Talking about Colby Rasmus

The 2005 draft class has become the gold standard of which to compare future draft classes to. That mega draft class has already seen Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Mike Pelfrey, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce,  Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza and Clay Buchholz emerge as budding stars or solid ML starters- and that’s just the first round and supplemental first round. It’s time to add another star to that list though- Colby Rasmus.

In 2007, Rasmus had 556 PA at AA Springfield. That season Colby hit .275/.381/.551/.414/152 with a 12.6 BB%, 22.9 K%, .275 ISO, .300 BABIP, and 23.2 LD%*. As a result, Baseball America ranked him as the number five prospect in baseball entering the 2008 season. AAA was not kind to Rasmus, however. Gathering 387 PA he hit .251/.346/.396/.335/92 with a 12.7 BB%, 21.8 K%, .145 ISO, .287 BABIP, and 15.5 LD%. The average line in the PCL from 2007-2009 was .276/.342/.433 and the PCL is an offensive league. So Rasmus really did not live up to his hype, let alone league averages. So what happened?

*LD% for minor league numbers taken from statcorner. Everything else is from FG.

Well, one good sign was that his BB% stayed around a solid 12% and while high, his K% did not get worse from 2007 to 2008. His BABIP did not drop significantly as well. What stands out is the loss in power as his ISO fell from .275 to .145. That is a HUGE drop. The reason looks to be his decreased LD%. It was 23.2% in 2007 which is really good, but 15.5% is pretty bad. His FB% remained the same in the two seasons, but his HR/FB% dropped from 11% to 6.5%. So his dip in numbers was due to a lack of hard hit balls. BUT WAIT! In 2008 he had a serious knee injury that sidelined him for a month. Legs are vital for driving the ball and hitting for power, so it is likely his injuries are the cause for the decline.

Despite his less than stellar 2008 campaign, Baseball America moved him up their prospect board in 2009 to the third best prospect in baseball. The Cardinals also moved him up to the big leagues. In 520 PA, he hit .251/.307/.407/.311/91. Ouch. His BB% fell to 6.9%, which is below league average, and his K% stayed consistent with his minor league numbers. His BABIP was .282, not far off his minor league numbers, so bad luck wasn’t to blame. He sported a solid LD% of 19.6% and his HR/FB was an okay 9.4%. It looks like his biggest problem was discipline. His BB rate dropped significantly from what it had been in the minors and he had trouble making contact on pitches outside the zone. However, Rasmus was a solid player because of his defense. His DRS in 945 centerfield innings was +4 and his UZR was 9.1. As a result, his WAR was 2.3.

Well halfway through 2010, Rasmus already has a 2.2 WAR. How so? He finally found the power stroke scouts raved about when he was in the minors. In 289 PA, he is hitting .276/.366/.540/.387/145. Not bad for a center fielder. His BB% is back up to 12.1% and his HR/FB% is 18.6%, resulting in an ISO of .264. He is also making more contact on those pitches outside the zone. Looking at statcorners park-adjusted wOBA, Rasmus has a .402 mark. Amazing. He is a 23 year old center fielder. With these offensive numbers. Kid is a stud. For the rest of 2010, he is projected to “only” .270/.338/.437/.344. Not bad, but considering the adjustments he’s made, I think he’s for real. He was supposed to hit like this, but his development stalled in AAA with injuries. So he wasn’t quite ready for prime time in 2009. But after a year of development in the majors, it appears Rasmus is back on track. I personally believes his rest of season projections regress him to the league average too much.

As for defense, he is good. Scouts touted his strong arm and good in range. As noted above, in 2009 he was solid with the glove, but 945 innings is a SSS. In another SSS in 2010, he has been below average with a -2 DRS and -5.2 UZR in 609 innings in center. In his career he has a sample size of 1555 innings where his DRS is 2 and his UZR is 3.9. I’d say he is still a pretty good fielder.

The Cardinals have a young center fielder who can hit and field under team controlfor the next four seasons. Yeah, talk about value. And Rasmus could emerge as one of the best center fielders in all of baseball.

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