At Viva El Birdos the talk of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, as Spring Training finally starts moving, has been Colby Rasmus, the team's erstwhile top prospect and occasionally maligned breakout star. On Sunday azruavatar compared him, briefly and robot-tongue-in-robot-cheekily, to recently retired Jim Edmonds; on Monday bgh detailed the changes he made between his disappointing 2009 and his only-disappointing-Tong-La-Russa 2010.
Rasmus is a hard player to project in 2011; his 2010 season was the fulfillment of the potential he showed in his outstanding 2007 season in the Texas League, but between that we have his abbreviated stint in Memphis and his invisible rookie year to contend with. Rasmus's upside all along has been the kind of power he showed in 2010, but the average projection doesn't have a lot of evidence to show for that; ZiPS projections, for instance, have Rasmus at .262/.341/.443, which is, all at once, plausible, valuable, and disappointing. PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus's proprietary numbers, are even less optimistic, suggesting a slugging percentage of .417 is closer to the mark.
A bet on a Rasmus breakout season, then, can't be dependent exclusively or even mostly on numbers; it's an intuition play, a hope play. It writes 2008 off as injury-ridden and 2009 off as an awkward adjustment. It's the ultimate February preoccupation, and I'm glad, if nothing else, that Cardinals fans have a player to dream on as spring unfolds.