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February 13, 2012
Nick Hundley, Potential Sleeper
Last week, a few of you were upset that I outed Gavin Floyd as an overlooked fantasy sleeper because you hoped he would slide into the last few rounds of your draft, as he did for me in the Fantasy 411 Industry Mock Draft. This week, I reenter the lion’s den to present a player that I grabbed at pick 301 of the same draft, 71 picks below his current ADP. As big of a gap as that was, I was still 18 picks ahead of this player’s lowest draft spot over the past two weeks.
Nick Hundley gets hit with a double-whammy in that he plays catcher and hits in an unforgiving ballpark. In standard 12-team leagues, Hundley is going in the 19th round and has a current ADP of 230. That ranking puts him 12th amongst all catchers, behind the following:
If we dive into the Player Forecast Manager, the rankings are quite a bit different.
That’s quite the difference when you compare his ADP to his PFM rankings.
If you look over his history with the Padres, you can see why PECOTA is a bit pessimistic on Hundley. For one, we have yet to see what Hundley can do with a full season of plate appearances. Hundley has never had more than 308 plate appearances in a given season. A broken wrist cost him 50 games in 2009, platoon time costs him in 2008 and 2010, and he two different stints on the disabled list for elbow and abdomen issues cost him part of last season.
Hundley is coming off a season in which he hit .288 thanks to a rocket-fueled BABIP of .362. Compare that against his previous seasons of .288, .303, and .293, and it is easy to see the outlier. His line drive rate was in line with what he did in 2009, but getting a career high ten infield hits as a catcher certainly helps. His batted ball rates are trending toward the ground as his fly ball rate has dropped each of the past three seasons from 47 percent to 40 percent to 38 percent, but the power is there as his home run to fly ball rate continues to improve each season, topping off at 12 percent this past season.
For his career, Hundley has actually enjoyed hitting more in Petco Park than he has on the road. He has hit .271/.340/.478 at home in 540 plate appearances while hitting just .240/.290/.367 on the road in 580 plate appearances. His numbers at home have increased each of the past four seasons despite Petco’s relative hitter unfriendliness:
Meanwhile, his numbers on the road have bounced around a bit and have fallen significantly behind his contributions at home.
Hundley had a .350 BABIP on the road in 2011, which helps frame his career-high road batting average, but his OPS in 2009 and 2011 were identical. On a skills level, he has posted a 0.40 BB/K rate at home and a 0.26 rate while away from Petco, and his Isolated Power rating is 84 points higher at home as well.
If you look at his lefty/righty splits, it is a bit of a mixed bag as well:
Hundley has actually performed exactly the opposite of how people perceive him. He is a right-handed hitter that has hit better against same-handed pitching and does most of his damage in a park that most perceive as one of baseball’s least-friendly hitting environment. Of course, we’re dealing with small sample sizes here, and while it may come as a bit of a surprise, Petco isn’t actually that unfavorable for right-handed hitters, only deflating power by five-to-ten percent. Still, small sample size or not, it’s better to see a player outperform expectations in a particular situation than to underperform them.
While a .222/.302/.327 slash line in 172 first-half plate appearances with a .295 BABIP is really tough to overlook, Hundley did post a monster slash line of .367/.404/.656 in 136 second-half plate appearances when he was not injured (albeit with the help of an incredible .436 BABIP).
My selection of Hundley came in the first round of the reserve phase of the draft as insurance for Devin Mesoraco should Dusty Baker do what he has done so many times in the past to frustrate fantasy owners: giving the veteran player (in this case, Ryan Hanigan) more playing time early on. Due to the injuries and such, even though this is Hundley’s fifth professional season, with just 305 games played in four seasons, this really feels like his third season in the bigs. At age 28, being given the opportunity to garner more plate appearances than ever before, he could play himself into being a decent second catcher option in mixed leagues and a top half catcher in NL-only leagues.