Contributing Writer : Mike Navarra
In a typical 12 team fantasy league 60 outfielders are starting at any given time. In 2011, of players with outfield eligibility based on 10 games played, there was a combination of depth and position scarcity:
- 51 outfielders hit 15 or more home runs, but only 10 hit 30 or more home runs;
- 48 Outfielders stole 15 or more bases, but only 15 stole 30 or more.
An owner call fall into some power and some speed in the outfield, but to really be competitive you will need to find those difference-making players that can separate you from your competition.
Of the over 100 outfielders with 400 at-bats only 10 hit 20 home runs and stole 20 bases. These players were Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gonzalez, BJ Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Jeff Francoeur and Chris Young. Only Kemp, Braun, Ellsbury, Granderson and Jose Bautista drove in 100 runs. Those five players, along with Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Justin Upton were the eight outfielders who scored 100 runs.
What does this all mean? Well, in the outfield it was easy to get some production and some value, but to get elite value and production you had to really hit it right. Only Kemp, Braun, Ellsbury and Bautista hit 30 home runs, scored and drove in 100 runs, and hit for a .300 batting average. Bautista lags behind the “Big Three” and their 30 plus steals with only nine of his own.
Position scarcity is usually reserved for positions with a few good options and very little value otherwise. This is not entirely the case in the outfield, but with so few elite options you’ll want to make sure you get one of them.
Batting Average on Balls In Play is one of the sabermetric statistics that some people think is overrated, but can give a fantasy player a great indication of which players might have overperformed in 2011, and also those who will bounce back. For example, in 2010 Matt Kemp had the lowest BABIP of his career, which led to the lowest batting average of his career. With a statistical correction in 2011 his batting average rose to .323. This was an easy call that we touted in the preseason last year.
In 2012 Carl Crawford should experience a similar statistical regression to the mean, and be a nice value pick. Outfielders with the 10 lowest BABIPs over 500 plate appearances in 2011 include Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Logan Morrison, Colby Rasmus, Chris Young, Martin Prado and Carlos Lee. Among outfielders with the highest BABIPs in 2011 are Kemp, Emilio Bonifacio, Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence, Gordon, Dexter Fowler, Braun, Andre Ethier, Drew Stubbs and Michael Morse. What you’ll notice is that the players with higher BABIPs for the most part had excellent, or at least pleasantly surprising seasons, while the lower BABIP performers mostly underperformed, not only from a batting average perspective, but overall. Isolating players who should be in for a regression to the statistical mean, either before the draft, or in season, can really help you outlast your competition in a long fantasy baseball season.
Players to Watch in 2012
There are always players that come into the season under the radar. They may be on the verge of a breakout due to playing time increases or environment change. They may have been brought along too early, not entirely blossomed and fallen off the fantasy radar. Those are your classic post-hype sleepers. They may have had a rough year in 2011 and are due to bounce back close to, or surpassing, previous levels. Two good examples are Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki.
Where there are sleepers, there are busts. Looking at surface stats is not enough for analyzing these players. Their true self is lurking behind BABIP, batted ball rates and walk and strikeout rates. But who are they? If you read on you will see, but some examples are Michael Bourn and Melky Cabrera.
Matt Kemp – LAD – Opening Day Age: 27
Many players break out at age 27, so the best could be yet to come for Kemp. In 2011 he set career highs in nearly every offensive category, but the most encouraging are the advances in walk rate and isolated power. Kemp commanded the strike zone and when he got his pitch he hammered it. You can’t really improve on being the number one player in fantasy baseball, but Kemp may not have reached his full potential. He sniffed 40-40 and a Triple Crown, so those can be goals for 2012.
Jacoby Ellsbury – BOS – Opening Day Age: 28
Ellsbury broke out in his age-27 season, and could be the comeback player of the year in the AL. He produced a career high slash line and blew away his previous career high in home runs and OPS. Ellsbury’s strikeout rate was a career high in 2011, but it was the result of trying to drive the ball more. He saw more pitches per plate appearance, 4.27, than in 2008 and 2009. The result of driving the ball was his 32 home runs, which may be his ceiling, but 20 or more home runs seems likely to be repeatable.
Ryan Braun – MIL – Opening Day Age: 28
Braun was himself and more in 2011. He eclipsed the 30-home-run plateau for the fourth time in five years, drove in 100 runs for the fourth straight year and scored 100 runs for the third year in a row. He bounced back to an isolated power of .265, which had been on a four year falling trend. His walk rate has risen each year he has been in the majors, while his strikeout rate has fallen. In 2011, Braun also stole more bases, and with a higher success rate than he previously ever had in his career. He is advancing his game to the next level, the elite of the elite. Note: At this time Braun is facing a 50 game suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Curtis Granderson – NYY – Opening Day Age: 31
Granderson powered up for a career year in 2011. He reached new highs in home runs (41), RBI (119), runs (136) and OPS. Being a Yankees has done Granderson well. He has raised his pitches per plate appearance from 4.07 with the Tigers to 4.30 with the Yankees. Granderson hit 16 home runs in 191 at-bats against lefties in 2011, after hitting 20 home runs in nearly 800 at-bats against lefties prior to 2011. He more than doubled his home run rate against lefties to 24.6%. While Granderson shouldn’t have a problem being productive, 2011 is as good as it gets and you can write in a regression in permanent marker.
Jose Bautista – TOR – Opening Day Age: 31
Bautista may have actually been a better player in 2011 than he was in 2010. He lowered his strikeout rate for the fourth straight season, while raising his walk rate in each of those four years. Bautista was only behind Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Alberto Callaspo in walk to strikeout rate in 2011, and was one of only nine hitters with at least 500 plate appearances to walk more than he struck out. Add in a BABIP that supports a .300 batting average, and Bautista doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.
Michael Bourn – ATL – Opening Day Age: 29
A glance at Bourn’s 2011 shows a player coming into his own as a speed threat at the top of a lineup. A closer look shows a player with the fifth highest BABIP, .369, of any outfielder with at least 130 plate appearances. He still didn’t hit .300, and posted an OBP of .349, while not scoring 100 runs. In comparison, Miguel Cabrera had a .365 BABIP, batted .344 with a .449 OBP and 111 runs scored. Bourn likely will regress in 2012, leading to a lower batting average, fewer runs and fewer stolen base opportunities. For a player that has a career high of five home runs and 50 RBI this is not a good omen.
Justin Upton – ARI – Opening Day Age: 29
Upton broke out at age 22 in 2009 with a 20/20 season. He fell back some in 2010, but further showed what he is capable of with a monster 2011. He posted career bests in strikeout rate (18.7%), home runs (31) and isolated power (.240). He actually had a below career average BABIP (.319) and still was able to hit .289. Upton’s home run rate is consistent with his career average, but his fly ball rate was up in 2011, leading to more home runs. There is no reason why this 24-year-old can’t continue to progress and mature as a hitter. The best is yet to come and he is an MVP candidate.
Melky Cabrera – SF – Opening Day Age: 27
Cabrera had a surprising year in 2011, vaulting himself into the top ten outfielders in fantasy baseball. He may be viewed as a good mid-level outfielder in 2012, but further inspection reveals some flaws in his game. A career low walk rate, combined with a career high strikeout rate, led to a career low walk to strikeout ratio of .37. A .332 BABIP (career average .299) is the reason for a .302 batting average. His home run rate, 9.8%, was well over his career average of 6.9%. Add in a trade that takes him out of a decent hitter’s park, and places him in a pitcher’s park, and it all this adds up to caution tape wrapped around Cabrera’s 2012 season. Buyer Beware.
Alex Gordon – KC – Opening Day Age: 28
In Gordon’s first full year in the bigs since 2008 he showed that he might just be able to stick with the Royals, and that he isn’t destined for the dreaded AAAA label. Let’s not get his All-Star ticket punched just yet though. A .358 BABIP led to his .303 batting average. He has always shown the power and speed potential that blossomed in 2011, and those skills should be sustainable. In 2012 Gordon should be able to post similar counting stats, just don’t count on him hitting .300 again. He is more of a .270-.280 hitter at best.
Carlos Gonzalez – COL – Opening Day Age: 26
Gonzalez came back to Earth some in 2011, after an astronomical 2011. An unsustainable .384 BABIP in 2010 gave way to a .326 mark in 2011. This lowered his batting average .041 to .295, still very good. Gonzalez maintained his home run rate, but hit a fewer fly balls, and missed some time due to injury, which led to a drop in his home run total. Overall, Gonzalez could be a Draft Day value, even in the early rounds, as he could record his first .300-100-30-100-30 season. That would be first round value, possibly available outside the first two rounds.
Hunter Pence – PHI – Opening Day Age: 28
Pence had a typical season for him in 2011 with a little less speed, but his highest RBI total of his career. A midseason trade to the Phillies seemed to rejuvenate him. Pence played 100 games for Houston, and 54 for Philadelphia, but hit 11 home runs for each team. His walk to strikeout rate for the Phillies was nearly double what it was while playing for the Astros. Maybe it was the change of scenery. Philly plays as a neutral park, but Houston yielded less runs per game than all but three parks in 2010. Maybe it was the pennant race, and maybe it was the lineup around him, but Pence sure seemed to enjoy his time in Philly in 2011.
Lance Berkman- STL – Opening Day Age: 35
Berkman was all but left for dead by fantasy owners heading into 2011. His ADP was over 200, he had just struggled mightily with the Yankees, and was heading to his third team in two seasons. But in 2011, Berkman had a year that will place him in the Comeback Player of the Year conversation. He had his highest home run total since 2007, helped by a 19.9% home run rate, also his highest since 2007. An above average line drive rate should come down in 2012, dropping his batting average, and the home run rate isn’t sustainable either. Berkman should have a good 2012, but it won’t compare favorably to 2011.
Jeff Francoeur – KC – Opening Day Age: 28
Francoeur got his face back on the fantasy radar in 2011. He went mostly undrafted, but ended up as a top 15 outfielder. 20 home runs was his highest since 2006, but a 10.3% home run rate indicates that it is for real. 22 stolen bases was one shy of his career total from 2005 to 2010. He ran more often than ever before, and for a better percentage, but still less than 70% success. The steals, and a .323 BABIP (.302 career) may come down, but Francoeur can still be valuable in mixed leagues if he can be had for the right price.
Michael Morse – WAS – Opening Day Age: 30
Morse continued his 2010 success with a better than expected 2011. A .344 BABIP was actually lower than his .346 career level, so a .290 to .300 batting average can be supported. He hit .314 with runners in scoring position, but hit 18 of his 31 home runs with nobody on base, so his RBI total could actually rise in the future. His home run rate was high, 21.2%, but it was 19.5% in 2010. Morse should still be viewed with some skepticism, but he is showing that he can be a good number two, or three, outfielder in 2012.
B.J. Upton – TB – Opening Day Age: 27
Upton seems like he has been around forever, but that’s because he was brought up at the age of 19. He is one of the most polarizing players in baseball, one that can give a fantasy owner, and fans, fits. His blend of power and speed is tantalizing, while his low batting average is enough to make you pull your hair out. He has struck out about once in every four at-bats in his career, and doesn’t hit enough line drives, less than 18%, to raise his batting average to respectability. If you pair him with a high average hitter to offset his shortcomings you’ll reap the benefits he has to offer.
Ben Zobrist – TB – Opening Day Age: 30
Zobrist’s 2011 was nearly as good as his 2009 breakout season. He is a very good four-category contributor, and has the potential to provide good batting average as well. One area of concern over the last three seasons is a falling walk rate, and rising strikeout rate. This has caused the ratio of those two statistics to drop from .88 to .60 over that time period. If pitchers start to exploit holes in his swing Zobrist’s production could suffer across the board.
Josh Hamilton – TEX – Opening Day Age: 30
If only, if only….. Josh Hamilton could stay healthy for a full season. Outside of 2009, Hamilton recorded his lowest OPS and home run rate of his career in 2011. Consistent batted ball rates, power numbers and a batting average north of .290 make Hamilton desirable. Consistent injuries make him risky. In a classic risk vs. reward situation you have to decide as an owner what that risk is worth.
Andrew McCutchen – PIT – Opening Day Age: 25
McCutchen is another outfielder with a nice blend of power and speed. His rising fly ball rate in 2011, coupled with a career high home run rate of 12.2% lead to a career high of 23 home runs. He ran less than the previous year, but saw his success rate drop from 77% to 70%. He could have been getting the green light less, or maybe it’s just a coincidence. His slash statistics have been very consistent in his first three seasons, and a low BABIP brought his average down in 2011. That should bounce back into the .280s, with the possibility of a 30/30 season as he continues to grow as a hitter.
Coco Crisp – OAK – Opening Day Age: 32
Speed is a talent for the young, and Crisp isn’t getting any younger. The good news is he doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. Crisp’s stolen base success rate for his career is 78%, but since arriving in Oakland he is 81 for 93, 87%. A .284 BABIP lowered his season batting average, but that should bounce back in 2012. Double digit home runs and 40 plus steals are a good bet.
Emilio Bonifacio – MIA – Opening Day Age: 26
When he woke up on June 1st Bonifacio was hitting .275 with one home run, two steals and had been caught three times. He stole 38 of 46 bases the rest of the way and ended up with a .296 batting average and a career high five home runs. 40 stolen bases was as many as he had in 260 previous games in the big leagues. A .372 BABIP boosted his average, but if he runs at that clip, you can withstand a batting average hit. He’s purely a speed play, but does have value in that area .
Brett Gardner – NYY – Opening Day Age: 28
Gardner started slowly in 2011, but ended up with the counting stats most of his owners expected. He fell a steal shy of 50, had a career high of seven home runs, but hit only .259. A .340 BABIP led to a .277 batting average in 2010, but that fell to .303 in 2011. Gardner had 33 infield and bunt hits last season, which lags behind players like Juan Pierre (45), Ichiro Suzuki (40) and Michael Bourn (39). From the left side he should be as good as those players, and an additional 10 hits a season would raise his batting average about .020.
Jay Bruce – CIN – Opening Day Age: 25
A high strikeout rate continues to sink Bruce’s batting average but there were encouraging signs from Bruce in 2011. He had career highs in home runs, runs, RBI, stolen bases and walks. Bruce seems to be developing as a hitter, but he is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone, and making more contact on those pitches as well. He is getting himself out more often. He also is swinging and missing more at pitches in the zone, which helped lead to a career high 158 Ks in 2011. He will have to be more disciplined if he is going to ever be the hitter he has the potential to be.
Adam Jones – BAL – Opening Day Age: 26
Jones may not have the plate discipline that you would like to see, but his 2011 season was something of a breakout for the young Oriole. He was able to cross the 20 home run plateau , and hit 25. He set career highs with 12 steals, 83 RBI and a .185 isolated power. He will need to walk more to raise his run and stolen base totals, but he is only 26 years old. He should just continue to get better.
Carlos Beltran – STL – Opening Day Age: 34
The good thing for Beltran, and his knees, was that he made it through a full season relatively healthy. He played in 142 games and had his highest home run and RBI totals since 2008, his highest isolated power since 2007 and his highest OPS since 2006. He isn’t going to run much anymore, but in the Cardinals’ lineup he can still provide some pop. Depth in their outfield should help him stay healthy as well, with much needed days off.
Shane Victorino – PHI – Opening Day Age: 31
Victorino had a typical year for him in 2011. His BABIP was lower than usual for him, and he should be back up around a .300 batting average in 2012. A .212 isolated power was a career high, as was his .87 walk to strikeout ratio and an .847 OPS. Victorino has played 156, 147 and 132 games over the past three seasons. Mounting injuries could be the reason for only 22 steal attempts in 2011, after averaging 40 attempts from 2008-2010. If you’re drafting him in 2012 you have to factor in a DL stint and hope it will just be two weeks.
Ichiro Suzuki – SEA – Opening Day Age: 38
At age 37 Ichiro posted the lowest batting average of his career and failed to reach 200 hits for the first time. His batted ball rates were close to career levels, which indicates that he should bounce back. The rest of Ichiro’s statistics were nearly identical to his 2010 totals. Normalizing his batting averages on line drives, grounders and fly balls to league average levels would raise Ichiro’s batting average to .288 and 195 base hits. Add in 13 bunt and infield hits below his four year average and now he’s at 208 hits and a .307 average. Don’t worry about Ichiro. He’ll be back to his old self in 2012.
Mike Stanton – FLA – Opening Day Age: 22
Stanton is one of the game’s elite young power hitters. He turned 22 only after the 2011 season ended, but already has amassed 56 home runs and a .264 isolated power. In the last two seasons, only Jose Bautista outperforms Stanton there. His walk rate rose 3%, while his strikeout rate dropped 3.5% from 2010 to 2011. Stanton is already making gains as a hitter, even at a very young age. This is a future Hall of Famer, folks.
Drew Stubbs – CIN – Opening Day Age: 27
Prior to 2011 Stubbs was viewed as a sleeper candidate to put himself among the elite fantasy outfielders. 15 home runs and 40 steals are nice production, but a .243 batting average, and only 44 RBI balance out that production to keep him at a nice third OF option. One of Stubbs’ main problems is his extreme strikeout rate. Since 2009 his strikeout rate has risen from 25% to 27%, and finally in 2011 it was 33%. Stubbs cannot continue to strikeout that often, and be elite. He is B.J. Upton Lite, but could be much better than that.
Cameron Maybin – SD – Opening Day Age: 24
Maybin was a classic post-hype sleeper in 2011. He had some injury difficulties, but he was rejuvenated in San Diego after failed stints in Detroit and Florida. He will still need to decrease his strikeout rate, and become more of a gap hitter in Petco Park. His .331 BABIP seems high, but a career level of .332 may just be his line. Across four levels in 2007 he stole 30 bases, so the speed seems for real. Maybin has growth to make still, but he will turn just 25 in the first week of the season. He is very young, and could be just hitting his stride as a major league hitter.
Corey Hart – MIL – Opening Day Age: 30
Hart had a huge power year in 2010, and didn’t really disappoint in 2011. He hit 25 home runs, but missed 30 games. Another 30-home-run season could be on the horizon with a full season of at-bats, but he’s only played more than 145 games once in five seasons. Another factor is that Hart’s fly ball rate dropped by 9% last year, while his home run rate jumped to 19.7%. This was the 11th highest in baseball last year, and is well above his 13.4% career average. 20 home runs is a good bet, but it would be risky to expect much more than that.
Matt Holliday – STL – Opening Day Age: 32
Holliday was an important part of the Cardinals lineup when he played last season. He did miss nearly one fourth of the season though. His strikeout rate rose to 18% last year, his highest since his rookie year in 2004. He also recorded an isolated power of .229, his highest since 2007. Similar to Corey Hart, Holliday’s fly ball rate fell by 7.5%, while his home run rate rose by 5%. It remains to be seen whether he will be the main man in the Cardinal lineup, or if Albert Pujols will still be his running mate, but Holliday should still be a good second OF in 2012.
Nelson Cruz – TEX – Opening Day Age: 31
Cruz is a player that you must plan to replace for at least a month each season. He has not played in more than 130 games in any big-league season. His power is tremendous, as evidenced by his 2011 playoff performance. Leg injuries over the last few years have also diminished his stolen base attempts, and success rate. A .288 BABIP helped to sink Cruz’s batting average, but his isolated power was once again among the league’s best (tied for 11th). Don’t expect 600 at-bats, but Cruz will crush while he is healthy.
Michael Cuddyer – COL – Opening Day Age: 33
Cuddyer missed about 20 games in 2011, so his counting numbers from a runs and RBI perspective are a little low. He did hit 20 home runs again, thanks to a bounce back in home run rate. He also set a career high with 11 steals, and he was only caught once. Cuddyer’s stolen base totals have increased each of the last three years. If he is becoming a smarter base runner, with opportunity, it will be a nice addition to 20 home run power. Moving to Colorado shouldn’t hurt his performance any. Cuddyer is a solid option in the outfield that you can get at a good value.
Nick Markakis – BAL – Opening Day Age: 28
This was Markakis’ age 27 season, and he did have somewhat of a personal comeback, but a breakout second year in 2007 remains his gold standard. He was being drafted in the 12th round last spring, and for no good reason. Over the last two seasons combined Markakis has only 133 RBI and 151 runs. The league leaders in those categories for 2011 were 126 and 136. Markakis has the potential to being power and speed to the table, and staying healthy always helps. His .295 career batting average is usually spread over more than 600 at-bats. You’d be happy to have him on your team as a 4th or 5th OF, but he’ll likely be drafted as more than that.
Matt Joyce – TB – Opening Day Age: 27
Joyce enjoyed a bump in playing time that resulted in more than twice the at-bats he had in 2010. He didn’t disappoint with 19 home runs and 13 steals, to go along with solid counting numbers and a .277 batting average. His home run rate was consistent with 2010, and is a sustainable 12.3%. The Rays like to run as a team, so 13 steals with a 93% success rate is a good sign. He stole double digit bases in the minors previously. He has the potential to be a 20/20 outfielder in 2012.
Johnny Damon – TB – Opening Day Age: 38
Damon had a lower BABIP, .284, in 2011, which dragged down his average some. He was able to hit 16 home runs and steal 19 bases though, making him a valuable fantasy player. 2011 was the first season since 2005 that Damon did not record at least a 10% walk rate. If he stays with Tampa, Damon could continue to put up good stolen base totals. He attempted 24 steals in 2009 and 2010 combined, but 25 last season. The Rays run more than most, so where Damon ends up playing could be a factor in both speed and power.
Chris Young – ARI – Opening Day Age: 28
Young put up 20/20 production again, but it was a step down from the previous year when he flirted with 30/30. His walk rate was a career high, and his strikeout rate was a career low. Young hits home runs based on sheer volume of balls in the air. From 2009 to 2011 he has hit over 50% fly balls, which will keep his BA low. His home run rate was 9.5% in 2011, actually below his career rate of 11.6%. If Young drops his fly ball rate, his power will dry up. If he can get his home run rate up to the 15% range, like it was in 2007, then his power numbers could skyrocket. He is a risky play, but could pay off big time.
Juan Pierre – CWS – Opening Day Age: 34
In 2011, Pierre had a similar season to 2010, with two exceptions. He scored 16 fewer runs, and stole and astounding 41 fewer bases. In a year when he stole 68 bases, he was caught 18 times, for a 79% success rate. Last season Pierre was caught 17 times, but in only 44 attempts. This is a 61% success rate. With less success, he ran less overall. It was his worst season as a regular player from that standpoint. He probably didn’t forget how to read pitchers, or how to pick a spot to run. He is probably getting old, and losing a half step or needs a freer hand on that green light. Be cautious when drafting in 2012.
Ryan Roberts – ARI – Opening Day Age: 31
Roberts broke out in Arizona at age 30 in 2011. He had showed a power and speed combination in the minors, and earlier in major league stints. Roberts was plagued by a .275 BABIP, despite very good batted ball rates. He had a 24.3% line drive rate, but hit only .667 on them. His batting average on ground balls was also low, .188. His 12.1% home run rate is sustainable, and 20 steals is a possibility. He will have to be more successful than 67% though.
Torii Hunter – LAA – Opening Day Age: 36
Hunter has been a consistent performer with the Angels. He has an average of 22 home runs and 85 RBI over the four seasons. His stolen base totals have declined each year he has been in LA though. There are a few concerning indicators though. Last season was Hunter’s highest strikeout rate since 2002. He also has had a declining BABIP and isolated power for three years. His stolen base success rate is below 50% in each of the last two seasons, after being 73% for his career. He has even been a below average fielder for the last six straight years. His solid power numbers are masking an impending fantasy collapse.
Angel Pagan – SF – Opening Day Age: 30
Pagan had injury struggles that slowed his start in 2011. He lowered his strikeout rate, and raised his walk rate for the last three years. A low BABIP sunk his average some, but if you prorate his 2011 Pagan’s counting stats were pretty much in line with his first full season of stats in 2010. These are encouraging signs that Pagan can continue to be a productive outfielder in 2012.
Carlos Lee – HOU – Opening Day Age: 35
Lee had a decent year in 2011, but he is in the decline phase of his career. His home run total has declined each year since hitting a career high 37 in 2006. A bad Houston offense over the past four seasons has kept his runs totals in the 60s. Lee still drives in runs, but doesn’t steal bases anymore. Unless he can start hitting .300 again, which is unlikely due to a lack of power and low career BABIP, then he becomes a two- category player, and he isn’t elite in either of them. Lee’s a solid late round option, but you can’t build your team with him as a main component.
Josh Willingham – OAK – Opening Day Age: 33
Willingham played in the American League for the first time in his career in 2011. For what it’s worth he had a career high strikeout rate, well above any other year.. Willingham also had a well-below-average walk rate as well, when compared to career levels. However, he did set a career high with 29 home runs in a traditionally hitter-unfriendly environment in Oakland. Almost half of Willingham’s batted balls were fly balls and a career high 17.5% of those went out of the park. If his fly ball rate, or home run rate, which are both high, drop at all, there could be a big drop in fantasy value.
Nick Swisher – NYY – Opening Day Age: 31
Swisher posted very nice walk and strikeout rates in 2011, but saw a drop in power and batting average as well. The batting average drop was due to a BABIP correction from 2010. The power is more concerning. In New York, Swisher’s fly ball rate has dropped each year, as has his home run rate. If this trend continues, Swisher will become a low batting average, decent power player, with no speed. He could become replacement level. Be cautious with your optimism about him bouncing back to 2010 status.
Peter Bourjos – LAA – Opening Day Age: 25
Bourjos got a full season of pretty regular playing time in 2011. 12 home runs and 22 steals are a good start for this young outfielder, but he will need to control the strike zone more going forward. His big league walk to strikeout rate is only .23, but he did have a .64 rate in AA in 2009. He also has big time speed potential. From 2008 to 2010 Bourjos stole 119 bases across 4 levels. A high, .338, BABIP resulted in a batting average of just .271 due to the strikeout total that Bourjos had. Think of Austin Jackson, but with a little more contact, and potentially more speed.
Seth Smith – OAK – Opening Day Age: 29
Smith fell into much more playing time in 2011 than he had gotten in the past. He had been more of a platoon player who crushed righties. He got over 450 at-bats in 2011, and produced good numbers, but not as much power as you would expect. Smith’s fly ball rate fell 7% from the year before, but is within the normal range for his career. His home run rate has fallen each year in the majors, all the way to 9.6% last year. This was the reason for only hitting 15 home runs. A stolen base success rate of 83% indicates that his stolen base total is sustainable. A negative on Smith’s value is a move to Oakland, a pitcher’s park, from the hitter friendly Coors Field.
Brennan Boesch – DET – Opening Day Age: 26
Boesch had his season cut short by injury in 2011, or he almost certainly would have hit 20 home runs and scored close to 90 runs. He is a left-handed hitter, but he doesn’t have traditional platoon splits. He actually has hit for a higher average against lefties, while his isolated power is better against righties, in his young career. Boesch does have a .391 BABIP against lefties, versus .279 against righties. That is part of his abnormal success against left-handed pitchers. With a bipolar 2010, and an injury shortened 2011, there are many questions about Brennan Boesch. He has the potential to hit .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI, but only time will tell if he can reach those goals.
Austin Jackson – DET – Opening Day Age: 25
Jackson experienced a BABIP statistical regression to the mean in 2011: .340 is still high, but .396 was astronomical. A .056 drop in BABIP, along with an increased strikeout rate, and decreased line drive rate, all combined to sink Jackson’s batting average to just .249. So why should any fantasy owner be encouraged heading into 2012? Jackson improved his walk rate, and also hit double-digit home runs. He had only a 6.9% home run rate, so there is still room for growth. He stole 22 bases, after 27 in 2010, and 30 steals could be on the horizon. Jackson, who never showed great contact even in the minors, will need to put the bat on the ball more, and get on base more, to be valuable in fantasy baseball, and to the Tigers.
Lorenzo Cain – KC – Opening Day Age: 26
Following the trade of Melky Cabrera, Cain is going to get a chance to start for the Royals in 2012. He had mainly been a speed player in the minors prior to 2011, but he broke out with 16 home runs for AAA Omaha. He also added 16 stolen bases, but was caught six times. He hit .312, thanks to a .366 BABIP, but his speed has always allowed for higher BABIPs. Comparable players for his 2012 performance would be the 2011 versions of Peter Bourjos and Austin Jackson.
Mike Trout – LAA – Opening Day Age: 20
Trout was brought up to the majors in the mid-season at the age of 19. He was killing AAA at the time, so the move made sense for the Angels. Unfortunately, Trout struggled, hitting only .220. He had a .246 BABIP though, and a 22.2% strikeout rate isn’t abnormally high. He has the ability to provide decent power, with elite speed. In his last 222 minor league games he has 99 steals with an 80% success rate, and he was 4-4 with the Angels. With a full season, Trout could hit 15 home runs and steal more than 30 bases.
Carl Crawford – BOS – Opening Day Age: 30
Crawford posted a .299 BABIP, well below his career level of .328. He had his highest strikeout rate and a below average walk rate as well. These factors mixed to torpedo his season. Crawford’s batted ball rates were as good as ever for him, including a home run rate consistent with his career level. He should bounce back to similar levels to his career averages in 2012. One troubling statistic is his stolen base totals and success rate. He stole only 18 bases, and at only a 75% clip, below his 82% from 2002-2010. If his walk rate and strikeout rates improve, and Crawford remembers how to swipe a base, then he could be right back to elite levels in fantasy baseball. But that green light from his Rays’ days may not exist.
Gerardo Parra – ARI – Opening Day Age: 24
Parra has platoon splits as a left-handed hitter. He has better numbers in every category against right-handed pitchers. He had a high BABIP, .342, in 2011, but a .338 clip for his career shows that this may just be his level. In 2012, you can expect Parra to produce about 10 home runs, and 15 to 20 stolen bases. He is a good NL-only player, and a solid late round mixed-league player.
Jayson Werth – PHI – Opening Day Age: 32
20 home runs and 19 stolen bases are nice numbers, unless you have just gotten a $126M contract, and you hit .232 with fewer than 130 runs and RBI combined. Werth’s walk and strikeout rates were similar to his career levels. A .286 BABIP, combined with steadily falling line drive and home run rates, sunk his batting average and home run totals. Werth will turn 33 in May, and while he shouldn’t be any worse off in 2012, he is in the decline phase of his career. That is not exactly comforting to Nationals’ fans.
Ben Revere – MIN – Opening Day Age: 23
Revere was called up mid-season and got 450 AB with the Twins. He didn’t qualify for the batting title, but if he had he would have had the lowest isolated power in the major leagues. He hit .267, but with only a .293 BABIP. His minor league BABIP was never below .325, so there is batting average upside. He stole 34 bases in 43 attempts, which was actually a better rate of success than he usually had in the minor leagues. With a full season to work with 40 steals seems like a cinch, and 50 is possible. Just make sure to get home runs and RBIs in abundance elsewhere.
Alfonso Soriano – CHC – Opening Day Age: 36
Soriano got off to a hot start in 2011. He hit 10 home runs and drove in 20 runs, all before May 1st. He didn’t fall off completely from then on, but the rest of 2011 was pedestrian at best. Soriano is who he is. He is a free swinger, with power, who doesn’t hit for average or score runs. His 50 runs is the lowest he has had in his career. He had a .266 BABIP, which indicates the potential for a batting average bounce back, but Soriano hasn’t even recorded a league average BABIP since 2008. He’ll have value in NL-Only leagues, but he is a fourth OF at best in mixed leagues.
Andre Ethier – LAD – Opening Day Age: 29
Ethier had a tough 2011. His walk and strikeout rates were pretty consistent with his career rates. After posting three straight years of an isolated power over .200, that number dropped to .129 in 2011. Even with a .348 BABIP (career .323) Ethier only hit .292. He hit a career low 31% fly balls, and a career low 9.2% home run rate did not help his power. Ethier will have to prove to fantasy owners that his downward batted ball trends are an aberration, and that he can still play. He should be a late round player on draft day.
Carlos Quentin – SD – Opening Day Age: 29
Quentin is a fantasy owner’s nightmare. Since hitting a career high 36 home runs in his breakout year of 2008, Quentin has continued to put up big power. He has posted an isolated power over .215 every year since 2008. If he had qualified for the batting title in 2011, his .245 mark would have been in the top 15. That was if he qualified. He has only qualified in one of the last three years, and has never played more than 131 games in a season. A .253 career BABIP will hold his batting average down, and now with a trade to the Padres, power may be an issue as well. Fewer than 10 home runs is not impossible.
Nyjer Morgan – MIL – Opening Day Age: 31
Morgan is no spring chicken anymore at age 31. He stole 76 bases in 2009 and 2010 combined, but was also caught 34 times. In 2011 Morgan stole 13 bases in 17 attempts. His success rate rose, but his totals fell dramatically. Unfortunately, Morgan gives not much other than speed. He has eight career home runs, doesn’t drive in runs and has never scored more than 75 runs. A .362 BABIP last year resulted in a .304 batting average, but that won’t last. Unless Morgan is going to steal 30 bases again, he isn’t worth much outside of NL-Only.
Bobby Abreu – LAA – Opening Day Age: 38
Abreu had the worst season of his career in 2011. For the first time in his career Abreu failed to hit 10 home runs. He recorded career lows in runs, RBI, isolated power, slugging and .OPS. His home run rate was half of his career rate last year. He should be able to bounce back somewhat, at least from a power standpoint, and he stole 20 bases for the 13th straight year. Just don’t expect too much from him. He is clearly in decline.
Raul Ibanez – FA – Opening Day Age: 39
Ibanez has had a pretty steep drop off since his 2009 resurgence. He has only hit 36 home runs since hitting 34 in 2009. He also posted his lowest walk to strikeout rate of his career. A .268 BABIP was the lowest in a decade. That gives hope for a batting average correction next season, but a declining fly ball rate would lead to a continued decline in power. Simply put, Ibanez is still decent in NL-Only leagues, but let someone else draft him in your mixed league.
Will Venable – SD – Opening Day Age: 29
Venable had an up and down year in 2011, but his year end numbers were pretty solid for only leaguers. He cut his strikeout rate by six percent, his BABIP was below his career rate, but was still .300 and he hit nine home runs with 26 steals. All of his counting stats took slight hits from 2010 to 2011, but they have a potential to bounce back. A drop in fly ball rate, and in home run rate caused the power drop. Stolen base success was still there in 2011, 90%. Venable can produce more, but will need to be more consistent.
Dexter Fowler – COL – Opening Day Age: 26
Fowler was sent to AAA midseason to try to work out his struggles at the plate. His speed allows for high BABIPs, but he doesn’t use it enough to really benefit him. He is not a good base stealer as evidenced by a 65% career success rate. His strikeout rate was higher than ever in 2011 as well. He swung at more pitches out of the strike zone, and made contact on far fewer pitches in the strike zone. He is not making the progress you’d like to see as he spends more time in the bigs. Be wary in 2012.
Jon Jay – STL – Opening Day Age: 27
Jay got a full season of playing time in 2011 for the first time in his career. Injuries and a trade opened up space for him to get in the lineup consistently. He batted .297, thanks to a .340 BABIP. This is consistent with other numbers in his professional career, so it may be fairly sustainable. He didn’t give much else in the way of production besides the .297 average. 10 home runs is nice, but not when combined with 37 RBI and only six stolen bases. He also only scored 56 runs. If he gets 500 plate appearances again he’ll have to do more with them to make himself valuable outside of NL-only leagues.
Logan Morrison – MIA – Opening Day Age: 24
Morrison doubled his playing time from 2010 to 2011, and produced. He only hit .247 due to a .265 BABIP. His .351 BABIP in 2010 inflated his batting average though, so a statistical correction would mean a batting average more along the lines of .270 – .280. Morrison’s fly ball rate increased slightly in 2011, but his home run rate jumped from 3% to 18%. He has shown double digit power in the low minors, so it is not completely out of the blue. He had 29 extra base hits in 2010, and also had a higher OPS than in 2011. Morrison is a young hitter, who has shown good plate skills, and he should continue to mature as a hitter in the coming season.
Michael Brantley – CLE – Opening Day Age: 24
Brantley has made steady progress thus far as a big leaguer. 2011 was cut short by injury, but before Brantley got 450 at-bats. He hit seven home runs and stole 13 bases. Seven home runs matched a career high, which he set in 2010 across two levels. He hasn’t had as much plate patience as you’d like to see yet in the majors, but he regularly had good walk rates in the minors. He should continue to mature and progress as a hitter. Keep your eye out for signs that he is going to take that large leap, and turn himself into a superstar.
David Murphy – TEX – Opening Day Age: 30
Murphy has made a living out of being on the right side of platoon splits. It doesn’t hurt that he plays for the Rangers, and shares the outfield with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Murphy went double/double for the second straight year. This may be the lone bright spot of Murphy’s season though. He failed to reach 50 RBI or runs. 11 home runs was the lowest output of his career, due to a 29% fly ball rate, a number that is steadily dropping. Unless he can start putting more balls in the air, and producing more runs, Murphy could be finding himself on increasing numbers of fantasy waiver wires.
Vernon Wells – LAA – Opening Day Age: 33
Wells’ first season in LA met with mixed reviews. Some will look at his 25 home runs and nine steals, and look positively on that. Others will look at a .218 batting average, a failure to reach 70 runs or RBI, and think that he struggled. He had the lowest walk rate, along with the highest strikeout rate, of his career. The reason for his 25 home runs was a 48% fly ball rate, which won’t be sustainable without casualties to his batting average. Wells will be enticing for his power potential, but he could hurt you in so many other ways, you’ll have to be cautious in 2011. It is a toss-up as to whether his contract is worse than Jayson Werth’s.
Jason Bourgeois – HOU – Opening Day Age: 30
Bourgeois may be new to the fantasy scene, but he’ll be 30 on Opening Day 2012. In his first fairly regular playing time Bourgeois stole 31 bases in only 238 at-bats. That lack of playing time held down his runs and RBI, but he was able to hit .294. Bourgeois is Michael Bourn Lite, but older, and without as much track record. If he can get on base he’ll run but that is a big if.
Jason Heyward – ATL – Opening Day Age: 22
Heyward was plagued by injuries all season in 2011. It was his second season of battling aches and pains, but his 2011 shoulder injury really affected his play. He finished with only 14 home runs and 42 RBI in nearly 400 at-bats. His strikeout rate was the same as 2010, but his BABIP dropped by .075. He raised his fly ball rate 6% in a year, but his ground ball rate was still 54%; you can’t hit the ball out of the ballpark on the ground. His career home run rate is over 14%. Heyward should be a 30-home-run hitter at some point in his career, but he has to hit 20 first. That should happen in 2012, at the ripe old age of 22.
Martin Prado – ATL – Opening Day Age: 28
Prado suffered a real fall from grace in 2011. He had a drop of .069 points in BABIP, and his .266 BABIP was .049 points lower than his career level. His power and steal numbers were in line with 2010, and he improved his strikeout rate. Prado should bounce back some in 2012, to a solid average around .290, with 12-15 home runs, and a smattering of steals. He also offers position flexibility for added value.
Jason Bay – NYM – Opening Day Age: 31
Jason Bay was supposed to be the big right-handed bat the Mets needed in 2010. So much for that. Two years and about 100 missed games later, the Mets have a .250 hitter with 18 home runs. His OPS has dropped nearly .150 from his previous career level and his home run rate is half of his career level. Maybe Citi Field has psyched him out. Maybe it’s the injuries. Maybe he got old really, really fast. Whatever it is, Bay has not been the same in a Met uniform.
John Mayberry Jr. – PHI – Opening Day Age: 28
Mayberry got only 267 at-bats in 2011, but he was able to produce great numbers in that limited time. He hit 15 home runs (17.4% home run rate) and swiped eight bases. Prorated over a full season that would be nearly 30 home runs, 15 steals, and add in 95 RBI for good measure. The Phillies will still have a crowded outfield in 2012, but the departure of Raul Ibanez could open up a few more at-bats for Mayberry. He should be a solid option in NL-only leagues, but he’s better left for deeper mixed leagues.
Delmon Young – DET – Opening Day Age: 26
A miserable half season in Minnesota, which saw Young plagued by injuries, resulted in a trade to Detroit in August. In half as many games played, Young hit twice as many home runs, and had the same number of RBI. A low fly ball rate, and low home run rate, combined for the power outage in Minnesota. Young should be much more like the Detroit version, than the Minnesota version.
Rajai Davis – TOR – Opening Day Age: 31
.273. That was Rajai Davis’ OBP in 2011, in only 338 plate appearances. He was on either first or second base less than 90 times, and stole 34 bases. That’s astronomically high rate. There is no reason why he cannot raise his BABIP, and step to the plate another 200 times in 2012. Another 50-steal season is possible, but 40 is just about a cinch.
Desmond Jennings – TB – Opening Day Age: 25
Jennings was finally recalled in July by the Rays. He burst onto the scene to the tune of 10 home runs and stolen bases. Prorated, that equates to 25 home runs, 50 steals and 110 runs. He probably won’t sustain a 15.6% home run rate, but 15 to 20 home runs is possible. The speed is for real. In 2009 he stole 52 bases across two levels, and was only caught seven times. He has the potential to be a difference maker, and will be drafted as a top 20 outfielder in 2012.
Juan Rivera – LAD – Opening Day Age: 33
Rivera has signed with the Dodgers for $4.5 million bucks, so that probably gives him more playing time than just a platoon specialist. Rivera is what he is at this point. He’ll hit about .260, smack double digit home runs, and drive in about 80 runs. A low home run rate dropped his home run total in 2011, but Rivera should be able to bounce back in LA. It is a good park for power, and that’s what you’re looking for from him.
Mitch Moreland – TEX – Opening Day Age: 26
Moreland had a solid first full year in the bigs in 2011. A .290 BABIP held his batting average down some, but that should come up. He regularly posted BABIPs above .340 in the minors. A 40% fly ball rate is solid, and as Moreland matures in Texas he should learn to drive the ball better. He hit 10.6% of his fly balls out last year, which should go up. 25 home runs is possible if he plays every day.
Chris Heisey – CIN – Opening Day Age: 27
Tons of pop, tons of Ks. Building blocks for a Reds outfielder. Heisey struck out in over one fourth of his at-bats in 2011, but also hit 18 home runs in only 279 at-bats. He has 20 home run power with full playing time, and would add about 10 steals. An 18.6% home run rate in 2011 is probably not realistic, but his power is for real. He hits well over 40% of his balls in the air. His batting average will suffer though, due to the strikeout rate and high fly ball rate.
Omar Infante – MIA – Opening Day Age: 30
As a versatile NL-only player, Infante will give you a little of everything, but an abundance of nothing. Only in a year when he has a high BABIP will he give you a .300 batting average. He’s a .275 career hitter who has never hit 10 home runs, or stolen 10 bases. Infante won’t wow you in any area, but he isn’t an absolute zero either. He is not for mixed leagues, unless you’re in a 15-team league or larger.
Garrett Jones – PIT – Opening Day Age: 30
Coming into 2011 fantasy owners were wondering which version of Garrett Jones they were drafting, 2009 or 2010. Well it turned out that they weren’t getting either. Jones was even worse in 2011 than he was in 2010. In 2011, his rate stats were very similar to 2010. He had a fly ball rate north of 40%, and a home run rate close to 12%. He has a strikeout rate over 21%, and while he walks some, he doesn’t walk enough. He does have power, but he didn’t receive regular playing time until the age of 29. That wasn’t by accident. He’s just not that good. He’s an NL-only play, with some mixed league replacement value.
Allen Craig – STL – Opening Day Age: 27
Craig received a good amount of playing time, at several positions, due to injuries to multiple players. He produced good numbers in his limited time. He got only 200 at-bats, but hit 11 home runs and stole five bases. From 2007 to 2010 in the minor leagues Craig hit an average of over 20 home runs. He does have power. He will need to walk more to continue to put up good batting averages, but he is a solid NL only play that could give you a little help in all five categories.
Hideki Matsui – FA – Opening Day Age: 37
Matsui is really just a DH at this point in his career, which limits him to the AL. He’ll hit for some power, but no batting average anymore, and he has never shown speed. He’ll probably hit around .270, and still makes enough contact to be effective. His value depends on where he ends up. A hitter-friendly AL park would really help, but that fit might not be there for him.
Willie Bloomquist – ARI – Opening Day Age: 34
Bloomquist will be with the Diamondbacks for another two seasons. He is a part-time player with versatility, but he offers certain skills valuable to fantasy and real baseball teams. The main skill he brings to the table is speed. He has stolen double-digit bases six times, and 20 twice. He has only twice received more than 250 at-bats and in both of those years he stole 20 bases. Bloomquist’s value really depends on opportunity. In NL-only he can be a cheap source of steals, but that is probably the limit of his value.
Ty Wigginton – PHI – Opening Day Age: 34
Wigginton is a player that nobody really targets, but always seems to have some value during each fantasy season. He’s hit 20 home runs four times, and even though he’s leaving cozy Colorado, he’ll be entering a better lineup in Philadelphia. With Ryan Howard’s Achilles’ injury, and Placido Polanco’s ineffectiveness, Wigginton should get plenty of at-bats. A low BABIP has dropped his batting average in each of the last two seasons. That should correct itself. He has a solid home run rate, so 15 to 18 home runs is a likelihood. Wigginton will be a solid option in NL-only and deep mixed leagues once again.
Nate Schierholtz – SF – Opening Day Age: 28
Schierholtz is slated to start in right field for the Giants in 2012. He is a nice option in NL-only leagues, and he could have some value in mixed leagues as well. He has the potential to be a power and speed threat. 15 home runs and double digit steals are not out of the question. He should hit somewhere around .275. The Giants may still make a move to add a bat, but at this point it looks as if Schierholtz will get a chance to show what he can do on an everyday basis.
Lucas Duda – NYM – Opening Day Age: 26
Duda got an extended look in 2011 due to the rash of injuries that hit the Mets. He struggled to make contact in 2010, but improved to a strikeout rate of 16.8% last season. He has power, as evidenced by his .195 isolated power in the big leagues. If he can play a full season 18 home runs and 80 RBI are possible, making him a solid option in both NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. And with NL 1B such a disaster, that is not chopped liver.
Jason Kubel – MIN – Opening Day Age: 29
Kubel had a tough 2011, battling injuries off and on all year. His strikeout rate has been increasing each year since 2006, while his walk rate was the lowest it’s been since 2006. This resulted Kubel’s lowest walk to strikeout rate since 2006. A high BABIP saved his batting average from disaster. So what are the good signs. Kubel’s home run rate was average, and he maintained a 43% fly ball rate. He’ll still hit for power. The strike zone skills are probably a product of battling those injuries.
Jose Tabata – PIT – Opening Day Age: 23
Tabata had a rough 2011 dealing with multiple injuries. He played only 91 games, with sparse production. After stealing 44 bases across two levels in 2010, Tabata stole only 16 bases in 2011. He was caught seven times, for a 70% success rate. This is not good enough for a player who is purely a speed play. Tabata’s batting average will fluctuate greatly from year to year due to a 60% ground ball rate, but he should be able to approach .300 consistently. A more healthy 2012 could lead to 40 steals or more, just don’t expect much power with that high ground ball rate.
Ryan Raburn – DET – Opening Day Age: 30
The Tigers always find a way to get Raburn a good amount of at-bats. The last two seasons he has gotten close to 400. He is averaging 15 home runs over the last three years, and he is doing that without the benefit of a crazy home run rate. He hits over 40% of his batted balls in the air, so the power is legit. He is a good AL-Only player, and mixed league replacement player, especially if he can find some regular playing time. And If you can put him at second base, so much the better.
Marlon Byrd – CHC – Opening Day Age: 34
Byrd missed some time last year netting just under 450 at-bats. Nine home runs and three steals isn’t going to make anyone go running out to grab him. He is an aging player, who has declining isolated power numbers, and fly ball rates. He just doesn’t hit for enough combined power and speed to make a difference on anything other than an NL-Only team. He’ll never be the 2009 version of himself, and is better off left to deep leagues.
Ryan Ludwick – SD – Opening Day Age: 33
Since hitting 37 home runs in 2009, Ludwick has not played more than 140 games, and is only averaging 17 home runs per season. He’s likely to hit around .250 this season. He has maintained a fly ball rate over 45%, but has a declining home run rate, which fell to a career low 7.6% last season. Ludwick is in decline, but don’t count him out on another 20 home run season, depending on where he ends up in 2012.
Cody Ross – BOS – Opening Day Age: 31
Ross has legit power, but his 2010 playoff run pumped his stock higher than it should have been in 2011. His season was slowed by injury at the start, and he managed to hit 14 home runs for the second straight year. He did increase his isolated power to .165, but a low BABIP torpedoed his batting average. Ross’ home run rate has declined every season since 2007, but he should bounce back some in 2012. 20 home runs is a possibility if he gets playing time.
Endy Chavez – TEX – Opening Day Age: 34
Chavez is a much better real baseball player than he is a fantasy player. At this point in his career he’ll provide a few home runs, a handful of steals and a pretty solid average. He won’t score many runs, and doesn’t drive in many either. Any increase in playing time would hurt the bottom line, not help it. Chavez is a low end option in the outfield even in AL-Only leagues.
Colby Rasmus – TOR – Opening Day Age: 25
Rasmus had an incredibly rough 2011. After falling out of favor in St. Louis, he was traded to Toronto. He increased his isolated power, and even maintained a walk rate near 10%. He struck out more than he ever has in his career, but a low BABIP dragged down some of his other numbers. Rasmus’ batted ball rates and plate discipline statistics are consistent with the previous two years. 2011 will be an outlier in his career. He should be a great value on draft day but if you are an avowed skeptic on him we cannot blame you.
Eric Thames – TOR – Opening Day Age: 25
A year after Thames hit 30 home runs, with 110 runs, 120 RBI and 11 steals across two levels, he was called up by the Blue Jays. 2010 was a monster year, but 2011 wasn’t too shabby either. Thames recorded a combined 19 home runs and seven steals in AAA and the majors. His success was not without a little luck though. He had a paltry .26 BB/K rate, which does not bode well for success in the future. His batting average will be held down without an improvement, and that will affect runs scored and RBI as well.
Brent Lillibridge – CWS – Opening Day Age: 28
Lillibridge is a valuable real-life ballplayer because of his versatility, and that helps him in fantasy baseball as well. He has some speed, and even stole over 40 bases two straight years in the minor leagues. Last year he stole 10 bases, but also bombed 13 home runs in less than 200 at-bats. This is not likely to continue though. A fly ball rate of 50%, combined with a home run rate of over 21%, pushed Lillibridge’s home run total higher than it should have been. He probably should have hit more in the neighborhood of four to six home runs. Be wary of overdrafting.
Nolan Reimold – BAL – Opening Day Age: 28
Reimold had a bounce back of sorts in 2011. He played about half a season, hitting 13 home runs. He had a .247 batting average, but a low .264 BABIP. His career BABIP is only .284, so he just may be a low batting average player. A rising fly ball rate shows that he might even have more upside to come. If he can get consistent at-bats, Reimold may still have value in very deep mixed and AL-Only leagues.
Alex Rios – CWS – Opening Day Age: 31
Rios has been up and down before, but 2011 was puzzling. He made more contact that he ever had before, but also walked less than ever. His speed had never failed him either, but 11 steals was a career low. Rios’ home run rate also dipped to 7.0%, the lowest since his rookie year. A ridiculous .237 BABIP killed his batting average, but that should bounce back. Rios could pay off big if he gets back to normal, but you cannot pay much to get it.
Aubrey Huff – SF – Opening Day Age: 35
Huff turned 35 this offseason, and should be in the decline phase of his career. That doesn’t mean that he can’t bounce back though. He can’t possibly be as bad as last year and he has taken the Bret Saberhagen career path of yo-yoing good and bad seasons. His plate skills didn’t change much from previous years. A career low home run rate dipped his power, and a low line drive rate helped to submarine his BABIP and batting average. 2012 shouldn’t be as bad as 2011, but it won’t be much better.
Shin-Soo Choo – CLE – Opening Day Age: 29
What happened to Shin-Soo Choo? He missed half the season due to injury, had a low BABIP for him, not in general though, and had a dip in stolen base success rate. Eight home runs is the result of hitting fewer fly balls, and hitting less of them out. Choo can’t be done, should come at a discount on draft day, and provide good value in 2012.
Alejandro De Aza – CWS – Opening Day Age: 27
De Aza spent only a third of 2011 in the majors, but was a spark plug while he was there. He stole 12 bases, and even popped four home runs. He is slated to be the leadoff hitter in Chicago in 2012, so owners would expect more of the same production. Be wary of the .404 BABIP from last season though. De Aza has high BABIP numbers overall, but that’s even high for him. A batting average closer to .285 is more likely, and with that drop runs and steals will go with it. 80 runs, 25 to 30 steals around 10 home runs should be likely for De Aza.
Kosuke Fukudome – FA – Opening Day Age: 34
Fukudome has been a disappointment since he arrived in the US. He has one double-double season, his rookie year. He has a career high of 13 home runs, and his speed skills are declining. He has solid plate skills, but has never even hit .265. He will probably end up as a platoon player in 2012, and is relegated to league only ownership.
Tony Gwynn – LAD – Opening Day Age: 29
Gwynn is a platoon player, who is better in real life than fantasy baseball for whatever that is worth for a player of his “caliber.” He won’t hit for much power, but he will steal some bases. He has speed, but doesn’t possess great on base skills. He has a career OBP of only .319. If he can’t get on base more then he can’t use his speed. A big dip in walk rate won’t help him get there either. Gwynn is a late round NL-Only player in 2012.
Bryce Harper – WAS – Opening Day Age: 19
Harper has more hype than any player in recent memory. He came on to the scene in 2011 in his first full year of pro ball to hit 17 home runs and steal 26 bases. Harper has shown good plate skills so far in his minor league career. He should move fast in the minors since the Nationals will want to keep the fan base excited. Harper might be up at the end of 2012. Six home runs and 26 RBI in the AFL won’t hurt his case to be called up.
Wil Myers – KC – Opening Day Age: 21
Myers, like Jesus Montero, was much more valuable when he was projecting as a future major league catcher. He might be up with the big club in 2012, but he didn’t exactly impress in AA in 2011. He did not hit double digit home runs, or steal double digit bases. His walk to strikeout rate was much lower, .60, than it had been in 2010. He hit .346 in 2010 at high class A, but that was due to a .411 BABIP. He did lead the AFL with 20 walks and five triples in 2011.
Brett Jackson – CHC – Opening Day Age: 23
Jackson should be with the Cubs on Opening Day 2012. He has a nice power and speed combination. He has averaged 16 home runs and 25 steals over the last two seasons. He strikes out more that you would like, but also walks a fair amount. Traditionally high BABIPs have rarely led to a .300 batting average, even in the minor leagues. He will get a chance to show what he can do, but be wary of his plate skills. They could make for a rough foray into the big leagues.
Roger Bernadina – WAS – Opening Day Age: 27
Bernadina put up some nice numbers in limited time in 2011. He probably won’t play any more in 2012 than he did in 2011, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have value. He had a .285 BABIP in 2011, which is consistent with his career level. He does have good speed skills, and should rip off about to 20 steals. He should also hit a handful of home runs. Bernadina will be a good, all around, NL-Only player in 2012.
Eric Young Jr. – COL – Opening Day Age: 26
Young has speed for days. In the minor leagues he stole 87 bases in a season. Last season Young stole 27 bases, and was only caught four times. Because he doesn’t get a ton of playing time, and he doesn’t provide any power numbers, he is better left as an NL-Only play. He does still have value in that format, and potentially lots of it. Between a 10% career walk rate, and pinch running opportunities, Young should be able to get on base enough to do some damage, despite low batting averages and BABIPs in his career.
Franklin Gutierrez – SEA – Opening Day Age: 29
Gutierrez had a tough 2011. He spent time on the DL multiple times, and even visited the Mayo Clinic. There isn’t much that can be taken from 2011. Prior to that he was showing improving plate and speed skills. Not only did he nearly triple his steals from 2008 to 2010, but he did it without getting caught as much. His success rate went from 75% to 89%. Gutierrez has the potential to hit 15 or more home runs, and steal 20 or more bases. This would put him back on the mixed league radar, but he can be had for next to nothing on Draft Day.
Nate McLouth – PIT – Opening Day Age: 30
McLouth will be back with Pittsburgh in 2012, but this time as a backup. A sports hernia plagued him all year in 2011, really hampering his performance. He eventually had surgery and missed the last two months of the season. McLouth possesses power and speed, so he will always be desirable to an extent. An interesting statistic on McLouth is that he has never had a BABIP of .300 or higher. This will limit his value overall. He should be owner in all NL-Only leagues in 2012. Playing time will dictate his mixed league level of value.
Jonny Gomes – OAK – Opening Day Age: 31
Gomes had a drop off in 2011 from his 2010 “breakout” season. It was somewhat of a double-edged sword for him. He struck out more than in all but one season in his career, but also posted his second highest walk rate. He managed to hit for enough power to still have a .180 isolated power, which was up from 2010. In short, a major league club, and fantasy teams, could do worse than a player who will hit double digit home runs and steal a handful of bases. He just won’t hit for any average, and runs and RBI will depend on playing time.
Shelley Duncan – CLE – Opening Day Age: 32
Duncan is an all or nothing power hitter. He maintains a 50% fly ball rate for his career. A 14% home run rate ensures that he’ll hit double digit home runs almost by accident. He has a career isolated power over .200, but also a batting average of .239. In AL-Only leagues he can get you some home runs and RBI, but he will need at least 200 at-bats to do it.
Josh Reddick – OAK – Opening Day Age: 25
Reddick was a Boston fan favorite as a reserve outfielder, but he does have some skills that can play at the major league level. He is a very good defender, plays hard and puts the ball in play for the most part. He has shown pop in the minor leagues with 45 home runs in his last 900 minor league at-bats. With some consistent playing time Reddick could hit double-digit home runs, and put up some other decent statistics. He should be owned in AL-Only leagues.
J.D. Drew – FA – Opening Day Age: 36
Drew has reached 600 plate appearances once in his career, and less than 350 three other times. When healthy, he is a good bet for about 18-20 home runs and 65-75 RBI. But health for Drew means missing 20 or more games, so you have to draft accordingly. At this point in his career, despite a career isolated power of .212, Drew is no better than a 4th outfielder in a mixed league. And he might retire, so there is that, also.
Andres Torres – NYM – Opening Day Age: 34
Torres is only one year removed from a career year, but he will be 34 when 2012 begins. He may have been traded away from the spacious home park in San Francisco, but New York is no picnic either. Torres likely won’t end up hitting more than 10 home runs, but he should run enough to have value in NL-Only leagues. He has stolen 45 bases in the last two seasons, even though he has averaged only about 125 games played.
Laynce Nix – PHI – Opening Day Age: 31
Nix may have hit 16 home runs last year, but that was a career high at age 30. An increase in fly ball rate, and also a spike in home run rate, was the reason. Any normalization in either of those categories, or a drop in playing time, would kill his fantasy value.
Sam Fuld – TB – Opening Day Age: 30
Fuld started out the year on a tear and became Super Sam Fuld, cape and all. By the end of the year it was all about Desmond Jennings, and Fuld was just another replacement outfielder again. In league only play he can provide a few steals, just don’t expect much out of him. He is a $1 AL-Only player.
David DeJesus – CHC – Opening Day Age: 32
DeJesus may have signed with the Cubbies, but he will be a platoon player in their outfield. The good thing is that he is left handed, and can still play defense. He never materialized into anything more than a .280 hitter, without enough speed or power to make a difference. He’s never hit 15 home runs, and he’s never stole 15 bases. Only once has he ever put up a double-double. DeJesus is an NL-Only play, who should give you a little of everything, and lot of nothing.
Ben Francisco – TOR – Opening Day Age: 30
Francisco enters a crowded outfield in Toronto, after being traded from Philadelphia. He disappointed in 2011, but it wasn’t as bad as it looks on the surface. He had a low BABIP, walked at a career high rate, and struck out less than ever before. If he can maintain those plate skills, and get enough at-bats in a good hitters’ park in Toronto, Francisco could be a nice AL-Only player in 2011.
Corey Patterson – FA – Opening Day Age: 32
As of now, Patterson does not have a place to call home as it probably should be. He should end up signed by somebody, seeing as he proved last year he can still play a little. Last season he stole 13 bases, but was caught nine times. This is not his typical level of performance though. In deep league only play, especially National League, Patterson should have some value. He’ll steal some bases, and even hit a few home runs.
Carlos Gomez – MIL – Opening Day Age: 26
Gomez is still only 26 years old and 2011 was a mixed bag for him. He hit only .225, due to a .273 BABIP. However, in only 231 at-bats Gomez hit a career high eight home runs. He raised his fly ball rate and home run rate, but neither is out of the normal range. He continues to steal bases with a high success rate. He was 16-18 in 2011. He is a definite only-league play, who could also have some mixed-league value with enough playing time.
Jordan Schafer – HOU – Opening Day Age: 25
Schafer spent time with two teams in 2011, after being part of the trade that brought Michael Bourn to Atlanta. In a half season of games, Schafer scored 46 runs and stole 22 bases. If he can get enough playing time he could end up with 30 or more steals, and 75 runs. He would be a nice NL-Only play either way. Mixed league value is limited to only the deepest leagues.
Rick Ankiel – FA – Opening Day Age: 32
Ankiel is without a team at this time, but should pick up with someone. Last year he just missed a double-double with the Nationals. Ankiel ran much more than he ever had before. He stole 10 bases in 13 attempts, after stealing 10 bases in previously in his career. Depending on playing time, he should still be able to hit double digit home runs, and contribute some speed as well. He’s a league only depth play.
Alex Presley – PIT – Opening Day Age: 26
Presley will not be a starting OF for the Pirates, at least to start the season. He would be a good addition to a NL-Only team though. He has a little pop, and some speed. He stole 22 bases in the minors in 2011, before being called up and stealing nine more. Presley had a .298 batting average, but that was with a .349 BABIP. He will probably not reach that level without an improvement in plate skills.
Xavier Paul – WAS – Opening Day Age: 27
Paul stole 16 bases in 2011, but that’s about the extent of his fantasy value. He’s going to get some opportunities, and he should run. He’ll be a low level option in NL-Only, but if you need speed he will probably provide some.
Denard Span – MIN – Opening Day Age: 28
Span had a tough year from an injury perspective, and it really affected his bottom line. In the two previous two seasons he averaged over 91 runs, and 24 steals. Much of his value also is tied to batting average, which is inherently inconsistent. A reasonable expectation would be 80 runs, 20 steals and a .280 batting average.
Don Kelly – DET – Opening Day Age: 32
Kelly will need to find more playing time in order to have greater value, but he will have value in AL-Only leagues. If he can get 400 at-bats 10 home runs seems like a cinch. He’ll throw in a handful of swipes, and won’t kill you in any other counting category. His batting average suffers because of a low BABIP, likely due to a fly ball rate of nearly 50%.
Jason Pridie – NYM – Opening Day Age: 28
Pridie should find more playing time in 2012 with the departure of Carlos Beltran. He is 28, and has 242 major league at-bats, which makes him a little old to just be breaking in. He doesn’t have great contact skills, but doesn’t hit for power. He has shown some speed in AAA, but nothing elite. Bottom line, Pridie is an NL-Only play at best.
Travis Snider – TOR – Opening Day Age: 24
Snider seems like he may never reach the potential that he showed as a 20-year-old, when he hit 25 home runs across four levels. Since then he has been on the shuttle between AAA and the Majors. Last year he hit only seven home runs in 435 at-bats, but he did steal 21 bases in 25 attempts. It’s hard to tell if he just hasn’t matured, and is just a post-hype sleeper, or if he has transformed and needs to be looked at differently. If he can be a 20/20 guy he is very intriguing. For now he is AL-Only depth in the OF.