I will start by saying, unlike my last post on Ike Davis, this is not going to cover a player I am typically a fan of. I’ve never been a Chase Headley owner, in any league. But part of what has had me staying away from Headley is the belief by some of my league mates that he is a near-MVP candidate.
That 2012 season looms large in many people’s minds, but the reality is, Headley was never truly a 30-HR hitter, particularly in that park. Now, however, I am seeing signs that a rough start to 2014 are starting to break some of the Headley-lovers out there, and that may mean there is an opportunity.
Headley followed up his 2012 breakout with a .250/.347/.400 year with 13 HR and 8 SB, which is not a bad year for a fantasy MI. But Headley is a 3B and that just won’t fly at the hot corner. 2014 doesn’t look much better on the surface – the power is up 5 HR already is a near 20-HR pace – but a .199/.286/.324 line is not getting anyone excited.
A layer deeper though, things look good. Headley is slicing line drives at a 26% rate, yet has a .237 BABIP after Sunday’s action. As of Wednesday, Headley had a 35.8% hard hit rate and a .303 expected BABIP. Both are just a bit above average, and both also suggest that .237 (and the related .199, .286 and .324) is a mirage (can mirages be bad? I assume mirages can be bad).
Batted ball distance, meanwhile, suggests the power boost may be legit. In addition to the scorching line drive rate, Headley is hitting fly balls slightly more often than the last couple years (higher than he has since 2010, actually) and he is hitting those balls with more distance than he did last year. In that stellar 2012 season, Headley had an average HR and FB distance of 300.7 feet, which is elite and explains that 31 HR output. In 2013, it was down to 281.9 (just below where it was in 2011). This year, he is back up to 286.1, and that was before the monster HR he hit in Chicago on Sunday.
Obviously that distance doesn’t touch the 2012 numbers, but with a few more FB and a bit more distance, maybe he could split the difference between 2012 and 2013 and end up around 20 HR. It’s certainly possible.
Oh, and one more thing – Headley is nearing free agency and the Padres are nearing last place. With the Wild Card opportunities that exist, they are not yet out of the race, but they will be, meaning Headley may find himself out of Petco even before 2015. Not only out of Petco, but out of road games in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which are not exactly hitter friendly themselves.
Don’t mistake Chase Headley for something he is not. 20 HR is still upside, not likelihood. But an average pushing .290 and an on-base over .350 the rest of the way are definitely in play, particularly if that line drive rate stays up.
If you can find an owner who has decided Headley simply is not a starting 3B, now is as good a time as any to buy. He isn’t about to become a star, but he isn’t nearly as bad as he looks.
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