Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sorry, Charlie

The feel-good story of the year for the 2011 Rockies so far has been Charlie Blackmon, who has hit .410 since his call-up from the minors a week and a half ago, including a scorching .688 in his last four games. While I hate to be such a Gloomy Gus, this is one bandwagon upon which I shall not be jumping. I say this for three primary reasons:

1) Blackmon is hitting about as empty a .410 as it's possible to hit. He's 16 for 39, but with one lone extra-base hit (a double) and no walks. Blackmon's OPS of .846 is actually lower than that of Chris Iannetta, who is hitting .235.

2) Blackmon's minor-league hitting record is not great. He was hitting .337 at Colorado Springs, but everyone hits like that at Colorado Springs. Brad Emaus is hitting .344 for the Sky Sox, and Josh Fields is hitting .365. Eric Young Jr. hit .363 down there before his recall a few weeks ago, and he doesn't look like a major-league hitter at all.

3) Blackmon's pretty old for a rookie; he turns 25 two weeks from yesterday. He's roughly the same age as the man whose job he took, Dexter Fowler. Dexter turned 25 in March. Look at it this way: When Dexter was 23, he was hitting .266, putting up a .363 OBP and playing a good defensive centerfield in the major leagues. When Blackmon was 23, he was hitting .307 and putting up a .370 OBP for Modesto in high-A ball. One of these gentlemen is a much stronger prospect than the other.

So while Rockies fans may have fantasies of Charlie Blackmon turning into some Caucasian version of Ichiro, he looks a lot more like the new Scot Thompson to me. What I suspect will happen is that his .410 start will earn him the left-field job for the bulk of the season. That batting average provides a hefty cushion; he could go 2 for his next 21 and still be hitting .300. As soured as Jim Tracy is on Dexter Fowler (and as little attention as he and Carney Lansford seem to pay to drawing walks), Blackmon's batting average is probably going to have to drop to around .250 before they recognize that Dexter is actually the better offensive player.

On the other hand, Blackmon is from rural Georgia, and his middle name is "Cobb." So maybe the fates are looking out for him.

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, you're wrong about his minor-league hitting record. He consistently posted high line-drive and contact rates, with few strikeouts. His major flaw at the plate is his lack of walk-drawing, but I would imagine that will improve as he adjusts to major league pitching.

    While not a raw power hitter in any sense, he's developed more pop over the past few years and has a 15-20 HR per year ceiling.

    Fowler is near the top of the strikeout leaderboards this year, and his inability to put the ball in play has cost him a starting spot. I don't think that he's a lock for better offensive production.