Rushing hitters to the majors usually means trouble

Updated: June 16, 2009

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Howie Kendrick came with such promise, but now he is in the minors thanks to his .231 batting average.

There was a report in Miami that, before they traded for Nate McLouth, the Braves offered Jeff Francoeur to the Marlins for Cody Ross.

"I understand why Florida turned that down," one AL scout said. "Ross is a better player right now. And at the end of the year, Francoeur will be non-tendered and released. The Braves aren't going to pay him [$3.375] million."

That is stunning, because there was a time when Francoeur was one of the game's golden boys. He hit 14 homers in less than half the season in 2005, at 21 years old, and 29 homers and 103 RBIs in 2006. He plays hard, he cares and he is a great teammate, but he never really learned to hit.

Oh, he was sent back to the minors for a couple of days last season, and while Ross is a fine player, Francoeur can and should be better. It's stunning, really. Just like it's stunning that in the middle of June, Minnesota's Delmon Young has three extra-base hits. Or that the Angels' Howie Kendrick, picked by some to win the American League batting title, is back in the minor leagues. Or that Vernon Wells, who seemed to have slid into the star category, has no homers, seven RBIs and a .201 average since his last homer on May 6.

A very wise man named Eddie Kasko, a former player, manager and executive, once said, "If the first time a young player struggles is in the majors, you may never get him back." Francoeur was rushed in to the Braves lineup after a half season in Double-A. Young, the first pick in the country and anointed the next great slugger, blew threw the Tampa Bay system, and was held up to Rays' fans as proof that the team, who had never won 71 games, was working. Kendrick was a flat hitter everywhere he played, and in spring training one general manager predicted that he would be the Angels' No. 3 hitter.

Now Francoeur has a .282 on base percentage, a .627 OPS and has seen his slugging percentage drop every year of the five seasons he's been in the major leagues. Young has a .282 OBP, .568 OPS and three extra-base hits. Kendrick's OBP was .281 in the majors. For the year, Wells' OBP is .296.

"What you see in the extreme slumps those guys have endured is that they aren't comfortable with their hitting bases and fundamentals," one GM said. "They didn't get a base established, like a Derek Jeter or Kevin Youkilis or Nick Markakis. They don't have one set plan and routine, and it gets to them. Wells doesn't really know where to go. He sure tries. He just doesn't have a place he can always turn."

It was pointed out by one veteran hitting instructor that all of the perplexing hitters shot through the minors, and weren't afforded the opportunity to struggle or fail and work their way out. The Twins see what happened with Young and Carlos Gomez, victims of being rushed. On the other hand, they were criticized for holding back Denard Span.

"We'd rather err on the side of caution," Twins GM Bill Smith said.

Hey, the Rays were ridiculed for not having David Price in their rotation at the beginning of the season, but when he came up, he's endured growing pains because of his command.

"Sometimes I read that teams are holding back players because they are cheap and want to postpone arbitration," Smith said. "Most times, that's not true. The jump to the major leagues is a lot more difficult than many realize."

Someday, some way, Francoeur will get it and be really good, so will Young. Wells can be a star, so can Kendrick.

They are victims of their immense skills. They got to the majors too quickly, and are trying to learn where learning is extremely difficult.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 15 | June 14 | June 11 | June 10 | June 9

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
M. DeRosa, Cle13MilGallardoBot 1: 2-2, 1 Outs. None on.
D. Ortiz, Bos5FlaVolstadBot 4: 3-1, 0 Outs. None on.
A. Lind, Tor13PhiHamelsTop 4: 1-1, 1 Outs. None on.
I. Kinsler, Tex16HouRodriguezBot 1: 3-1, 0 Outs. None on.
A. Hernandez, Was1NYYSabathiaTop 5: 1-2, 1 Outs. 2 on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

White Sox at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. ET

The two teams try again after being rained out Tuesday. Instead of going with Carlos Zambrano, who was supposed to start Tuesday's game, the Cubs decided to stay with Ryan Dempster, who was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday. Zambrano is being pushed back to Thursday. John Danks, who was supposed to start Tuesday, will start Wednesday.

Angels at Giants, 3:45 p.m. ET

The two starters in this game are a combined 12-1 this season. Tim Lincecum, at 6-1, you'd expect. But the surprise is Matt Palmer, who enters 6-0 in nine games (eight starts). Palmer has been aided by plenty of run support; in his six wins, five times the Angels have scored at least six runs.

Diamondbacks at Royals, 8:10 p.m. ET

A pair of live young arms takes the mound. Zack Greinke, , righted himself in his most recent start, after a pair of uneven outings, by tossing 7 1/3 solid innings in a no-decision against the Indians. Max Scherzer hasn't given up a run in his past two starts.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Buster Olney, Fernando Vina
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: John Kruk, Buster Olney, Fernando Vina

BBTN MINUTE: WHAT TO THINK OF SAMMY SOSA

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the dominant pitching performances from Felix Hernandez and Gil Meche, who both tossed complete-game shutouts. Hernandez guided the Mariners past the Padres, and Meche led the Royals over the D-Backs.

Hernandez and Meche (past four starts)
Hernandez Meche
W-L 2-0 2-0
ERA 0.61 0.93
WHIP 1.04 1.03
Team W-L 3-1 2-2

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
HernandezFelix Hernandez rolled right through the Padres' lineup on Tuesday, allowing only two hits in a complete-game shutout. In his past four starts, Hernandez has permitted three earned runs over the stretch of 29 2/3 innings. He won two of those starts, and walked away with a pair of no-decisions.
WORST
De La Rosa• The Rockies' pitchers were so good during the club's 11-game winning streak. The streak came to an end, and so did the solid pitching in a 12-3 loss against the Rays. Jorge De La Rosa lasted 2 1/3 innings and gave up two of the five homers served up by the Colorado staff.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

VerlanderWakefield Tuesday's action featured the hardest throwing starter, Justin Verlander, and the slowest starter, Tim Wakefield. Entering Tuesday, Verlander was averaging 95.5 mph on his fastball, and had thrown the fastest pitch by any starter this year (100.7 mph to Baltimore's Nick Markakis on May 30).

By contrast, Wakefield's fastest pitch of the year entering Tuesday was a 75.7 mph offering to the Mets' Daniel Murphy on May 24.

Changing speeds
Verlander Wakefield
Avg. speed 88.4 67.4
Fastest pitch 98.5 74.8
Slowest pitch 71.5 57.6
Pitches above 90 mph 43 0
Pitches below 70 mph 0 72

Wakefield's fastest pitch of the game came against the last batter he faced, Jeremy Hermida, in the sixth inning. Verlander's fastest pitch was a ball to Yadier Molina in the first inning.

Verlander averaged 95.0 mph on his fastball Tuesday. On the season, batters hit .220 (44-for-200) off Verlander's heater. On Tuesday, the Cardinals went 6-for-9 (.667) on Verlander's fastballs.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes