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March 4, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Some Love for E5

by Jason Collette

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We all have those one or two players that, one way or another, always end up on our fantasy rosters in some capacity. For many years, that short list for me has involved two players: Wilson Betemit and Edwin Encarnacion. I long thought Betemit could have the type of season he did in 2010 when he had a .313 TAv and finally had a WARP of at least 1.0. Unfortunately, it took him seven seasons to accomplish the feat and 2010 was the first year I did not acquire Betemit on draft day.

I first wrote about Encarnacion back in 2005 as I was looking for a cheap shortstop option that season (though it's hard to picture now, Encarnacion played a little bit of shortstop in the minors). He was cheap alright–a .255 TAv and a 0.5 WARP was not what I expected. However, over the next three seasons he was a productive bargain before falling off the radar in 2009 due to struggles both at the plate and in the field. Despite that season, yours truly shelled out $16 for him in the AL Tout Wars draft in 2010, in one of those typical last man standing battles at a position. He did not earn that money due to his poor batting average and .305 OBP but his 2.1 WARP was double his value from any previous year.

I am not the only one excited about Encarnacion’s value this season as ESPN’s Matthew Berry and MLB.com’s Cory Schwartz have also acted as his biggest cheerleaders on Twitter this off-season. Unfortunately for me, Berry is also in Tout Wars, so we will likely once again get into a stare down during the Encarnacion bid.

Did you know that in 2010 Edwin Encarnacion:

  • Had a .236 Isolated Power in 2010 that was the second highest amongst all third baseman in baseball with at least 300 plate appearances, trailing only teammate Jose Bautista?
  • Had a 787 OPS that was better than the OPS put up by Ian Stewart, Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, and Aramis Ramirez last season.
  • Has a career .280 BABIP but was at just .235 last season in a season in which he hit .244

Encarnacion certainly has his faults that affect his playing time in fantasy baseball. For one he has only played 181 games combined in the past two seasons thanks to injuries. His embarrassing nickname of "E5" is not an undeserved one thanks to his horrendous defensive work at third base. It is that awful glove that hurts him most and why he will likely spend most of 2011 playing positions other than third base, thus losing future eligibility at the position. His OBP is in a five-year decline from .359 in 2006 down to just .305 last season in Toronto, where the team tried to one-up each other with home runs under Cito Gaston’s “grip it and rip it,” approach.  Still, Encarnacion will be just 28 years old when the 2011 season begins.

Encarnacion has only had as many as 500 at-bats in two of his five full seasons at the big league level since being traded from the Rangers to the Reds.  When examining his player card, we see a few different trends in his stat line. His OBP is in a five-year freefall, from .359 in 2006 down to just .305 last season—that affects how many runs he can score. That is due to the fact he gave back some of the walks he earned in 2008 when he had an 11 percent walk rate; he went back to his standard 8 percent in 2010. The 2008 season was the second time out of the last three that his ISO was at least .215. If you include partial seasons, he has been at .197 or higher in four of his six seasons at the major league level.  His current PECOTA forecast (adjusted for playing time by the Depth Charts) shows some very lofty numbers:  28 home runs, 83 RBI, 78 runs scored, and a .280 TAv. Yes, he comes with some risks but is he any more toxic than someone like Adrian Beltre who has a much higher ADP than Encarnacion these days?

Until Adrian Beltre moved into Fenway Park for his free agent year, he and Encarnacion were pretty much neck and neck as offensive players. Consider the fact that from 2006-2009, Encarnacion was worth five more runs than the average player while Beltre was one run worse than the average player. The change in scenery for Beltre allowed him to surge past Encarnacion last season after the two had produced rather similar numbers albeit in different types of environments.  Beltre moves from one hitter’s park in Fenway to another in Rangers Ballpark but the PFM as him at 22 home runs, 85 RBI, 80 runs scored, and a .252 TAv. Looking back up at what the PFM has for Encarnacion, one would expect these two players to be rather close in the latest Average Draft Position reports but that could not be further from the truth.

Beltre is going off the board as the fifth-best third baseman with an ADP of 52 in the latest reports from Mock Draft Central. Meanwhile, Encarnacion is the 21st ranked third baseman behind the likes of Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton, Casey Blake, and Chris Johnson, and has an ADP of 368. The earliest Encarnacion has been taken is at pick 203 which makes him a late 16th round pick, still ten rounds later than where Beltre is being drafted. Last season, coming off of the bad years in Seattle, Beltre still had an ADP of 200 this time of year as people were optimistic about how he would fit into Fenway after leaving Safeco, a park where right-handed power goes to die.

Now, Encarnacion has a breakout power year in limited playing time, and while the PFM shows a lot of respect for his work, Encarnacion continues to be overlooked by the average fantasy player.  Despite being in the league for what seems like forever, he is just 28 years old and now can focus mainly on his hitting as he is not going to be asked to do much in the field this year other than play some first base against the tough lefties (okay, maybe the not-so-tough lefties, too) that Adam Lind struggles against.

Maybe this is more the fan in me than the analyst, but I like Encarnacion’s chances of hitting 30 home runs in 2011 more than I like Jose Bautista's chance at 40. The PFM is on board with Encarnacion getting close to that total, and I have him pegged as one of the few players to increase their homer totals by 10 from the year before. As long as certain other cheerleaders don't get in the way on draft day, I'll be taking my chances on Encarnacion.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Edwin Encarnacion

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Greg Pizzo

I, too, have been on the Edwin Train for a while and I boarded again at last weekend's draft (20 teamer with 20 rounds) in Round 20 (#385). I hope it's the steal of the draft!

Mar 04, 2011 04:30 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Wow -- 385 is a steal of a pick!

Mar 04, 2011 06:26 AM
 
hegglund

Yup, I got him in the 23rd (pick #407) in an 18-team, 30-round draft. For reference, some others that went in that round: Yunesky Maya, Doug Fister, Jorge Cantu, Nick Hundley.

Mar 04, 2011 08:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

The guy that owns him in my local league is a subscriber here so any shot I had at trading for him went out the window with this article :)

Mar 04, 2011 09:53 AM
 
varmintito

There's one other guy in my league I know is a BP subscriber, so I'm hoping he fills 3B/CI before EE is nominated.

Mar 04, 2011 12:02 PM
rating: 0
 
SC

I was a bit surprised to see EE so high in my PFM chart, but then he's one of only a few guys in my league likely to hit 25 HRs. He's a borderline keeper for me at $16, I'll probably stick with him for one more year under the "devil you know" theory. Also, if I keep him, hopefully I will avoid drafting Chipper Jones for the third consecutive year.

Mar 05, 2011 09:12 AM
rating: 0
 
HeavyHitter

How do we know you're not just misleading everyone else so you can win your fantasy league? Next you'll be telling us that Yuniesky Betancourt is a real sleeper. Well played, Collette, but I've got your number.

Mar 05, 2011 11:39 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Ha - I put my money where my mouth was and dealt a $12 Vlad for $10 E5. The aforementioned owner read this piece and had a good laugh and we worked the deal out.

Mar 06, 2011 08:09 AM
 
Dan

Beltre was projected for a .265 TAv going into 2010. He easily beat that, putting up a .310 TAv. Now he's projected for a .252 TAv for 2011.

How does that make any sense?

Mar 05, 2011 13:56 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

East Coast Bias? I was a bit surprised by that as well but I'm guessing he is being penalized by an assumed injury or the move to the AL West will be tougher on him statistically with the bigger parks in Oakland and Seattle.

Mar 06, 2011 08:11 AM
 
Dan

It seems to be an issue with several players moving into the AL West. Willingham, Wells, DeJesus, and Beltre all have worse projections for 2011 than they did for 2010--despite all outhitting their 2010 projections.

Looking closer, the TAv projections for the Rangers' hitters seem to completely miscalculated. Kinsler somehow ends up with a higher projected TAv than Cruz and Hamilton, despite projecting to hit significantly worse than the two sluggers.

Mar 06, 2011 11:24 AM
rating: 0
 
SC

I'd have to think that the bigger parks would at least to some extent be mitigated by the fact that he doesn't have to face AL East pitching any more. I too was pretty surprised by the Beltre forecast.

Mar 06, 2011 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan

In terms of run prevention (pitching + hitting), the AL West is at least as good as the AL East was last year.

Mar 06, 2011 11:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan

Whoops -- (pitching + fielding)

Mar 06, 2011 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Cory Schwartz

Jason please stop talking up E5, I've been counting all along on getting him in the ~20th round of my drafts and you're not helping. :-)

Thanks,
Cory

Mar 07, 2011 09:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

You'll recall I did this with Nelson Cruz in 2008 as well --- just took the Rangers awhile to call him up. If the rumors of Edwin Jackson for Nelson Cruz from those winter meetings were true and the Rays declined it......

Mar 07, 2011 09:51 AM
 
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