We’re nearing the start of February, which means the fantasy baseball community is starting to ramp up its efforts to prepare for the 2013 season. For its part, a group of industry writers, including our own Derek Carty and Jason Collette, are taking part in a “slow” mock draft, the results of which can be viewed here at David Gonos’ website. I’ve been following the draft the past few days, and one pick that stood out was Derek’s selection of Angel Pagan towards the back-end of round eight at number 116 overall. In a mock draft I participated in a couple of weeks ago, Pagan went much later (no. 170), and he is generally ranked lower than some of the outfielders Derek passed on to take him. Curious, I decided to take a closer look at Pagan.
In his first year as a Giant in 2012, Pagan posted excellent real-life and fantasy numbers. His 4.7 WARP was 17th best in baseball, and his final line was ranked 51st best by the PFM. The Giants rewarded Pagan with a four-year, $40 million dollar contract, and we the fantasy community, well, we’re not as generous. After finally recovering from the injuries and illness of years past, in 2009 at age 28, he finally became an MLB regular and has been fairly consistent since. Typical of his prior seasons, Pagan finished 2012 with a .288 average, eight homers, 29 steals, 95 Runs, and 56 RBI. Nothing too flashy, but as mentioned before, the overall package packs a punch for fantasy purposes.
Pagan will turn 32 during the upcoming season, so time is slowly abandoning his side. His speed and excellent contact abilities are not likely to dramatically vanish however, leaving him capable of batting .270-.280 with 25 steals. Pagan hits mostly line drives but is still capable of putting a 400-foot charge into a baseball to all fields, leaving me unconcerned that his power output is in jeopardy. The Giants lineup is not the most fearsome, but batting atop it still provides Pagan the opportunity to post elite run totals.
All of this evidence justifies Derek’s selection of Pagan at this position over guys like Norichika Aoki and Nick Markakis who might be more coveted. It’s easy for people to never fully buy into a late-bloomer like Pagan, allowing him to become a nice value pick in the 120-140 range.
If you look at the slow draft, you’ll see Derek’s next pick was Morse at 125th overall. I don’t mean to pick on Derek, but this selection of the recently shipped Morse also caught my eye.
Morse’s value is derived from his ability to hit 450 foot bombs while posting respectable batting averages near .300. Since joining the major league ranks on a regular basis in 2010, he’s hit home runs at the rate of around 30 per year, though injuries limited both his 2010 and 2012 seasons. His HitTracker profile shows that two years ago, in 2011, he crushed the ball to all fields. On the contrary, last year, even though he still was hitting home runs at an impressive pace, he noticeably wasn’t able to pull the ball into the left field stands. Admittedly, I don’t know of a study that definitely concludes the loss of pull power is predictive of a future power loss. However, coupled with the significant reduction in True Distance of his homers—from 413 feet to 403—the rightward shift in his home run landing spots summons the skeptic in me.
The move to Seattle should not affect his power output much, but the change in scenery may affect him elsewhere. Contrary to the Nats’ ballpark, Safeco is simply a difficult place to hit in overall, dimensions and atmosphere-wise. This could negatively affect those shiny .340 BABIPs Morse has been posting in Washington and may up his strikeout rate a tad. His average is the likely victim here, falling to the .270-.280 range.
In addition, much of the talent that surrounded him in Washington is noticeably absent on the Mariners’ roster. While the middle of his new lineup should still provide 85-90 RBI potential, the diminished support cast along with his notoriously poor base running will make even 70 runs an impressive feat. For a player with as storied an injury history as Morse, I don’t believe his buoyant brand of baseball will yield enough production in that heavy Seattle air to justify selecting him in the top 150.
Davis was one of the true breakout stars of 2012, shedding his scarlet Quad-A label. Playing exclusively in the majors for the first time in his career, Davis batted .270 with 33 home runs and 85 RBI. The question now is whether he can reproduce such numbers.
Starting with home runs, I doubt that anyone is suspicious of Davis’ power abilities. Even in 2009, when he was striking out 35 percent of the time and could barely make contact, he still launched 21 homers in 113 games. The issue was, is, and always will be contact with Davis. Last year he was able to pare down his strikeout rate to 30 percent and maintain his career-long trend of surprisingly high BABIPs north of .330 to bat a respectable .270. It’s a dangerous tightrope he’s walking, though, where one small slip will likely result in his average sliding into the .240-.250 range.
It was nice to see Davis breakout the way he did last year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes down as his best season. At the very least, it’s safe to say last year was Davis’ peak, which was still just the 120th-best line ranked by the PFM. With an upside not particularly high and a very visible downside, Davis is not a player I’m reaching for inside the top 150 players. If you miss out on power early, he’s an attractive gamble to take later but still one of the riskiest players out there.