What to Expect: Mark DeRosa
It’s hard to know what to expect from a team like the Giants in the coming season. This is part two of a four part series detailing some of the biggest question marks on the roster. The goal is to shed some much-needed light on some question marks going into the season, as well as providing some insight into the mystery surrounding key players. Part two covers the versatile Mark DeRosa.
Mark DeRosa’s career began modestly, as a super utility-man for the Atlanta Braves, playing where he was needed whenever he was called upon. With modest minor league numbers and a pretty limited skill set, the perception was that he’d spend his career as the perpetual late-inning defensive replacement. Up until his 30th birthday, the universal belief was that he’d reached what was already a pretty low ceiling. And then something clicked.
After signing a minor league deal with the Rangers in 2005, he began to receive regular playing time. After a 2005 campaign that saw him set a career high in SLG, he broke out at the age of 31 while logging consistent time in the outfield for the first time in his career. In 2006, he put up a robust line of .296/.357/.456 while hitting 13 homers, a total that represented more than twice his season high in any single year he spent in Atlanta.
After his breakout campaign in 2006, he hit the free agent market and joined the Cubbies, where he continued to be a model of league-average consistency. Hitting .293/.371/.420 in his debut season in Chicago, his advancements at the plate had yet to plateau. In 2008, he took another step forward, clubbing 21 homers to go along with a line of .285/.376/.481, all at the age of 33. Soon thereafter he was shipped to Cleveland, played half a season there, and was then dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for the stretch run.
So what can we expect out of DeRosa? There are a few factors to take into account before any predictions are made here. First and foremost is the fact that he hurt his wrist last season, an injury that is the kiss of death for power hitters. A good example of the negative effects this can have are seen in B.J. Upton. A year after hitting 24 homers in just 129 games, he hurt his wrist and managed just 9 long balls in 145 games the following season. Since that injury he hasn’t been the same power-wise, and he’s just 24. DeRosa is now 35 years-old, making recovery from his injury much more of a drawn-out process.
The second factor to consider is his age. 35 year-olds (coming off injuries no less) are much more apt to decline than improve. It’s the simple case of aging affecting bat speed, power, and endurance through the grind of a 162 game season. At the same time, DeRosa is a bit of an anomaly in the sense that he hasn’t had a particularly long career as an everyday player, having received sporadic playing time all through his 20’s. One could make the logical conclusion that based on this, his aging curve in terms of performance may be affected, especially when you take into account the fact his his offensive development took off after his 30th birthday.
This all being so, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to expect Mark DeRosa to be perfectly average offensively in 2010, which by the standards of the Giants offense makes him an above-average hitter. This harkens to the old saying that aptly states in the city of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In this particular metaphor, DeRosa is a one-eyed man. He certainly doesn’t have 20/20 vision that say, Albert Pujols possesses(f0r the sake of the metaphor), but he certainly isn’t of the blind (see Eugenio Velez).
Defensively he grades out a shade over the average, logging a 4.3 UZR last year playing primarily in the outfield. Assuming the reports out of Arizona that say his wrist is healing well are true, he’s a pretty good lock for a .275/.350/.430 line. Factor in his plus defensive skills and we have ourselves a useful player.
DeRosa’s skillset makes him a fantastic supplementary player to a good offense. Unfortunately, he’ll be counted on as a primary run-producer in the middle of the lineup that lacks a big hitter who isn’t Pablo Sandoval. Health notwithstanding, he can be counted on to at the very least be consistently average. He’ll be the victim of being miscast in the role of the cleanup hitter, but he’ll be as effective as can be expected by reasonable standards. Of course when it comes to the Giants offense, things rarely seem to go according to plan. Let’s hope Mark DeRosa doesn’t adopt this philosophy.
Photo used with express permission of Joseph Pun and AZGiants.com