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Talented quartet fulfilling promise this season

Updated: June 6, 2003, 9:30 AM ET
By By Jim Baker
It was spring 2002 and high hopes were in the air for any number of rookies. Coming out of spring training, this quartet were given opportunities by their teams and a couple of them were hyped hard. By the end of the year, there had been demotions, injuries and disappointment. It is now nearly the summer of 2003 and things are definitely looking up for them, proving once again that not every solid major leaguer can hit the ground running like Rocco Baldelli has, that sometimes, a team with a little patience will get its reward.

Hank Blalock (Rangers): It's a good idea to have a double standard for 21-year old rookies as opposed to 24- and 25-year olds, especially when they have as much promise as Blalock. An older rookie who put in the season that Blalock did last year (.211/.306/.327) is suspect, but the 21-year old is still trying to figure it all out. Blalock has been Ty Cobb against right-handed pitching this year. Against lefties, he's been Ty Waller. Actually, that's a little misleading. He was just about useless against lefties last year, getting two hits in 30 at bats while posting a passable .731 OPS against righties. This year, his OPS against lefties is up to .668 which is still low enough to warrant platooning but certainly shows hope that he will continue to improve in this regard. What might be a little disturbing is the .500-point different in his road and home OPS (.746 to 1.246), but anyone who can run up a 1.246 OPS in at least one of the two at his age is worth noting. Besides, his road OPS was a good-hitting pitcher-like .482 last year, so it too is up 50 percent. It's not fair, of course, but they might start reviving that "next George Brett" talk.

Sean Burroughs (Padres): Injuries marred his first year in the bigs and derailed what many thought might be a Rookie of the Year campaign. In the end, there was no power and the walking ability he had showed at Class A and AA was not evident. Things are looking brighter this year, however. By coincidence, Burroughs has exactly the number of hits right now that he did all of last year. The good thing is that it's in 20 fewer at bats and it's only the beginning of June. There are plenty of positive differences as well: Doubles: 11 to 5, HRs: 3 to 1, RBI 22 to 11, 30 extra points of on base percentage, two more walks in 20 fewer at bats, 102 extra points of slugging average. The improvement for him actually began last year after he returned from his shoulder injury and starting hitting singles galore. Burroughs is only 22 and is the possessor of one of the nicest swings around. The swing he perpetrated on his second home run this year was so sweet it made me wonder how he doesn't homer more often. He will, though, in time.

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