I do not think anyone foresaw the incredible season that Josh Donaldson had last season. He put up an MVP caliber season and, if it were not for Miguel Cabrera, could have seriously been in the discussion for that prestigious award.
Yet, despite his success last season, people are doubting if he can keep it up in 2014. Of course, there are reasons to believe Donaldson will falter at least somewhat this season. The most obvious reason is simply that Donaldson had never hit very successfully before last year. He didn’t play many games, but in the games he did play, he did not do anything to suggest that a performance like that of 2013 would ever occur. His career average was .232 in 89 games and he hit 10 home runs with 37 runs batted in. If you look at these numbers and take them for future success, the power numbers are there. The batting average numbers, however, are not.
Obviously, we can’t just take past numbers and use them to predict future success, especially with such a small sample size. There is no question that Josh Donaldson improved as a hitter before and during last season. Still, 10 home runs in about half a season is not bad. With the improvement he experienced, 24 home runs is no stretch whatsoever.
The batting average numbers are a little concerning. A vast jump from .232 to .301 may have been a little bit of luck mixed with favorable circumstances. Maybe it was opposing pitching that couldn’t figure Josh Donaldson out. Maybe he really did improve his game that much.
In any case, he has not been the Josh Donaldson of a year ago. He began the 2014 season with two hits in his first 22 at-bats and at one point was hitless in 18 at -bats. While a drop in production was expected, a collapse of this magnitude still surprised people.
Now, we shouldn’t be too worried about Donaldson. No, he will not have a season like he did in 2013, but he will still do a lot at the plate and in the field to try to secure a playoff spot for the Oakland Athletics. He will not compete for MVP this season, but there is no way he stops hitting the ball completely. His average will drop from .301, but it will stay well above .250. My guess is that he will hit around .270 by the end of the season.
One last thing to keep in mind: Josh Donaldson is not the only player to slump at the beginning of the season. Many good players have gotten off to slow starts only to rebound later in the season.
Don’t worry too much about Donaldson, but don’t expect a year like the last.