruns at the time of the trade, to Escobar's none, though Escobar has already cut into that deficit twice since then. Will the Braves see any returns on their re-investment in clubhouse chemistry? It may not matter, as they pull away in the N.L. East.
SBN Blog: DRays Bay
2010 record: 56-36
Last week's rank: 2
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 2
Some uncharacteristically poor pitching sunk the Rays against the Yankees, but they did see some good signs out of Carlos Pena, and David Price is not going to be allowing seven earned in five innings very often. Holding the Wild Card lead, and still close in the division, the Rays don't have a lot to worry about.
SBN Blog: Pinstripe Alley
2010 record: 58-33
Last week's rank: 1
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 1
The Yankees took an emotional hit last week with the passing of George Steinbrenner, but moved forward and reasserted their dominance in the AL East with a series win over the Rays. With Andy Pettitte suffering an injury, though, they might have to be more active at the trade deadline than they expected.