Since then, unfortunately, Kearns has been beleaguered by a series of (freak) injuries and inconsistent playing time, and has yet to return to his rookie-year dominance...and some have begun to wonder if he ever will. The trades of Sean Casey and Wily Mo Pena guarantee Kearns, who is still a month shy of 26, a full year of playing time. He also has the advantage that Jerry Narron has been among his biggest fans, constantly complementing both his offense and defense in interviews with the press last fall and this spring. That's a stark contrast to the message we heard from Dave Miley about Kearns, who seemed more focused on his weight than anything else last spring. As Baseball Prospectus wrote in their '06 Annual: "Although Kearns earned a spanking by reporting to camp overweight and out-of-shape last year, he should have spent the spring listening to the Reds talk about how their two titans were going to lead the club back to glory. Instead, he spent the spring training hearing trade rumors and competing with Wily Mo Pena for a job..." The difference was palpable this spring. While the trade rumors persist, the Reds are clearly expecting big things from Kearns this year.
For additional biographical information, please see Austin Kearns' profile in Red Hot Mama's Human League.
Historical Statistics (for explanations of all statistics used here, please refer to the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet):
There are some good signs, however. Last year, it was a tale of two seasons for Kearns. His first half struggles were well documented, as was his eventual demotion to AAA...which was justifiable from a performance standpoint, but the club instead focused their blame on Kearns' conditioning (or lack thereof). Kearns erupted in AAA, posting a staggering 0.407 OBP and 0.685 SLG. After returning to the majors in the second half of last season, Kearns approached the numbers we all have hoped he could produce: 0.253/0.353/0.498/0.851. I would be pleased if he continued that production line this year, but there's great reason to think he can do even better. After all, last year was the first time he'd been healthy in quite a while. Hopefully the cobwebs are finally gone and he can become the player we all have hoped he will.
His home/away splits have to be staggering to those that think GABP is a hitters' park (it's not, though it does favor home runs). Kearns homer production is fairly similar at home vs. away, but that's about the only place where he matches up well; in general, he has hit substantially better in away games. He does tend to hit a fair number of ground balls (31%; compare to Dunn's 21%...though he does get some elevation; see Hatteberg's 37%), and ground balls turn into outs at a high rate in GABP compared to other parks, so perhaps that helps explain his struggles at home..?
|Pos.||Year||Level||DI's||Dewan+- (plays)||DialZR (runs)||Gassko (runs)||D*G (runs)||Pinto (runs)||Davenport (runs)||DewanHold (% held)||Walsh (runs)|
It does seem like Kearns has been around and disappointing for a long time now, but the guy will turn just 26 in May. In fact, he's only two months older than rookie Chris Denorfia! Kearns' comparables at Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference include Dale Murphy, Tim Salmon, Dwight Evans, Richie Sexson, Mo Vaughn, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, and Willie Stargell. Granted, there are a number of less impressive names on those lists, but it's still nice to see those sorts of players associated with a guy one can still call a prospect. Austin has a lot of baseball to play yet, I still expect him to have an excellent career. At the minimum, we can reasonably expect a 0.350ish OBP with 20-25 home runs for years to come, but I think we'll see a great deal more.
Baseball Archive, The
Baseball Cube, The
Baseball Prospectus '06 Annual
Baseball Think Factory
Hardball Times '06 Annual