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December 27, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Brad Hawpe, San Diego Padre

by Marc Normandin

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Brad Hawpe is now a Padre, which is the kind of thing that worries fantasy owners. He struggled in 2010 despite playing most of the season in Colorado in a hitter's paradise, and now he is heading to a park that doesn't take kindly to his handedness. There are reasons to believe that Hawpe will put on a better show in 2011 despite the most dramatic change in home parks possible in today's game though.

You can't guarantee that Hawpe will be healthy in 2011, but if he is, that could fix some of the problems from last season. Early in the year he hit the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps that had been bothering him and limiting him to pinch-hitting duties, and in June he bruised his ribs. His production never picked up, and it was mostly due to a significant number of groundouts. Hawpe grounded out 20 percent of the time, and his BABIP on groundballs was just .136—the league average is .235 and Hawpe's career rate (including 2010) is .219.

Hawpe is on the wrong side of 30, so a drop in bat speed has to be considered as part of the reason for the grounders. That doesn't seem to be the case though, as his swing-and-miss and foul ball rates nearly mirror his 2009 ones—it's more likely that the increased groundout rate and lower BABIP on groundballs is related to injuries rather than aging. His batted-ball distribution was close to his career and previous season's numbers as well—the main difference was in the result, as his BABIP failed to reach the .341 or higher mark for the first time since 2005.

That year, Hawpe had a .310 BABIP and a line of .262/.350/.410, while in 2010 he had a .308 BABIP and a .245/.338/.419 line. He is a better hitter now than he was then, as the lefty no longer has the severe platoon split that limited him earlier in his major league career (Hawpe has hit .261/.339/.465 against southpaws over the last three seasons), and he has not been entirely a product of Coors either, with a career road line of .273/.369/.470 and a .265/.365/.465 showing from 2008-2010. If not for the move to San Diego, Hawpe would be a good candidate to rebound and pretend 2010 never happened by adding another 100 points or so to his OPS.

The sample sizes for visiting players are so small as to be almost worthless, but for the sake of mentioning it, Hawpe has a career line (175 plate appearances) of .281/.371/.451 at Petco. His swing generates powerful line drives, which makes him a decent fit for the park, though it would be untrue to say his new home is not going to hurt his production relative to his best work. If healthy, Hawpe should be able to generate the swing that made him an attractive right field option in fantasy baseball from 2006 through 2009, though with the Padres, he will be playing first base.

The average first base TAv in 2010 was .288, a figure Hawpe bested four straight seasons before his down year in 2010. A from-my-head-without-the-influence-of-PECOTA projection would have Hawpe at .280ish for the upcoming season—not quite average at first, but right around there for right, and better than 2010 by a long shot. Like the Padres did in reality, looking at Hawpe as a buy-low option on draft day would be a solid strategy. If he rebounds with a healthy campaign and hits .280/.370/.450 or so while he still has right field eligibility, and you pay $1 for him, well, there are worse things you could stash on your bench or spend your buck on. And as with most $1 players, if he doesn't, hey, it was just $1!

Related Content:  Brad Hawpe

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