Rickie Weeks Mashing

Scouring the WAR leader board for major league second basemen reveals a surprising name directly behind Robinson Cano. Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks, a perennial breakout pick whose career has been sidetracked by injury, ranks as the second-most valuable player at the keystone spot this season. Granted, Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia would likely place higher if not for injuries of their own. But to his credit, Weeks has already hit the four win mark before the calendar turns to August.

The second overall pick in the 2003 draft, Weeks walloped minor league pitching to the tune of a .289/.404/.493 line. He worked the count, packed a punch and showed lightning-quick wrists with a bat waggle reminiscent of Gary Sheffield. With that profile, Baseball America ranked Weeks as a top-10 prospect prior to the 2004 and 2005 seasons. “Weeks,” Baseball America gushed back in ’04, “has surprising pop for his size, as well as tremendous speed and quickness on the base paths, a combination that has many scouts comparing him to a young Joe Morgan.”

Comparing any young second baseman to Morgan, a guy with 108 career WAR and a 146 wRC+, is totally unfair. Still, Weeks was supposed to emerge as an up-the-middle force for the Brewers in short order. To say that the Southern University product had been a disappointment prior to 2010 wouldn’t be totally fair, but he never had that monster season that scouts envisioned.

Weeks was a league-average hitter (100 wRC+) in 2005, but rated poorly in the field and had just 0.3 WAR in 96 games played. The next year, he had a 108 wRC+, but again cost the club plenty of runs in the field and had 0.9 WAR in 95 games. Weeks’ season ended in late July, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right wrist. 2007 looked like a nice step forward — despite a DL stint for right wrist tendinitis and a brief, punitive demotion to Triple-A Nashville, he put up a 124 wRC+ and 3.1 WAR in 118 games, with less damage being done with the glove. Instead, his 2008 season was merely decent — a 105 wRC+ and 2.1 WAR in 129 games.

Last year, Weeks got off to a superb start. In 162 plate appearances, he had a 126 wRC+ on the power of a .245 ISO. Through just 37 games, Weeks racked up 1.4 WAR. And then, another injury — his season came to a halt in mid-May as he had a procedure to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist.

So far in 2010, though, Weeks has remained in the lineup and has been at his best. In 487 PA, he’s batting .276/.376/.492, with a 140 wRC+. The 27-year-old holds a .216 ISO and has popped 22 home runs. With those quick, powerful wrists, Weeks’ homers have traveled faster and farther than most other batters. According to Hit Tracker Online, the average speed off the bat on Weeks’ big flies is 106.1 MPH, compared to the 103.3 MPH major league average. The “standard distance” on his dingers is 406.2 feet, while the MLB average is 393.5 feet. Standard distance, per Hit Tracker Online, “factors out the influence of wind, temperature and altitude, and is thus the best way of comparing home runs hit under a variety of different conditions.”

Weeks may regress somewhat at the plate — his rest-of-season ZiPS projection calls for a .364 wOBA, while his current mark is .381 — and he’s never going to be confused with a Gold Glover in the field (career -8.2 UZR/150). But a healthy Weeks has been a bright spot during an otherwise bleak season for the Brew Crew.

A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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Hugh McKellar
11 years ago

How do you project him for 2011 and beyond? I’m thinking of keeping him instead of Kemp (since I drafted he was drafted 17 rounds later)

rickie weeks
11 years ago
Reply to  Hugh McKellar

I’m a superstar. It all comes down to health, and good luck projecting that.

11 years ago
Reply to  rickie weeks

That made me laugh! He’s always had health issues-maybe he’s figured that part out. Weeks also is noted for a great work ethic. Maybe he holds this, even improves. He’s worked hard to improve (?) at second base. The fielding isn’t much better, but he makes a lot less boneheaded plays these days.

rickie weeks
11 years ago
Reply to  rickie weeks

@jirish…yea defense has definitely improved. His first two years really hurt his career totals, but since 2007 his defense has been tolerable (though still below average) considering the offense he provides.

Plus, he can get beaned in the head and stay in the game to score the winning run, and then hit HRs the next two nights. Badass.