When Brennan Boesch got off to a great start in 2010, I was one of the many who pointed out why he was certainly due for a regression in the largest way, and you probably were too. On July 9 that season, Boesch was hitting .345/.402/.600 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI, and 34 R. He was extremely useful in fantasy over that stretch, but most who follow advanced stats knew that the performance was bound to decline.
His BABIP at that time was .390, which was the first sign that the season seemed inauthentic. On top of that, Boesch was coming off of a season at double-A in which he posted a .318 OBP and a 5.8% walk rate. He had also never appeared on Baseball America’s list of top-10 Tiger prospects. He slowed down significantly after that date, hitting .166/.237/.227 for the remainder of that year.
Boesch showed some promise at the start of that season, but fell apart as many expected. His next season was not entirely different, as he a .306/.362/.494 line on July 9. He then went .220/.287/.364 over the course of the remainder of the year before succumbing to a torn ligament in his thumb that forced him to miss September and the playoffs.
Two seasons is not quite enough time to say that he’s a first half player, so while he has performed at an All-Star level in each of the past two first halves and subsequently struggled, it is not quite time to call this a recurring theme. A lot will ride on his BABIP, but a .275-.280 average is to be expected if it sits at his career rate of .306.
Entering this season, there have been a number of ups and downs in Boesch’s short two-year Major League career, but there is reason to like him going forward. For one, fellow RotoGrapher Jeff Zimmerman was bold enough to predict Boesch to be a top 30 fantasy player this year, and Jeff is one of the best around – not that you didn’t already know that.
He will likely bat second this year, which will put him in a great position to net over 100 runs with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder following him. His ability against left-handed pitching should keep him in the lineup full-time and allow him to stay in the two-hole. Having just 237 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers is not enough of a sample size to say that he will be a career-long lefty killer, but sporting consecutive seasons with a wRC+ over 100 against southpaws and a career 131 mark is at least somewhat comforting.
Boesch netted a 119 wRC+ against right-handers and a 106 mark against lefties last year, which exemplifies that he is not the type of player you mix and match with in fantasy. His career BB/K ratio of 0.41 is right around league average, and that means a lot more when you consider that he posted a 0.26 mark in his only full season in the upper minors. The improvement in this ratio has been a big reason for the success he has had.
I don’t think I am as bold as Jeff in projecting Boesch, but I do feel that he is being undervalued on draft day. With an ADP of 220.6, he is being drafted behind perennial disappointers Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. His teammate, Austin Jackson, is going about 50 picks ahead of him on average. I am not quite sure that I would take Jackson ahead of Boesch if I had to make the decision. They obviously have two different skillsets for fantasy, but they should hit for a similar average and Boesch should hit over 20 home runs while Jackson will steal over 20 bases. Both should score a ton of runs at the top of the Tigers’ lineup, but I could see Jackson being moved off the leadoff spot before I see Boesch moving down in the order.
The projection systems on FanGraphs are all rather consistent with Boesch, with a wOBA range of .334 on the low end to .347 on the high end. His offensive upside is not tremendous, but he has a good opportunity to perform well in each fantasy counting stat. There is no reason to overdraft Boesch. Missing out on him in the draft will not be close to season threating, but keep an eye on him in the later parts of the draft for a cheap source of runs and power.
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