By R.J. Anderson //
The Dodgers have been one of the most active teams this off-season. All of their moves to date had focused on bolstering their rotation: re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, then signing free agent Jon Garland. Their latest is an attempt to solidify their middle infield (specifically second base) while weakening a division rival. They believe they’ve done so by signing Juan Uribe to a three-year deal worth $21 million.
The shift away from shortstop and to second base actually limits Uribe’s real world value. Uribe’s defensive skill set is the opposite of David Eckstein’s. His arm gives him the ability to make long, tough throws, meaning he should be playing on the left side of the infield.
Uribe’s offensive value should be unaffected by the park change and he remains a safe bet to hit 15 to 20 home runs during any season where he amasses 500-plus plate appearances. Not everything in Uribe’s offensive game is that dependable or worthwhile, though, as his slash line over the last three seasons is a combined .261/.312/.443. That batting average and on-base percentage are weak, even for a middle infielder.
Making matters worse is Uribe’s unpredictable aging curve. He turns 32 in July and carries a history of problematic conditioning. Now, those issues were a few seasons ago, and perhaps it is unfair to place the sins of a younger (and possibly less dedicated) Uribe upon this version. Being this is the first comfortable contract Uribe has bagged in a while, though, the possibility remains that he could become a little too relaxed about his work ethic.
Nevertheless, Uribe remains a decent mixed league option for 2011 at shortstop and second base (he also qualifies at third base), thanks to his steady power output. Just don’t expect much if your league values on-base percentage in any form.
For more on Juan Uribe, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
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by Eno Sarris //
Earlier this week, we talked about some fantasy All-Stars and how they were determined by their return on investment as much as their actual production. The cheaper a fantasy player, the more valuable his breakout.
Now it’s time to finish off the lineup with a look at other players who have exceeded expectations this year, and whether or not they will continue to do so.
SS Juan Uribe
We could have easily installed Rafael Furcal here, and deservedly so. But Eriq Gardner did a great job breaking down Furcal, just the other day. Plus, the injury risk inherent with Furcal going into the season is still there.
Instead, we’ll take a player that is in the midst of a slide that has taken much of the wind out his sails already. His .242/.313/.475 June is even more worrisome because of its proximity to his .257/.300/.431 career line. Even in a poor month by Uribe’s 2010 standards, we see that he’s shown some improvement at the plate this year, though. He’s walking at a career-high rate, striking out at a four-year low rate, and even carried over much of his power from last year. The back story with Uribe is one of a below-average BABIP, both this year (.274) and career (.285). Though he doesn’t have bushels of line drives in his arsenal (19.4% career), it’s probably the lack of speed (51% career success rate on stolen bases, low speed scores) that is hurting Uribe’s BABIP.
In any case, he won’t be worth much in trade talks with his career stats, so keeping him – hopefully on the bench during this tough stretch – is your only option. If the new-ish approach at the plate holds, he should return to grace at some point this summer.
3B Scott Rolen
As with Furcal above, Rolen’s biggest knock coming into the season was his injury history. He hadn’t topped 128 games in a season since 2006, and had averaged 111 games per season since 2005. He’s missed some games this year, but he’s on a pace that would net him closer to 140 games this year, making his owners seem to be geniuses.
Other than his good health so far this year, though, Rolen has enjoyed a power surge that has his slugging percentage over .500 for the first time since 2006. It’s no linear relationship, but the fact that the last time he was this healthy for this long was the last time he showed this much power is worth noting. In 2006, he hit .296 with 22 home runs, and he should top that home run total this year, with 17 bombs already jacked on the year. It helps to call Great American Ballpark home – the park has been one of baseball’s top parks for homers so far this year – but it’s the health that makes Rolen a hold, especially since it’s the health issues of the past that will keep Rolen owners from getting full value in a trade. Keep a caddy around for him, too, since he already has a hurting hamstring right now and has missed the last few games.
OF Josh Hamilton
Here’s a real-life All-Star who also happens to be a fantasy All-Star. Once again, injury concerns with Hamilton depressed his pre-season rankings past the half-century mark, and he’s shown health that has allowed his real talent to shine through. Those concerns were real – he’s only averaged 112 games per season so far in his young career, but since he’s still relatively young – 29 – perhaps those concerns were over-blown.
Judging from his Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs, Hamilton is a true five-category performer and even a Triple Crown candidate. It goes without saying that a batting average like he has (.357), built on a BABIP like the one he owns (.397), won’t last. On the other hand, a .306 career batting average suggests he can still produce in that statistic going forward. His slugging percentage (.638) is at a career-high, but his line drive rate (22.4%) and home runs per fly ball (20.9%) are both high, and in line with his career numbers (21.8% and 18% respectively). Hit a lot of line drives, and convert a fifth of your fly balls into home runs, and you’ll have great power. Even with a step back, Hamilton is the fantasy All-Star of the year, most likely. If you’re going to sell, only sell for top-dollar talent in return.
For more on other fantasy All-Stars, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.