Ordinarily, I like to focus on prospects, or at least relatively young major-leaguers. However, Eno recently suggested that everyone take a look at the RotoGraphs Consensus Rankings to find players we think are underrated/overrated, and I was surprised to see how low our experts have Shane Victorino in the outfield rankings, way down at No. 52, in between Chris Carter and Ben Revere.
Last year, despite playing in just 122 games, Victorino finished the season as the No. 21 outfielder in standard formats, between Mark Trumbo and Allen Craig. He put up a .294/.351/.451 slash line while hitting 15 homers and stealing 21 bases, and his weighted offense was 19% higher than league average. So why do our experts have him ranked so low?
To be fair, I understand why Victorino is ranked where he is, I just happen to disagree. Let’s run down the negatives that likely contributed to Victorino falling out of our top 50 outfielders:
- His plate discipline suffered last year, as his 4.7% walk rate and 14.1% strikeout rate were both career-worsts.
- The .294 batting average was inflated by a career-high .321 batting average on balls in play.
- He missed time with back and hamstring injuries in 2013, and the back injury lingered through the playoffs and into the offseason.
- He’s 33 years old.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian has yet to appear in a spring training game for the Red Sox, as he has focused on strengthening his core to avoid the lingering back problems he dealt with last year, but he is working out in full and taking batting practice, so I’d expect to see him on the field very soon. Still, if you’re drafting today, you’re likely a bit wary of a guy who hasn’t taken the field in a game thus far.
As I said previously, these are all completely valid reasons for knocking Victorino down the draft board, but I think he fell too far. There’s certainly nothing all that sexy about Victorino as a fantasy option, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a highly valuable player.
The fact that he forgot how to take a walk last year is troubling, but it could be a fluke (his BB% was at least 8.0% in each of his previous four seasons) and it doesn’t really matter all that much if you’re not in an on-base percentage league. Additionally, his career-high 14.1% strikeout rate from 2013 still isn’t nearly high enough to raise concerns about his ability to sustainably hit for a decent average.
Speaking of his batting average, even if you factor in some regression from his .321 BABIP last year to something closer to his career mark of .299, he should still be fully capable of posting an average right around .275. Furthermore, Victorino is a very reliable power-speed combo guy. Over the last seven seasons, he has averaged just under 14 home runs and just over 30 stolen bases per year. In that stretch, he has never hit fewer than 10 homers or swiped fewer than 19 bases.
While he is a few years on the wrong side of 30, Victorino is coming off a 2013 season in which he set a career-high with his .294 AVG. One year prior, he stole 39 bases, also a career-high. It seems pretty clear to me that he still has plenty of gas in the tank, and I see him as a great value pick for 2014.
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