Rasmus smiling? Obviously faked.
It’s Opening Day, the whole city is going to be talking about baseball, and one of the few players on the Toronto Blue Jays that just about every radio-listening, casual-fan imbecile is going to be able to agree needs to absolutely get his shit together and stop polluting this otherwise championship-calibre club is centre fielder Colby Rasmus.
Now, nobody’s going to pretend that Colby Rasmus had a good season in 2011.
But if you happen to run into anyone who’s ready to cut bait on him, feel free to point out that it’s beyond– beyond– ridiculous to infer that he’s useless, based solely on that off-year, a poor spring training, and their inability to think through a paper bag when it comes to assessing the absolute fucking meaninglessness of all the St. Louis blather about his attitude problems, or Gregg Zaun talking dumb-as-fuck about supposed loafing, or whatever else they’ve decided is a better indicator of future performance than a bunch of numbers and concepts they can’t be bothered to understand.
This isn’t to say that Rasmus is assuredly going to be a star, or that his 2010 in St. Louis couldn’t have been a staggering, 2009 Adam Lind-like outlier– for which, I must point out, Lind still gets slack from fans for two years later, while Rasmus gets shit on after one bad turn– but there is still a shit-tonne to be encouraged by.
Such as, you ask?
Well… admittedly, we’ve learned from cases such as Travis Snider’s that one-time prospect status doesn’t really mean a whole lot in the cold light of MLB reality. It does, however, speak to a player’s talent when he is considered among the top 5% or better of his peers, especially for position players. Yes, lots of prospects flame out, but so few reach that level that it alone is encouraging.
So too is the 152 wRC+ Rasmus put up at age 20 while at double-A in the Texas League– a far more impressive number than Brett Lawrie’s 117 in the double-A Southern League at the same age, if we want to allow ourselves to take much meaning for such comparisons.
But that was a long time ago– 2007. What has he done lately, right?
Well, there was 2010, where he was fantastic for the Cardinals, in just his age 23 season. How fantastic? Funny you should ask, Stoeten. FanGraphs have just introduced age filters on their leaderboards, which allows us to more easily put Colby’s 2010 into a context that maybe has a chance of finally getting through the thick skulls of the mush-headed haters.
Here are the qualified 22- and 23-year-olds who, since 2005, bested the 129 wRC+ Rasmus put up at 23 in 2010– which, don’t forget, was his most recent season exactly one disasterfuck of a calendar year ago.
Miguel Cabrera (2005, 2006)
Prince Fielder (2007)
Hanley Ramirez (2007)
Pablo Sandoval (2009)
David Wright (2005, 2006)
Joe Mauer (2006)
Justin Upton (2011)
BJ Upton (2007)
Jhonny Peralta (2005)
Evan Longoria (2008, 2009)
Grady Sizemore (2006)
Aaaaand… that’s it. That’s the list. It’s a pretty fucking impressive one. Not a lot of fluky seasons there.
Add in qualified 24-year-olds over the same period, and the list of players above Rasmus expands to include Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Avila, Nick Markakis, Brian McCann, Billy Butler, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman and Dustin Pedroia.
Tied with Rasmus were Ryan Braun (2008) and Andrew McCutcheon (2011).
Does that mean 2010 Rasmus won’t be one of the few flukes among this generally-outstanding set of hitters? Of course not. But let’s not forget just how good he was, and how much more important that ought to be to our assessment of him than all this other bullshit.
On the list of qualified 22-, 23-, and 24-year-olds his 2010 tops seasons from Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Joey Votto and more, for fuck sakes! (In wRC+, that is.)
Again, is this any kind of smoking gun that shows Rasmus is going to be fine? No. Are there surely plenty of other ways to raise red flags on the Jays’ centre fielder? Of course. But the impression I get is that fans who are ready to dump Rasmus don’t quite grasp precisely how fucking good he was as recently as the season before last.
They’d do fucking well to be reminded.