The Biggest Fantasy Surprises
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays
2009: 54 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .235 AVG
2010: 109 R, 54 HR, 124 RBI, .260 AVG
Can’t saw we saw this coming. Although Bautista had a big final month to the 2009 season, no one could have predicted him to the top power bat in the Majors last season.
Ben Zobrist, INF, Rays
2008: 32 R, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB, .253 AVG
2009: 91 R, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 17 SB, .297 AVG
A solid all-around talent, Zobrist may have peaked in 2009, as his numbers declined quite a bit in 2010.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals
2007: 42 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG
2008: 104 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI, .299 AVG
It’s nice to hit next to Albert Pujols, but the good times did not last. Ludwick is now bound to long singles and pop outs at Petco Park.
Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians
2006: 1-10, 58 K, 5.42 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
2007: 19-8, 137 K, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Quite a turnaround for the failed closer, Carmona ranks as the ace for Cleveland and one of the better pitchers in the game.
2005: 62 R, 13 HR, 89 RBI, .287 AVG
2006: 117 R, 29 HR, 120 RBI, .329 AVG
Atkins enjoyed Rocky-High Colorado, but when placed in Baltimore he wasn’t even a starter.
Who will it be this season?
Pedro Alvarez: A big-time slugger who can lead the Pirates back to respectability.
Adam Jones: Has the talent, but so far not the results.
JP Arencibia: The Blue Jays quickly traded Mike Napoli because they don’t want anyone to get in his way.
Kila Ka’aihue: A star in the Minors, can the power translate at the Big League level.
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By Tyler McKee
AL East is flush with second base talent. Each team’s starter played
more than 150 games in 2009 and four ranked among the six second
who scored 100 runs.
With top-end talent being rare at the position, any
one of these players makes a strong case to fill that 2B slot. Taking a
look at B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary
ranking system), as well as Bloomberg Sports’ spider charts for 5×5
hitting stats, we can easily identify
each player’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Blue Jays’ Aaron Hill
hit 36 homers last season, first among all second-baggers and ninth
positions. Power is his strong suit; his six steals and .330 on-base
percentage last year fall well short of elite status.
The Yankees’ Robinson
Cano bounced back in 2009 to a career high of 25 homers and the
average among second basemen at .320. He’s well suited to new Yankee
Stadium, a park that favors left-handed hitters and also turned moderate
power threat Johnny Damon into a major home run source last
year. Still, Cano gets a low Bloomberg
B-ranking of 99 because he lacks speed, with only five stolen bases last
year. Cano’s runs scored are also hurt by his aggressive approach at
the plate; his walk rate of 4.5% last year was second-lowest in the
majors for second basemen.
Brian Roberts‘ B-rank
places him at 37, because of his consistency across all five batting
categories. The spider charts show the Baltimore Oriole rating above
average in every category. His 30
steals ranked him second at the position last year. But Roberts has seen
those same speed numbers decline in recent years. Couple this with his
current injury status, a herniated disc that has kept him out of Spring
Training, and one can see why his average draft position is 24 spots
lower than his B-Rank.
Despite a drop-off in batting
average of almost 30 points, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia still
managed to hit .296 last
season with an OPS of .819. Power was all he lacked, with just 17
homers. He managed to swipe 20 bags last year, the second time he’s
accomplished that feat. At 26, Pedroia’s entering his prime and should
be off the board
quickly after Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler. His current ADP
has him drafted
Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist got off to a
torrid start in 2009, earning an everyday job and ending the season as
one of baseball’s most valuable players, with 27 home runs, a
.948 OPS and great defense. Was it a fluke? Zobrist’s .326 BABIP was a
little high (league average is around .300). Meanwhile, isolated power
(slugging percentage minus batting average) was a sky-high .246.
Bloomberg Sports colleague Tommy Rancel has chronicled
Zobrist Code, including Zobrist’s work with hitting instructor
Jamie Cevallos. Still, some regression toward the mean is expected.
Even then, Zobrist projects as an elite option at second base: He’s
going off the board at number 52 according to Bloomberg Sports ADP
information on good second base options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
By Tommy Rancel
In 2009, Ben Zobrist exploded onto the national scene with an All-Star season. The Tampa Bay Rays super-utility man hit .297/.405/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 27 home runs and 91 RBI. The seeds for Zobrist’s success were planted by a former collegiate baseball player named Jaime Cevallos.
Cevallos, now an independent swing instructor known as “the swing mechanic“, met Zobrist in 2008, and convinced him to train with him. Zobrist came up through the minor leagues as a hitter who could get on base but sorely lacked power. Little wonder: Coaches and instructors drilled him to spray the ball all over the ballpark, rather than rearing back and swinging for the fences. Cevallos used video analysis to give Zobrist a variety of recommendations, on weight shift, positioning his hands, and other techniques. Perhaps his simplest piece of advice was this: swing harder. Cevallos cracked the Zobrist Code, turning a decent utility man to an elite hitter known as “Zorilla.”
Zobrist was not alone in his workouts with Cevallos. Houston Astros farmhand Drew Sutton also came along for the ride.
Sutton and Zobrist have been linked to each other from day one of their professional baseball lives. The pair of middle infielders were selected by the Astros in the same 2004 amateur draft (Zobrist round six, Sutton round 15). They would move through the minor leagues in near unison until Zobrist was traded to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays in the summer of 2007. Sutton would stick around with the Astros for a little longer before being sent to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Jeff Keppinger in early 2009.
Like Zobrist, Sutton was a decent minor player, but nothing special. He was a nice hitter, but did not display the power potential of a big-time prospect. While playing for the Astros Double-A affiliate in 2007, he hit .269/.351/.388, with nine home runs and 28 doubles – typical numbers for a good-but-not-great middle infielder.
Then came Cevallos’ instruction. Playing for the same Double-A affiliate in 2008, Sutton ramped his production up to .317/.408/.523. In just 48 more plate appearances (558 in ’07, 606 in ’08) he racked up 21 more extra-base hits. He more than doubled his home run total from nine to 20 and also hit 39 doubles. Not only did his slugging percentage increase by .135 points, his raw power, displayed in ISO (Isolated power, slugging minus batting average), also jumped from .119 to .206.
In 2009, Sutton played 44 games for Cincinnati’s Triple-A team. In his brief 190 plate appearances, he rapped 19 extra base hits (five home runs, 14 doubles) and slugged .471. When we take his .261 batting average out of the equation, we can see that his ISO actually increased from .206 to .210.
After an early July major league debut, Sutton appeared in 42 games for the Reds. He hit just .212/.297/.348 in his first big league action, but we can’t much stock in a small sample of 76 plate appearances.
When interviewing Cevallos about Zobrist, I asked him how many home runs Zobrist could hit if given enough playing time. Cevallos said he would hit 30 home runs. Zobrist came up just short with 27. I recently contacted Cevallos about Sutton, and asked him a similar question: If given 600 at-bats, how many home runs would Sutton hit? Cevallos said, 25. He also noted that while both players had similar power, Zobrist’s swing would lead to a higher batting average, but Sutton’s stroke could produce a lot of doubles.
The Sutton/Zobrist comparison is showing itself once again in 2010. Like Zobrist in 2009, Sutton enters 2010 spring training without a regular job and or an obvious position, after playing five positions (2B, SS, 3B, LF, RF) in ’09. That also sounds a lot like Zobrist, who has started at seven different positions for the Rays (every position except P and C).
On the infield, the Reds have unquestioned starters in Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Scott Rolen. Orlando Cabrera was signed to be the team’s shortstop, but could see a challenge from Paul Janish. Heralded prospects Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs make up two-thirds of the outfield with Jonny Gomes and a partner to be named later in left field.
All positions seem relatively settled; however, Sutton’s versatility could come into play.
The obvious holes in the Reds lineup are shortstop and left field. Gomes mashes left-handed pitching (.274/.369/.517), but is sub-par against righties (.224/.311/.448), particularly for a player who struggles on defense. At short , the 35-year-old Cabrera has averaged .275/.322/.398 in his career; he’s a minor offensive threat at this stage of his career. Janish has been an awful hitter in his brief major league career (.205/.290/.292) after being average in the minors (.261/.351/.382), but is a good defender.
Outside of those two positions, there is always the unforeseen injury. The surprising knee injury to Rays starting second baseman Akinori Iwamura in ’09 opened the door for Zobrist in 2009. With Scott Rolen and his injury history (124 days missed over last three seasons) manning third base for the Reds, there may be an opportunity for Sutton to steal some at-bats that way.
Of course, Zobrist may have caught lightning in a bottle in 2009, and Sutton may not respond to Cevallos’ instruction — or other factors that led to Zobrist’s success — the same way as his former teammate did. Sutton isn’t worth a draft pick in standard 10- or 12-team mixed leagues. But in a deep NL-only or larger mixed (18+ teams) league, he’s a good gamble toward the end of the draft. His B-Rank of 951 is so far off the radar that most people won’t even notice him, meaning you can snag him with your last pick.
Then again, check out Zobrist’s year-by-year B-Ranks.
Ya never know.
To keep tabs on Drew Sutton, and hundreds of other players, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
By R.J. Anderson
The question most asked about a second baseman this off-season likely revolves around Ben Zobrist
and the likelihood of a repeat season. Few foresaw Zobrist blasting 27
home runs or posting a slash line of .297/.405/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in
his first year as an everyday major league player.
B-Rank (Bloomberg’s proprietary ranking of all major league players)
comes in at 47, making him a potential value pick given his average
draft position of 58. The lower ADP could suggest that some see a
Zobrist regression. Certainly one factor that might be in play is his
gradual decline over the course of last season, particularly in his
slugging percentage. On June 1, Zobrist’s SLG stood at .624 – by
season’s end it had fallen 81 points. Zobrist’s season-ending mark
still led all full-time second basemen. But second-half performances
can often have a big impact on draft position the next spring.
other, more obvious concern is that Zobrist cracked 27 home runs in 599
plate appearances, after hitting 23 home runs in 1,642 minor league
plate appearances. Throughout the minors Zobrist was an on-base machine
who lacked power. Then he met up with an aspiring hitting instructor
named Jamie Cevallos – and something apparently clicked.
the most appealing attribute of Zobrist’s game is his versatility. He
qualifies at second and in the outfield in all leagues. Zobrist also
played 13 games last year at shortstop, making him a decent bet to
qualify at short at some point this season for leagues with five- or
10-game in-season thresholds. As demonstrated by the bold font in the
Position Eligibility chart below, Zobrist actually made starts at every
position except catcher, designated hitter, and pitcher last season –
and he did appear as a pinch-hitter in the DH slot once as well.
will see playing time throughout the season and should bat in the
middle of one of the better lineups in baseball. His impressive on-base
skills should create plenty of runs scores chances, and his lofty
contact rate and emerging power – even if it regresses somewhat –
should help his RBI total. Zobrist also stole a career-high 17 bases in
’09, and should get plenty of chances to run in Manager Joe Maddon’s
The influence of a hitting guru aside, the simple dynamics of regression to the mean – what Bill James called the Plexiglas Principle
– tell us that a player who sees a big jump in performance one year
should expect to pull back the following year. Expect Zobrist’s power
numbers to drop as a result. Still, his overall skill set makes him a
good get in the fifth round of your draft; especially if your
leaguemates think his ’09 breakout was really a fluke.
For more information on Ben Zobrist and hundreds of other players, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.