Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Expect Rebound from Indians Slugger Travis Hafner

First, forget those silly MLB rumors that Cleveland's Travis Hafner is over the hill at 30.

This notion stems from a popular misconception that Hafner was due for a predictable fall because he developed late, thus his lofty minor league production in effect was inflated against relatively raw opposition.


First of all, the younger Hafner showed plenty of advancement versus his peers when he played his first year of professional ball at age 20, hitting .286 against single A pitching. Within three years he hit .386 with a near .600 slugging percentage, rapidly advancing through the Texas Rangers farm system. Obviously, nothing was lacking, slow or late in Hafner's early development.

What was wrong, however, was a lengthy setback he endured because of an almost crippling weakness in not one but both of his wrists, which caused the Rangers to divert attention away from Hafner and toward youngsters Carlos Pena and Mark Teixeira, foolishly trading Hafner to the Indians for -- get this -- Einer Diaz and Ryan Drese!

By 2006 in Cleveland, Hafner had belted 42 homers while hitting .308 and no one worried about his wrists any longer, especially after Hafner spent the better part of three years rehabilitating and strengthening them.

No, Travis Hafner is no late bloomer destined for a truncated career.

Expect Hafner to return to form again in 2008, hitting for power and average and high run productivity off both left- and right-handed pitching, as he always has done when healthy.

Stop worrying, Cleveland. Of how many other players can it be said that if they hit about .260, with 25-30 homers and at least 90 RBI that they will have had an off year?