Jay Bruce went 2-for-2 with a solo home run vs. the Brewers, giving him a .377/.459/.798 line with 15 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 37 games. It feels like Bruce has been around forever, but 2010 was actually the former top prospect’s first season of more than 108 games. After finishing this year at .281 with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs, I’m predicting a jump to near-elite status at 24 years old in 2011. Only two outfield eligible players — Jose Bautista and Adam Dunn — crossed the 35-home run threshold this year. I bet Bruce joins that club next season, and I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him ahead of guys like Corey Hart, Torii Hunter and Colby Rasmus.
Billy Butler finished his season on a down-note, going 0-for-5 and striking out three times vs. the Rays. The first baseman was a popular breakout candidate after hitting .301 with 15 home runs and 51 doubles last season, but saw his power numbers trend in the wrong direction this year (15 HR, 45 2B). Don’t get fooled again in 2011 — the .315 average is valuable, but 30 home runs just aren’t in the cards and a weak Royals lineup will temper his run production.
Andre Ethier went 2-for-2 with a run and an RBI vs. Arizona, finishing the season with a .292 average, 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in 139 games. If Ethier stays healthy next year, I say his floor is .285/27/90. Check the end-of-season outfield rankings — those numbers would be more valuable than you think.
Dexter Fowler went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a walk in the Rockies’ loss to the Cardinals. Fowler was a solid outfielder in National League formats, hitting .260/.347/.410 with six homers, 36 RBIs and 73 runs scored. Unfortunately, the switch-hitting speedster had just 13 steals after 27 swipes a season ago.
Red Sox right-hander John Lackey yielded three runs (two earned) on six hits, walked two and struck out ten across 7 2/3 innings to defeat the Yankees. Lackey allowed just five earned runs over his final 20 2/3 innings, but still finished the season 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA and 156/72 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. The lesson: outside of the no-doubt elite guys, don’t trust pitchers in the AL East.
Colby Rasmus went 2-for-4 and scored twice vs. the Rockies. Rasmus’ final numbers — .276 average with 85 runs, 23 homers, 66 RBIs and 12 steals — look suspiciously like a breakout season at age 24. So why am I left wanting more? Between the frequent squabbles with Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa, the inconsistent playing time and the poor plate discipline, it just seems like there was some underachievement here. If Rasmus comes into 2011 with his head in the right place — or on another team — a .280 average, 30 homers and 20 steals aren’t out of the question.
Mark Rzepczynski scattered four hits, walked two and struck out six over seven shutout innings vs. the Twins. The left-hander allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts this season and will enter 2011 as yet another Blue Jays sleeper starter.
Anibal Sanchez held the Pirates to one earned run on four hits and two walks and struck out seven over six innings. Sanchez finally managed to stick in the Marlins rotation for a full season, and the results were certainly promising: 13 wins, a 3.55 ERA and 157 Ks over 195 innings.
Dan Uggla went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer, a double and a pair of runs scored in the Marlins’ win over the Pirates. Uggla enjoyed a fantastic season, setting a career-high with 33 taters and raising his average from .247 in ’09 to .283 this year. While that will likely fall closer to his .263 lifetime marknext season, Uggla’s power is valuable enough to make him the sixth or seventh keystone off the board next spring.