Fantasy Baseball Preview: Will These Third Basemen Rebound In 2010?
Four positions down and three to go. Today I will be tackling the third base position and looking at players whose 2009 season represented a deviation from there career numbers. Then I will determine what we can expect from these players in 2010 so you can feel more comfortable drafting them.
From 2005 to 2008, David Wright was the model of consistency. You knew he would bat over .300, score over 100 runs, hit more than 25 HR, drive in more than 100 runs, and steal around 20 bases. But that all changed in 2009 when Wright took a major step back. He still batted .307 with 27 stolen bases. However, he only hit 10 HR and had a measly 72 RBI. He also only scored 88 runs.
To understand Wright’s 2009 season, we must look at some of the underlying numbers. For some reason, Wright struck out a ton last year. He struck out 26.2 percent of the time. For comparison his strikeout percentages from 2005 to 2008 was 19.7 percent, 19.4 percent, 19 percent, and 18.8 percent, respectively.
Wright’s walks were also down last year. He only walked 74 times compared to 94 times in 2007 and 2008. Another startling number is Wright’s isolated power (ISO). Last year Wright’s ISO was .140. His previous low was in 2005 when he posted an ISO of .217.
While Wright’s poor plate discipline and low ISO certainly sapped his power, some of his decrease in power can be attributed to Citi Field. According to Hit Tracker Online, Citi Field robbed eight home runs that would have been home runs in Shea Stadium. This is not surprising considering the fact that Wright hits most of his home runs to the gaps and Citi Field plays big in left and right center. However, Citi Field does not explain all of Wright’s power outage, since he actually hit the same amount of home runs at home as on the road.
His road home run totals seem a bit fluky, and are most likely the result of his poor plate discipline. It’s possible that Wright’s poor plate discipline was a result of him trying to overcompensate for the losses of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado last year. Being the only above average hitter in the lineup, Wright probably felt like he had to do more. As a result, he was not being patient and not letting the game come to him, traits that have made him so successful in the past.
With Reyes and Beltran back next year, along with the addition of Jason Bay, I expect Wright’s 2010 to be very similar to his career averages. His plate discipline and his ISO should both get back to their career norms. As a result, he will drive in more runs in 2010 with Reyes hitting in front of him and will score more runs with Beltran and Bay hitting behind him.
As for his home run total, expect it to be around 25. He hit 30 in 2007 and 33 in 2008. Accounting for the home runs that Citi Field takes away, Wright should still be able to have a home run total in the mid 20s.
Don’t be afraid to draft him at the end of round one.
The only thing consistent about Chipper Jones in 2009 was the injuries. Just like over much of his career, Chipper battled various ailments. However, he wasn’t able to overcome them like in years past. This led to a miserable year, the worst of his illustrious career.
Instead of comparing Chipper’s 2009 to his whole career, I thought it would be better to compare them to his previous three, since at 37 years old, Chipper is not quite the same player he was in his prime.
From 2006-2008, he batted .342 while averaging 26 HR and 88 RBI. Although not fantasy related, he had an OPS of over 1.000 in each of those three years. Contrast these numbers to 2009 when Chipper batted .264 with 18 HR, 71 RBI, and an OPS of .818. As you can see, Chipper was immensely valuable from 2006 to 2008 when he played, but not very valuable in 2009.
Chipper’s 2009 numbers can be partially explained by his low BABIP and ISO numbers. His BABIP last year was .291 compared to .343 in 2006, .352 in 2007, and .388 in 2008. Chipper also had an ISO rating of .166 compared to .273, .267, and .210 from 2006 to 2008. These low numbers could be caused by three factors: Chipper’s age has finally caught up to him, his injuries were more severe than in years past, or 2009 was simply a fluke.
Call me a sucker for aging stars but I’m inclined to believe that 2009 was a fluke for Chipper. A lot of people thought Chipper was done being an elite third basemen after his 2004 and 2005 seasons. However, he proved his doubters wrong and provided big numbers the next three years. I think the same happens next year.
According to an interview with David O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Chipper himself considers last year a fluke as well. He believes his skills have not yet eroded and as a result, is “going to use last year as a motivational tool and come back with a monster.” That’s all the motivation I need to believe in a rebound season for Chipper.
Expect him to again hit over .300 with around 25 HR and 85 RBI, making Chipper a nice mid-round bargain at third base. Just make sure to get a capable backup as you can’t expect more than 500 at bats out of him.
From 2006 to 2008, Garrett Atkins averaged 95 runs, 25 HR, and 110 RBI while batting .305. Last year, Atkins batted .226 with 37 R, 9 HR, and 48 RBI and eventually lost the starting job to Ian Stewart. Last week, Atkins signed with the Baltimore Orioles. But which player are the Orioles getting, the 2006 to 2008 version or the 2009 version?
The truth is, next year Atkins falls somewhere in between. There’s no way he approaches his 2006 to 2008 numbers, which were aided by the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. Atkins is a career .327 hitter at Coors and only a .252 hitter on the road. However, his home run totals don’t vary nearly as much. In fact, Atkins had more road home runs in 2008 and in 2007. And he only had one less road home run in 2006.
This begs the question: How does Camden Yards compare to Coors Field? While Camden Yards is widely accepted as a hitters' park, the numbers may surprise you. In each of the past two seasons, Camden Yards has averaged 2.5 and 2.6 home runs per game. In comparison, Coors Field has averaged 2.2 home runs per game in each of the past two seasons. Last season, Camden Yards allowed the fourth-most home runs per game of any park in the major leagues.
What this means for Atkins is that he still gets to play half his games in a ballpark conducive to hitting. He also doesn’t have to look over his shoulder next year. Third base is his job and he no longer has a top prospect (Ian Stewart) pushing him for playing time.
Although Atkins was terrible last year, his numbers did seem a bit fluky. His BABIP was .247 compared to a career BABIP of .311. His ISO was also unusually low. It was .116 compared to his career average of .169.
I’m not saying Atkins will be all the way back next year, but there is hope for a decent rebound season. Instead of hitting over .300, he should be able to hit in the .280s. His home run total will probably fall somewhere between the mid and high teens. Atkins should also get a good amount of RBI opportunities hitting behind Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters.
All in all, Atkins makes a decent late-round flier. Combine him with someone like Chipper Jones and you may end up with a pretty solid third basemen on your hands.
As always check out Baseball Professor for fantasy baseball analysis.
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