Derrek Lee’s 12-Team Mixed Status

Derrek Lee finished 21st in the MVP vote in 2008 on the heels of his .291/.361/.462 season for the NL Central-winning Chicago Cubs. But as impressive as that may be, Lee is a fringe fantasy starter in a 12-team mixed league.

In 2005, the idea that Lee would be a fringe starter just a few years later was absurd. That season he went .335-46-107 and seemingly had the world at his feet. But after signing a five-year contract in April of 2006, Lee suffered a right wrist injury that ruined his season and apparently robbed him of his power.

When he returned in 2007, Lee hit just 22 HR and his 12.6 percent HR/FB ratio was nearly half the total he posted in his big 2005 season of 23.7 percent. In 2008, many thought his power would return with him being further out from the wrist surgery. But Lee’s HR/FB ratio fell to 11.7 percent and his FB% fell to 33.7 percent, a career low.

What HR power Lee does possess at this point seems to be a Wrigley Field illusion. In the past two seasons, he’s hit 31 HR at home and just 11 in neutral road parks.

Lee enters 2009 as a 33-year old with limited power at a fantasy position that demands big HR and RBI numbers. In 2008, Lee had the 11th-best dollar value among first basemen, according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. Among those beneath him and ready to challenge him for a spot in the top 12 are Joey Votto, Carlos Pena, Chris Davis and Pablo Sandoval. Aubrey Huff and Jorge Cantu have first base eligibility, as well.

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13 Responses to “Derrek Lee’s 12-Team Mixed Status”

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  1. Brent says:


    I hate to say it, but you’re right. In fact, I think the days of batting in the 3 hole are numbered. Despite the fact that his ISOp has dropped 3 straight seasons, 15 of his mediocre HRs were with the bases empty. I still think that fantasy owners will draft him around the 10th round (the same owners that drafted Helton in the 10th round 2 years ago) going off the name and BA. With 1B so deep, I’d rather take a chance on the upside of Votto, Davis, Sandoval or maybe even Loney.

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  2. You can’t just ignore his stolen bases though. He stole 8 last year and has stolen at least 6 every year since 2002. If you pretend his steals were actually homers and added them to that total, he’d be nearly a 30 HR hitter with a good average, and solid RBI/R numbers from the middle of the order. But of course SBs are actually worth more than HRs, so he’s even more valuable than that.

    He might be borderline top 12 amongst 1st basemen, but I think most leagues play with a Corner slot that you could plug him into, and adding in the utility spot as well, I don’t see him anywhere close to replacement level.

    My quick projection shows him as a $9 player in a 12-team mixed league with 14 starting hitters. I don’t see how you could take someone like Pablo Sandoval who, with the exception of possibly average, will be worse in every single category than Lee, and by a wide margin in some categories.

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  3. Brian Joura says:

    Why would we pretend his SB were HR? His SB are already added into his value.

    If you project him as a $9 player, that’s a drop of nearly $9 from what he did last year.

    If that really is his value, then he’ll be competing with a lot more than corner infielders for a roster spot. Cristian Guzman was nearly an $11 player last year.

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  4. Matt says:

    An average of 6 SBs is certainly not gonna get me excited – or reconsider his overall value. Heck, Berkman swiped 18 last season (out of character).

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  5. JWay says:

    In my wOBA based fantasy league setup, Lee ranks 12th. Conor Jackson and Carlos Pena are just behind him. Marcel projects (in my setup) Lee to be the 30th best hitter. 8th best 1b. Interesting, he’s a fun guy to watch, maybe some sleeper potential if he’s healthy.

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    • Larry Yocum says:

      The problem with that is the Marcel projections take into account previous seasons, so those HR stacked years are all accounted for. As Brian pointed out in the article, the hamate bone surgery seems to have taken half his power away and the Marcel projections don’t account for that. This is where man, and common sense displace the computer when it comes to offering up projections.

      The thing that I want to know is why did Lee start so hot last year and then tail off completely? Usually the power returns from a hamate bone injury after a year or so. When he started like gangbusters, most of us thought, well the power is back. But then it went away again.

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  6. Paul says:

    People have been high on Lee since 2005 but if you look at his numbers before that season and after, he really hasn’t been that great of a fantasy 1b. I think he’s going around the 8th round of drafts or so which is way too high. If Todd Helton is healthy, he’ll produce similar numbers and can be had much much later in drafts, and that’s aside from the names mentioned such as Votto, Davis, maybe even James Loney, who have significantly more upside…

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  7. Brian, I pretended his SBs were HRs because it seems like most fantasy owners ignore a player’s SBs if they are below 10.

    Matt, whether you get excited about 6-8 steals or not, it adds to his value. It’s also more valuable than if he hit 6-8 more HRs instead of chipping in those steals, and then he wouldn’t suddenly just be a 20 HR hitter, but a 26-28 HR hitter.

    .290-20-90-90-6 is worth about $9 in a mixed league. Of course, putting an exact dollar value on that stat line isn’t all that accurate, so a range of like $7-$12 is prob a better way of saying it. Whether it’s a drop from last year or not is irrelevant. A value range of $7-$12 means he’s a starter in the league.

    And I would think that James Loney’s upside is basically Lee’s floor this year, so I certainly wouldn’t draft him first.

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    • Paul says:

      I think Lee will outperform Loney but that the two will be fairly close in production at the end of the season and that Loney will fall a few rounds later in the draft.. Given the choice, I’d take Loney a few rounds later assuming lesser production than Lee, with a greater potential for either breakout or just growth which would close the gap between him and Lee. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

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  8. Brian Joura says:

    Mike that line you proposed would have been more valuable last year – probably in the neighborhood of $14. Stephen Drew hit .291-21-67 with 91 runs and 3 SB and RotoTimes gave him a value of $13.29 – Of course we have no firm idea what that would give us in 2009.

    Lee is more valuable than Loney heading into the year but I don’t agree that it’s floor versus upside. I would phrase it as Lee’s 50 percent is probably equal to Loney’s upside.

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    • Larry Yocum says:

      I want to see Loney actually have a power outburst before I forcast it or count on it. So far, his 15 in 2007 look like an outlier from the rest of his numbers (and everyone forgets that he only had ONE in 233 AB’s in the minors that season) and the 13 he his last season may be more in line with the hitter that he actually is.

      He has youth on his side and he did hit a lot of doubles last season at 35, but we have seen lots and lots of these young first basemen with power “upside” that never develop it, so until Loney does, I’m putting him in that class with Kotchman, Conor Jackson, and the Lyle Overbays of the world.

      Give me Lee over them any time (unless Loney actually breaks out). Lee is still more powerful and a quality, consistent hitter.

      Votto on the other hand, I’m clearly putting above Lee at this point and time and likely permanently.

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  9. This topic is quite hot in the net right now. What do you pay attention to when choosing what to write ?

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  10. Frank says:

    Derrek proved everyone wrong last year by hitting 35 homers. I expect about 30 this year which is not bad if you can maintain .300 batting average and drive in 100 which is acceptable for a 3 hitter.

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