January 11, 2012
The Keeper Reaper
Second, Short, and Catcher for 1/11/12
Dan Uggla | Atlanta Braves
Before the 2011 season, PECOTA projected a $15 value from Dan Uggla. Despite a roller-coaster ride of a season, he ended up pretty much matching that mark in deep leagues. Indeed, when looking at his three-year average before 2011, Uggla pretty much matched his average season last year.
The runs and RBI are likely associated with the team-wide downturn in offense for the Braves, but everything else was pretty normal. The batting average is a mere fluctuation in BABIP, as Uggla's luck on balls in play was all over the place throughout the 2011 season. Expecting a .250 batting average seems appropriate. Despite the perhaps-real changes in his swing, enough of the rest of his fantasy game has remained static. He is still a lock for at least the counting stats that he put up last season, including yet another 30-plus home run season. Look at Mike Stanton’s 2011 season, put that at second base, and you have the sort of season Uggla is used to providing, with more counting stats and a lower batting average.
Uggla is a solid bet to put up a season that leaves him right between the medium and deep keeper league ranges; hold onto him for your deeper leagues and consider him close to the borderline for medium-depth leagues.
Remember when Russell Martin exploded onto the 2011 scene with early homers and steals? Martin had nine homers and five steals through the first two months of the season and compiled a slash line closer to his 2007 season rather than his 2009 and 2010 disasters. From there, however? Martin hit .232/.307/.375, which is far closer to those poor recent seasons. Of course, neither one is likely the true Martin, but those who felt that the move to New York (this author included) would trigger a rebirth of Martin's game did not turn out to be correct.
At this point, we have to figure that Martin is at least likely to put up double-digit homers thanks to the environment of the New Yankee Stadium, but we are now three years into a stretch of .250 or lower batting averages, and it seems at this point that his BABIP is just going to stay in the .270 or .280 range. Tack on the increase in his strikeouts over the last two seasons (15.8 and 17.0 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively, compared to a career 14.1 percent mark) and expecting a significant bump in batting average is not a good proposition. As a Yankee, he will always have significant opportunities for runs and RBI, but I would not expect much more than the $10 value he put up in deep leagues last year.
Starlin Castro | Chicago Cubs
Castro put up almost identical numbers in 2010 and 2011. The only thing he added in the latter season was a better power stroke, and given the scouting report, this is not that much of a surprise. Having said that, he has hit .345 on balls in play thus far, and while it isn’t stretch to think he might be the type of player who can do that consistently, it is still a difficult task. Only 12 players with at least 1000 plate appearances were able to maintain a higher BABIP than Castro since 2009. Expecting a .290 batting average is a safe expectation, even if it is not as optimistic.
The 91 runs and 66 RBI may be overshooting the likely 2012 projection just a tad, as the Cubs will be downgrading their starting lineup with the free agent losses of Carlos Pena (.284 TAv in 2011) and Aramis Ramirez (.297). Expect both the counting stats to go down, but there shouldn’t be many other changes coming Castro's way, leaving him a borderline keeper for medium-depth leagues in terms of 2012 expectations.
Elvis Andrus | Texas Rangers
Looking at two young shortstops like Andrus and Castro, it is easier to project Andrus to repeat the production he had last year. His skillset has more or less revealed itself: he is a speedy shortstop with a lot of steals, little projectable power, and a better approach and plate discipline than Castro. The improved walk rate should allow him to better maintain his career .340 OBP and keep him stealing 30-plus bases. The company he keeps in the Ranges lineup is top-notch—which should bode well for his runs—as Texas still boasts one of the strongest set of hitters around Andrus. Even with some regression, it is difficult to see Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli being all that worse than last year.
Last year, Andrus put up $19 of value in deep leagues, and it is not difficult to see that continuing in 2012. There may be some drop-off in both runs and RBI, but with the same cast around him, the fall should not be significant. You may not be able to project much more from Andrus at this point, but that is just fine for medium-depth leagues.