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January 8, 2013
The Keeper Reaper
First, Third, and DH for 1/7/13
Surely the switch-hitting first baseman and middle-of-the-order slugger for the Evil Empire is a top-notch fantasy pick, right? Wrong. True, he was once such a hot commodity that he was part of a deadline deal in successive years. And one year later, the Yankees signed him to an eight-year, $180-million deal that Christina Kahrl called “a huge bit of overpayment to keep a guy who should probably be okay over the lifetime of the deal.”
And “okay” is just what Teixeira has become. Once a 900 OPS slugger, Tex has seen his OPS drop each of the past six seasons until he barely cracked 800 in 2012. Although his .224 ISO was 23rd overall in 2012, he failed to reach 30 home runs for the first time since 2003, his rookie year. Some of his diminished numbers came at the hands—er, feet—of a calf strain that held him out for part of August and most of September. There’s no denying, however, that he’s weakened; this was his third straight season failing to reach a .500 SLG, and his .474 mark in 2012 was a career low. His power’s okay, but it’s no longer elite.
Owners use to be able to count on him for batting average, but he’s not delivering that anymore. He averaged .297 from 2005 to 2009, but he’s hitting .252 in the three years since thanks to a BABIP that’s dropped from .314 to .253. That reflects the infield shift that has stymied him from the left side. He adjusted his swing before this season and even worked on his bunting in response, but it had little effect on his batting average platoon splits, which narrowed just two points from his career norms. Where it may have affected him is in his career-high 41 percent groundball rate and the diminished power explained above.
Otherwise, Tex’s peripherals were mixed in 2012. He produced a 15.8 percent strikeout rate that was his second-best ever, but his walk rate slid to 10.3 percent, his third-worst career mark. Both his fly ball and HR/FB rates were close to career averages, meaning that his decent power should continue. This all makes Tex an okay (but no longer great) first baseman on the wrong side of 30, the kind of player you look to pick up at a discount on draft day—not the kind you keep to prevent draft day inflation.
If Tex has gone from a show horse to a one-trick pony, Pena has gone from a one-trick pony to a one-trick nag. Fantasy owners used to tolerate Pena’s weak batting average because of his one trick: power. But twice in the last three years, Pena’s batting average hasn’t risen above .200, and in all three years, he couldn’t hit more than 30 long-balls. Last year was one of his worst ever, as he couldn’t even hit 20 home runs or keep his average above .200, and he lost mixed-league owners seven cents. Even his more respectable $8.49 return in AL-only leagues only ranked him between Cliff Pennington and Scott Diamond.
Some of Pena’s recent slide comes from a change in his plate discipline, one that’s more apparent from a fine-grained view:
Over the past four seasons, he’s become more aggressive outside the strike zone (O-Sw%) while becoming less aggressive on pitches inside the zone (Z-Sw%), though he’s maintained steady contact rates on both, at least since 2009. Whether as cause or effect of this shift in Pena’s approach, pitchers have fed him fewer strikes. When he does get a strike and makes contact with it, his falling fly ball and home run rates show that he’s doing less damage.
With a new team, Pena could change that plate approach and, in a more hitter-friendly stadium, do more with those strikes when he sees them. So I’d agree with Derek Carty to roll the dice on Pena as a good source of cheap power on draft day, since he should be more undervalued than ever. Just as with Teixiera, though, that’s not enough reason to keep Pena in most leagues.
One small part of Arizona’s head-scratching trade of Trevor Bauer, Anderson joins a team that already has a young first baseman and more talented outfielders than they know what to do with. Part of the return in the deal for Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers could be the redemption of Anderson, a failed prospect.
Once seen as Boston’s first baseman of the future, Anderson debuted at seventh on Kevin Goldstein’s 2007 Red Sox rankings, noting that his power was “unmatched in the Boston system.” Anderson rose to first in 2009, when Kevin called him an “elite offensive talent” with “outstanding plate discipline” and a swing that’s “simple, smooth and strong.” Ah, how the mighty Anderson has fallen. He disappointed in the minors, stalling for three seasons in Double-A, where he hit .262/.359/.414. After getting promoted to Triple-A, he hit a very similar .259/.355/.416 in three seasons and managed just .200/.326/.229 in his only extended look in MLB—43 plate appearances in 2010.
Depending on what other moves the gun-slinging Kevin Towers might make, Anderson could slot in as a platoon partner for Paul Goldschmidt, whose OPS is 329 points lower against fellow portsiders. He could also play outfield, as he did for a handful of games last season. More likely, he’ll try to reestablish himself in the minors, but a change of scenery could be just what this faded prospect needs. One of the knocks against him has been his passive approach at the plate, and if passivity has a cure, its name is Kirk Gibson.
As interesting a reclamation project as Anderson makes, only owners in the deepest of leagues with a taste for high risk should roll the dice on him with a keeper slot. Even then, they should wait until Spring Training gets closer to see if Towers makes more deals that give Anderson a chance of starting 2013 in the bigs.
For a player who made the big leap from Double-A to the majors in 2011, Goldy hasn’t stumbled. After making that leap, he hit .250/.333/.474 for the next two months and quickly earned a spot on my Value Picks squad. In that write-up, I noted scouts’ skepticism about Goldschmidt’s bat speed, strikeouts, and platoon splits, but he’s answered most of those questions since then.
In regards to the bat speed, Goldy crushed a Tim Lincecum pitch for his first major-league homer (in 2011, before The Freak became freakishly awful) and maintained a 24 percent line drive rate in 2012, 19th best in the majors. He also improved his whiff rate from 30 percent to 22 percent, though he dropped his walk rate from 11.3 to 10.2 percent—still a strong mark. Goldschmidt’s overall line reflected this improvement; he hit .286/.359/.490, earning $17 in mixed leagues and $25 in NL-only leagues, ranking him 60th and 29th, respectively.
As noted in the Anderson write-up above, Goldy’s struggles against righties continue, which will dilute his value somewhat. Also, his 36 percent fly ball rate (steady across the past two seasons) doesn’t forecast much power, helping explain why he hit only 20 home runs in 2012. These will drag his value down from the shallowest leagues, but for the rest of us, he makes an excellent bet to meet or exceed his 2012 values.
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