BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the top five players that Bloomberg Sports projects to lead the Majors in home runs this season.
On that short list includes recent Tigers acquisition Price Fielder, who will still have plenty of support in his lineup, this time with perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera providing the big bat. BloombergSports.com projects 35 home runs and 111 RBI from the newly acquired slugger.
Next, we see young slugger Mike Stanton approaching the 40-home run club with the Miami Marlins. He will also have the benefit of Jose Reyes leading off. In total, expect 39 round-trippers and 112 RBI from the 22-year-old slugger.
Bloomberg Sports projects a bounce back from Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds. The free-swinging Orioles third baseman is projected to offer a low average but plenty of power. The only threat to his output is the possibility of spending time on the pine if his batting average creeps below the Mendoza line.
Second on the list is Blue Jays star right-fielder Jose Bautista. One of the elite hitters over the last two seasons, Bautista should regress in batting average, but the power is real and 41 home runs and 115 RBI is a realistic total in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Finally, even with a move to Anaheim, Albert Pujols should be just fine as we project him to lead the Majors in home runs. In fact, Pujols is expected to improve on last year’s average and 41 home runs and 124 RBI explain why he’s usually considered the best player in baseball.
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Bu Tommy Rancel //
Stephen Strasburg debuted, Jason Heyward shatter windshields, and Buster Posey won the rookie of the year award. Meanwhile, Mike Stanton quietly mashed in South Florida. Perhaps the fourth or fifth prospect in terms hype, Stanton’s powerful rookie campaign took a backseat to his more well-known peers. While the world was consumed with Stras-mas, the Marlins’ outfielder hit 22 home runs, drove in nearly 60 runs, and scored 45 of his own in 100 games. Oh, did I mention he didn’t turn 21 until AFTER the season?
Obviously the most impressive part of Stanton’s rookie season was his home run power. Only 12 men – including Stanton – have hit at least 22 home runs in their age-20 season. Names like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Alex Rodriguez give Stanton pretty good company. Perhaps even more impression is the pace which he took the ball out of the yard.
Stanton needed just 100 games and 359 at-bats to launch his 22 home runs. Of the 12 man group from above, only former Atlanta Braves’ All-Star third baseman Bob Horner hit as many home runs in fewer games and at-bats. The former top prospect’s ratio of a home run every 16 at-bats ranked fifth best in the National League last season. Add in the 21 home runs hit before his call to the show, and Stanton showed off his home run trot a combined 43 times in 2010 in just 153 total games.
Of course, Stanton’s rookie season did not come without some bumps along the way. ). In his first 70 games, he hit just .235 and finished the season at with a .259 average despite a higher-than-normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In addition to the low average, his plate discipline – 123 strikeouts and 34 unintentional walks – is a work in progress. If you’re looking for some progress, he hit .312 with an OBP of .370 in the season’s final 30 games; however, that is a rather small sample size.
With a solid two-thirds of a season under his belt, expectations of 30-plus home run power over a full season now follow Stanton. But home runs aren’t Stanton’s only source of value. In addition to the balls that went over the wall, he laced 21 doubles in ball parks across the country. Also remember, Stanton racked up all these extra-base hits while playing his home games in a neutral park environment.
On top of the gaudy power potential, Stanton’s stock is on the rise because of his placement in the lineup. The Marlins decided to ease their younger in the lineup by placing him in the lower half of the order. Of his 359 at-bats last year, 87% of them came from the sixth slot or lower. In 2011, Stanton is slated to bat clean-up behind a talented trio of Omar Infante, Chris Coghlan, and MVP-candidate Hanley Ramirez.
Because he will not hit for a high average or swipe many steals keeps Stanton from the top-tier of fantasy outfielders. Add in the negative connotation of the strikeouts and his draft position varies from OF2 and OF3. Once again, tucked behind higher-profiled stars, this could leave Stanton as a mid-round steal.
With 30-plus home run power (35 projected by Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tool), the likelihood of an equal amount of doubles, and an increase in RBI opportunities, Stanton could be a fantastic power and RBI source in 2011. Set your target around the eighth round in a standard 12-team mixed-league, but if there is a sudden run on outfielders don’t be afraid to pull the trigger a round earlier.
Update: Stanton was diagnosed with right-quad injury after coming up lame in Sunday’s contest. He is expected to miss two weeks, but continue to monitor his progress throughout the spring.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Gaby Sanchez
Gaby Sanchez opened eyes in his freshman season mostly by not striking out (17.7%, average is 20.7%). His high-contact approach did lead to a decent batting average (.273) and some RBI (85), and it’s not like he’s completely without power – his .175 ISO was above-average for all players (.150), just not first basemen. Deep keeper leaguers will find a place for him, but otherwise he’s best in standard mixed leagues as a utility player, taken late in 2011 drafts.
Biggest Bust: Chris Coghlan
Even during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009, Chris Coghlan didn’t show a ton of power or speed. He did ride an unsustainable BABIP (.365) to a great batting average (.321), and with a nice end to the season he caught a lot of eyes. He still showed a high BABIP in 2010 (.336), but with his higher strikeout rate (23.5%) and lower power (.115 Isolated Slugging), his line was devoid of interest. And that’s not even mentioning the injuries that limited him to 400 plate appearances. As a third baseman next year, Coghlan could still be interesting in deeper leagues.
2011 Keeper Alert: Mike Stanton
Mike Stanton is not yet 21 years old and yet his isolated power (.248) would have been 12th-best in the major leagues if he had qualified for the batting title. That’s impressive, even if his strikeout rate (34.3%) means he may have a hard time putting up high batting averages in the future. After hitting 22 bombs in his short first season, he could easily hit more than 30 home runs next year, thus making him a promising keeper even with the batting average risk. Logan Morrison is also interesting (especially on Twitter), but he profiles a little more like Gaby Sanchez right now, albeit with more power upside long-term.
2011 Regression Alert: Dan Uggla
We all know who Dan Uggla is. Lots of power, not a great batting average – a boon at a tough position, especially for teams starved for power. Then again, Uggla had a career-high .287 batting average this year, on the back of an unsustainable-looking BABIP (.330). That part of the package probably won’t return in 2011, so don’t overbid.