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September 27, 2010

Fantasy Beat

2010 Rookie Roundup: NL Hitters

by Marc Normandin

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As mentioned last time around, we want to cover some 2010 rookies for you in-depth so you can properly gauge their 2011 value before you need to make any decisions regarding them. Not all of them require as much of a look as Austin Jackson did though, so this time we'll bunch a few players into one piece. We'll switch focus to the NL for now, as there are loads of rookies worth your attention thanks to their 2010 numbers. These are not the only rookies we will be covering, but consider this and the Jackson piece the kicking off of a series.

The Washington Nationals have had a disappointing season in terms of the standings, but they have introduced some worthwhile players into the mix. One of these is shortstop Ian Desmond, who hasn't impressed in terms of his plate discipline—he's walked in under five percent of his plate appearances, and struck out over 100 times already despite a lack of power. His line sits at .276/.314/.406 with 10 homers, 62 RBI and 16 steals in 21 attempts (76 percent success), which is solid for a shortstop—his TAv is .266, 11 points above the average for a shortstop.

It's not a great showing, but he is a player PECOTA thought highly of at the upper levels (his 90th percentile this season was .275/.350/.463 with a .286 TAv) and his forecast for 2011 and beyond looks good—considering his line for the season is almost exactly the same as his weighted mean forecast, we can safely take a look at his extended forecast now. In 2011, PECOTA forecasts a .260/.321/.426 showing, which has a drop in batting average from his rookie campaign (it may be an unreasonable drop as well, as Desmond's .325 BABIP is repeatable given his tendency to hit the ball on the ground coupled with his speed) but an increase in his power. Desmond with a bit more power is something worth holding onto—at the rate projected here, Desmond would hit 17 homers with 600 plate appearances—making him nearly a 20/20 player at shortstop.

He's owned in 32 percent of ESPN leagues and 53 percent of CBS leagues—given the lack of quality shortstops, that number will increase in 2011 given some more exposure over the winter. If you have him for a low price, he's worth holding onto, and could be somewhat of a surprise source of 2011 production if PECOTA is on the money with the bump in power.

Gaby Sanchez performed near his 80th percentile forecast this year, putting up a line of .290/.359/.485 with a .287 TAv. It was a solid season for the rookie first baseman, but there are reasons to be wary about getting too attached to him. For one, he just turned 27 years old this month—he's not exactly moving into his prime right now. Second, PECOTA isn't that optimistic about his future either—a look at his 10-year forecast shows you that he already is what he is expected to be, and even if he hits for a bit more power like he did this year, that makes him an average first baseman.

First base is the deepest position in fantasy baseball—Sanchez ranks #16 in runs over replacement there, and the guys behind him aren't exactly fantasy monsters (Mike Cuddyer, Ty Wigginton, Adam LaRoche, Lyle Overbay, etc.). If you wouldn't keep one of those guys, then you wouldn't want to keep Sanchez—he may have a bit more upside than them, due to his relative youth and the fact he is heading into his age 27 season, but he's definitely a fringe keeper unless you're in a very deep league with a lot of slots for them. He's a good fall back hitter for the position late in a draft as well, just remember that what you got in 2010 is what you should be expecting going forward.

On the other hand, right in front of Sanchez in runs above replacement at first, is Ike Davis, who is completing his rookie season at the still tender age of 23. Davis has not suffered due to Citi Field, and has actually hit better there this season (.281/.372/.456 vs. .257/.332/.435) but part of the reason for that is that when Davis gets a hold of one, he sends it into orbit—the average distance on his homers this year, via Hit Tracker, is 415.8 feet, and the average speed off of the bat is 105.6 mph. For comparison's sake, Jose Bautista, who has 52 homers, has an average distance of 402.8 feet and 106.7 mph off of the bat, so Davis has crushed the ball when it leaves the park. Even the adjusted distance is long, at 413 feet, and the walls at Citi Field have not been able to contain him.

Davis has hit a little better following the All-Star break—not significantly better, but you have to like a young player posting improved more impressive numbers with more playing time, as opposed to being like Brennan Boesch. He has outperformed PECOTA's expectations, even at the 90th percentile, which says a lot about his ability considering he was slated to take over the first base job in 2011 once he learned to handle right-handers better than he had in the minors.

Remember that Davis was a 2008 draft pick, and he adapted quickly in the minors after initial failure. He could still use some work against right-handers in order to boost his batting average, and you would like to see him drop his strikeout rate just a little, but, given his age and limited experience, this was a successful season, and his forecasts for 2011 should reflect that. He's worth holding onto if the price is right, much more so than the aforementioned (and similarly producing)Sanchez—the difference is in the age and upside.

Related Content:  Gaby Sanchez

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Oakla... (09/27)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (09/24)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (09/27)
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