Colby Rasmus has always had potential. He was the number three rated prospect in the entire game by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season and he was rated fifth the prior year. Keith Law has also rated him as high as 5th in his yearly prospect rankings.
Rasmus debuted at the age of 22 and has spent most of each season on a Major League Roster thanks to the plus power potential and all-around game that scouts have talked about prior to his call-up.
After posting a wRC+ of 89 in his rookie year of 2009 he emerged as a potential star with a 23 homeruns, 12 stolen bases, a 129 wRC+, and +7.2 Bsr while showing enough talent to play center field in 2012. He was worth 4.3 fWAR his sophomore season and things were looking up.
But Rasmus struggled hitting through his third season before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of July where he went on to struggle even more. He would post a wRC+ of 90 for the season and many fans were wondering when or even if Rasmus’ potential with the bat would ever come back.
2012 was a fresh start for Rasmus. He would get to start the year in Toronto and hope that some of the team’s approach to hitting would become a positive benefit for him. But on May 17th Rasmus would end the day hitting .203/.272/.338 after five straight hitless games.
This slow start added to his time in 2011 with the Blue Jays would make his overall line with the team .188/.236/.327 in 288 plate appearances. A deeper look showed that Rasmus was making a lot of weak contact, especially to left field. Take a look at his spray chart over those 288 plate appearances:
As you can see, Rasmus has had little success when he goes to the opposite field. The spray chart does not tell us how hard these balls were hit but seeing how many were outs compared to hits and one leaving the yard I do not think it would be wrong to suggest Rasmus was hitting the ball weakly. But, if you look at the right side of the chart, his pull side, Rasmus had some success.
With Rasmus hitting .187/.236/.327 as a Blue Jay on May 17th he had to make a change. Pulling the ball seemed to be working so why not do it more. And Rasmus did just that. Take a look:
With Rasmus pulling the ball more he has found some recent success, hitting .321/.375/.617 over 88 plate appearances since May 18th.
It comes as no surprise that Rasmus is career .247 hitter with a .301 slugging percentage when going the other way and a career .437 hitter with a .887 slugging percentage when pulling the ball.
Rasmus has also been a bit more aggressive since mid may which may not be a bad thing since he is a career .336 hitter with a .634 slugging percentage on first pitches in his career.
The recent success could be due to small sample sizes and some luck with balls in play or it could be because he is doing what works best for and that is pulling the ball rather than trying to shoot everything the other way. The pull approach combined with solid plate discipline has made teammate Jose Bautista a star, so why not Rasmus?
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt