- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Blalock to Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Rays signed DH/1B Hank Blalock to a minor league contract.

Blalock, 29, will earn $925,000, with $350,000 in performance incentives. According to Bill Chastain’s MLB.com article, the pact also includes an opt-out if the long-time Ranger fails to crack Tampa Bay’s big league roster.

Over the past three seasons, Blalock’s bat has been six percent better than the average MLB hitter (106 wRC+). Considering that a litany of health problems have resigned him to first base and DH, that means that Blalock (who posted 5.2 Wins Above Replacement in 2003 and 4.3 WAR in 2004) has been slightly north of replacement-level in recent years.

In 2007, Blalock missed a big chunk of the season following surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. A left hamstring injury and right shoulder inflammation put him on the shelf for much of 2008 (injury info courtesy of the Fantasy Pitch F/X DL Tool).

This past year, the erstwhile lefty slugger didn’t hit the DL. However, he limped to a .234/.277/.459 line, with an 87 wRC+. Blalock did have some lousy luck on balls put in play: his BABIP was .249, compared to a .311 expected BABIP (xBABIP) and a career .296 mark.

Even So, Blalock did his best Mike Jacobs impression at the plate. He took a cut at 30.1 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25% percent MLB average), drawing ball four in a career-low 5.3 percent of his PA. While he cranked fastballs in the past (+0.75 runs per 100 pitches during his career), Blalock was -0.2 runs below average per 100 fastballs seen in ’09.

Should he make the Rays, Blalock figures to compete with Pat Burrell (he of a bum neck and 85 wRC+ in 2009) for AB’s in the DH slot. With nicknames like “Hammerin’ Hank” and “Pat the Bat,” Tampa’s prospective DH duo sounds like it should punish opposing pitchers (or at the very least, make a great WWE tag team). However, CHONE is none too impressed with either former famous dude:

2010 CHONE projections

Blalock: .328 wOBA, 100 wRC+
Burrell: .329 wOBA, 100 wRC+

The Rays figure to leverage the two, using Blalock against right-handers and Burrell to handle southpaws. Using a platoon projection method outlined in The Book, Matt Klaassen forecasts Blalock to post a .342 wOBA against righties and a .291 wOBA versus same-handed pitching. Using a similar method to project Burrell’s splits, I get a .334 figure against left-handers and a .316 wOBA versus righties. Even with the platoon advantage, Blalock and Burrell won’t be much above replacement-level if they perform as CHONE expects.