The Kansas City Royals and GM Dayton Moore ostensibly filled a hole this past week, picking up slugging first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Florida Marlins in exchange for string-bean righty Leo Nunez. I suppose that when your everyday first baseman has been Ross Gload (-1.27 WPA/LI), just about anyone starts looking like an attractive alternative. And, superficially, Jacobs looks like quite an upgrade. 32 home runs…93 RBI..what’s not too like? Well, quite a bit, when you get right down to it. Here are some of the reasons to avoid Mike Jacobs on draft day:
He’s allergic to walks: Here are Jacobs’ OBP’s in his three years as a regular: .325, .319, .299. A sub-.300 OBP is terrible for anyone, but it’s downright criminal from a first baseman whose entire value is derived from his bat. Already 28, Jacobs’ discipline does not figure to improve much. In fact, he’s actually becoming more of a hacker as he ages. Here are his outside swing percentages (O-Swing%) over the past three seasons:
While some guys with a high-contact skill set can get away with chasing bad balls (think Vladimir Guerrero), Jacobs is not one of those players. Which brings us to our second point..
Increasing K rate, lowering contact rate: Jacob’s strikeout rates from ’06 to ’08: 22.4%, 23.7%, 24.9%. His contact rate is also on a three-year decline:
That 2008 contact number rates as the 10th-worst in the majors among qualified batters. While many of the players toward the bottom of that list have been productive (for example, Adam Dunn and Jack Cust), Jacobs does not have the walk rate to make up for the low batting average like Dunn and Cust do.
He needs to be platooned: While Jacobs has at least managed a decent .269/.329/.521 line versus righties, he has had all sorts of issues with lefties. Southpaws have silenced him to the tune of .235/.275/.414 in his career. How many fantasy teams can afford a platoon first baseman?
While Jacobs may seem like an upgrade for the Royals at first glance, he has plenty of blemishes in his game that put a significant dent in his value. Add in the fact that Jacobs is due for a pay hike through arbitration, and this deal looks downright odd for Kansas City.
Perhaps the biggest loser in this deal is fellow Royals first baseman Kila Kaaihue. The lefty batter clubbed 37 home runs and drew 104 walks between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha in 2008, but his role now figures to be minimal. Which I guess begs the question, did they really need to go outside of the organization to find Gload’s replacement?
Mike Jacobs: walk-averse, strikeout-prone, and helpless versus left-handers. Don’t be like Dayton: avoid Mike Jacobs on draft day (I’m David Golebiewski, and I approve this message).
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