December 28, 2012
The Keeper Reaper
Outfielders for 12/28/12
Owning Jason Kubel last year was a lot like being the aptly named (since this is a baseball article) Tom Hanson from 500 Days of Summer. If you jump between different days of his season, one day you’re running gleefully through IKEA but on the next you discover the sink is broken, all your sinks are broken. Moving from plumbing back to baseball, for Kubel this means his season was very bipolar. The week of July 15 he was the hottest hitter in the game while swatting five homers, yet in August and September he couldn’t manage to hit above .200.
Overall, Kubel paid great dividends to his owners who drafted him late, posting a career-high 30 homers, 90 RBI, and a palatable .253 average. The distribution of his numbers was less than fortunate, however, with almost none of the production coming in the latter two months. For owners looking to Kubel for help down the stretch, he was not of service, and to anyone who traded for him near the trading deadline, I apologize on his behalf.
Interestingly, at 30 years old, Kubel learned a new trick, namely hitting opposite field home runs. In 2012, he hit nine the other way—about as many as he had in his previous six seasons combined. Hitting more opposite field home runs doesn’t guarantee a player more homers overall; but being able to take an outside pitch deep can only help one’s power game so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of turning on inside pitches one would otherwise take deep. Seeing how Kubel still pulled plenty of homers as well, I’d bet he can approach 30 homers again in 2013, especially in his hitter-friendly Arizona confines.
Despite his power output, Kubel tends to lack in the runs and steals departments, keeping his value outside the top 100 players. In NL-only leagues, I’d also be wary of keeping him given the trade rumors about him heading to an AL club like the Rangers, Yankees, or Rays. Even if he doesn’t get moved before the season starts, you can bet his name will pop up again in July if the D’Backs aren’t contending.
Speaking as a (primarily) 14-team mixed-league fantasy player, Hart is the type of guy everyone wants and no one wants. His end-of-season numbers look fine in retrospect—once again he managed 30 homers with a solid .270 average and good run and RBI totals—but day-to-day he puts up too many 1-for-4s to enjoy owning him.
In 2012, the 30-year-old and 6-foot-6 Hart set a new high in strikeout percentage, punching out in 24 percent of his plate appearances. Eno Sarris and Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs showed that taller players often see a dramatic spike in their strikeout rates in their early thirties. With this information in mind, it certainly seems more likely his skills will continue to erode rather than rebound next year.
No longer much of a basestealer, Hart is devolving into a power-only commodity. Hitting in the middle of the Brewers’ potent offense should keep his run and RBI totals up, but no longer would I expect Hart to be a top 90 player. Next season is also likely to be Hart’s last with outfield eligibility, reducing the chances he’ll be worthy of keeping in future years.
For the second offseason in a row, Crisp has had his starting center field gig usurped unexpectedly by a newcomer. Last season it was import Yoenis Cespedes that knocked Crisp into a left field platoon. This season, Oakland’s surprise trade for Chris Young once again has Crisp’s role on the field uncertain.
Despite the turmoil, Crisp’s on-field production didn’t suffer; in fact, he had another productive season, batting .260 with 10 homers and 40 steals. Once again, I wouldn’t expect his numbers to suffer from the competition—between rotating into the DH spot and the chance one of his fellow A’s outfielders succumbs to injury, he will reach his 500 to 600 plate appearances.
While it’s tempting to keep an electric player like Crisp, his injury risk coupled with the generally unsupportive A’s lineup makes him a long shot to finish in the top 90 players next year. With a bit of injury luck and a slightly improved supportive cast to boost his run total, though, Crisp could be worthy of keeping in deeper keeper leagues.