by Eno Sarris //
The former Yankee outfielder has quite a year in the powder blues. Melky Cabrera was drafted 260th, on average. He ended the season ranked 122nd by B-Rank. Where should he be drafted next year?
Luck on batted balls is always the first place to check. Cabrera had a .332 BABIP this year, tops in his career and much better than his career .299 number. But he’s a reasonably fleet-of-foot outfielder (if, perhaps, in the Bobby Abreu mode) and he hits more ground ball than fly balls. He can expect a better BABIP than most. Lo and behold, his xBABIP this year was .330, and his career xBABIP is .319. This could have been regression toward what should have been his career mean.
Power is the second outlier in his statistical profile. His .174 ISO this year is a career high, more than fifty points higher than his .123 career ISO. He was more aggressive at the plate this year — his walk rate hit a career-low and his strikeout rate was a career-high — but it seems to have worked. Can a guy with a career 1.52 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio put up close to 20 home runs again next year?
Probably. Other players with similar profiles — Adam Jones (1.52 GB/FB over the last three years), Michael Young (1.51), and Brandon Phillips (1.44) — have done so fairly consistently. And if you look at fly-ball distance, as Jeff Zimmermann did here, you’ll see that all the Melkman did this year was recover his old fly-ball distance. He hit balls an average of 278 feet in 2009, 263 feet last year, and 274 feet again this year. Maybe something just went wrong last year.
There is a caveat. The 27-year-old outfielder did steal 20 bases this year, but his career high before was 13. He was also only successful on 67% of his attempts, which is exactly break-even for the steal to be a worthwhile thing. Maybe the Royals don’t care about that break-even point — they stole more bases than anyone in baseball — but they were successful on 73% of their attempts. So Cabrera was one of the less efficient base-stealers on the team.
Cabrera is an interesting case. He hit career highs in so many categories that it only seems natural that he will regress to his career norms. Then again, his career highs were only modest improvements when you look at the rate stats. He did manage 706 PAs this year (compared to an average of 531 over the past five seasons), so it’s only natural that his counting stats looked good.
If you walk Cabrera back in the power and speed departments and give him his career BABIP, he’s more likely to put up a .280 15/15 season than to approach .300 20/20 again. In most leagues, that’s still a good showing, but it’s more like a fourth fantasy outfielder. Treat him as such in drafts next year and in your keeper decisions.
For more fantasy outfielders, check out BloombergSports.com