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.