Wilson Betemit – When Wilson Betemit was 15, the Atlanta Braves signed him to a contract. He hit .212/.270/.283 in his first year at rookie ball and .220/.301/.399 his second year. He was just 16.
The following year he got his act together as an enterprising 17-year-old posting an admirable .320/.383/.463 line. He snuck into the top 100 prospects before the following season and would remain on that list until the end of 2003. At one point, he was the 8th best prospect in all the land.
He debuted in the majors with the Braves in 2001 at age 19 and didn’t get enough at bats to do anything. However, he wouldn’t return to the bigs until 2004, as a seasoned veteran (he was 22). He didn’t fair all that well, but the next year he saw 274 plate appearances in the majors and went .305/.359/.435. That would be the best stretch of his career.
Since then, he was traded for Willy Aybar, Danys Baez and cash in one deal, Scott Proctor in another and (along with Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez) for Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira.
Finally, in 2010 – a shocking 14 years after he signed his first contract – he would seemingly find a home with the Kansas City Royals. He appeared in 84 games for the Royals and went .297/.378/.511.
At 29, this season, Betemit has gone .297/.358/.419. If you combine the last two years, you get 496 plate appearances and a .300/.375/.484 line with a 162-game average of 20 HRs.
This isn’t the most objective piece as I have about a bazillion Betemit rookie cards (and boy was he skinny). But, in my opinion, the only thing stopping Betemit from being a top 10 third baseman is playing time (and Mike Moustakas). A final Betemit line will look a lot like .290/.350/.440 with 13-15 HRs. What a long strange trip it’s been.
Jeremy Guthrie – In 2002, the Cleveland Indians made Guthrie the 22nd pick of the draft. He’d dominate AA and earn a quick promotion to AAA, where things didn’t go so well. He started the next season in AA hoping to rekindle the previous year’s promise. It didn’t work, nor did his promotion to AAA. In 2005, he spent the entire year at AAA and did nothing (5.08 ERA and 1.47 WHIP). Still he had a not completely miserable 2.04 K/BB ratio.
Finally, in 2006, at 27 years old, Guthrie would show promise at AAA: 3.14 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. However, he had little success with the major league club in very few innings and the Orioles plucked him off waivers. This might have been one of the smartest things that club has done in a decade.
In 2007, Guthrie showed all the promise of a late first rounder. He had a 2.07 K/BB rate, a 3.70 ERA, and 6.31 K/9 rate. While he has averaged 12 loses per year in his four full seasons with the Orioles, he also has a 2.20 K/BB rate, 4.06 ERA and 5.5 K/9 rate.
He has actually improved on those numbers, so far, in 2011, posting a 5.85 K/9 rate and 3.71 K/BB rate. For the first time in his career Guthrie is walking less than two batters per nine innings – significantly less.
What is most surprising is that batters are making more and better contact on strikes. His line drive rate is up and his ground ball rate is down. However, his BABIP is about where it has been for his career.
I’d be mildly surprised if Guthrie, all of a sudden, stopped walking guys. However, it isn’t a total mirage. By the end of the year, Guthrie will pitch 200+ innings with an ERA in the 3.80 – 4.00 range, 140 Ks and a very nice 1.25 WHIP. Can anyone say Tim Hudson? He’d look real good in an Indians uniform right about now.
Phil Humber – I’m not sure what Earl Weaver would say about a 6-man rotation, however it’s not as if one White Sox pitcher is discernibly better than another.
In fact, Humber might have one of the better pedigrees on the entire staff. He was the 3rd overall pick by the New York Mets in 2004. After the draft, Humber was immediately ranked the #50 prospect in all of baseball.
Unfortunately, he injured his elbow in his first start in AA in 2005 and was out of baseball recuperating for 377 days.
In 2008, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins as part of the Johan Santana deal. He didn’t show much promise for the Twins in AAA, walking over three batters per nine in his two seasons and allowing a ton of hits. Still, he did post a 7 and 6.5 K/9-rate, so there was some promise. However, not enough for the Twins to keep him around as he was granted his free agency
The Royals signed him in 2009 and on August 5, 2010 he earned a promotion. Twenty days later, Humber got his first major league win.
While he pitched reasonably well for the Royals, it was only 21.2 innings and he was placed on waivers. The Athletics took a run at him before, ultimately, the White Sox plucked him off the wire.
This year, Humber has pitched 67.2 innings for the Sox, posting a 3.06 ERA, 4.08 xFIP, 5.05 K/9 and 1.86 BB/9. Any way you slice it, he’s been good in a real world sense.
Humber is getting a decent swinging strike percentage (8.3%) and a pretty low contact rate (82.2%). In addition, batters don’t seem to be making great contact against him (16.1% line drive rate). Still, that .224 BABIP is not going to continue.
I really like the Humber story. I’m very happy for him. Not only did he overcome the surgery and journeyman waiver process, but he was also struck in the face by a line drive. I just can’t really advocate his fantasy ownership. At some point, he won’t be a full time starter, and, even if he continues to start, we’re looking at a 4.50 ERA at best, 5.4 K/9 and maybe 165 total innings.
AL-only seems like the only place for him. Still, if he could end up on a National League squad at some point, things could get more interesting.