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Garrett Atkins and Position Splits

Posted By Brian Joura On January 22, 2009 @ 11:09 am In Third Base | 13 Comments

Garrett Atkins drew plenty of interest in the off-season from major league teams. The Phillies, Twins, Rays and Angels have all been linked to Atkins since the end of the 2008 season. But fantasy owners are not showing quite the same interest. Many people view the hot corner as a weak position, yet the third baseman for the Rockies has an ADP in the mid 70s, meaning he’s not going on average until the seventh round.

Atkins put up a .286-21-99-86-1 line last year. These were declines across the board from his standout 2006 season, when he was a top-20 hitter and had a $31 fantasy value. His current ADP values him right around the numbers he put up last year, meaning that fantasy players are not counting on much of a bounce-back season from the 29-year old. This pretty much matches the three projection systems, which show a bump in average but have the rest of Atkins’ numbers maintaining 2008 levels.

Is there any reason to think Atkins can improve upon his 2008 output?

His BABIP for road games last year was just .251, which led to a .233 average away from Coors Field. It is reasonable to think he will improve upon this and add some batting average to his line. But Atkins had good power numbers away from home, hitting 12 of his 21 home runs in road parks. So, even with a more normal BABIP, he’s not likely to add much in the power department.

The other thing that jumps out is Atkins’ split by position. Last year he split time between his normal 3B spot and he also saw considerable time at 1B, filling in for the injured Todd Helton. Here are his splits by position:

3B: .307/.338/.485 in 396 PA
1B: .258/.316/.407 in 263 PA

Prior to 2008, Atkins had appeared in just 10 games at first base. Helton had back surgery at the end of September and his status for the start of the season is up in the air. But the Rockies might let Joe Koshansky fill in for Helton this year after his big season at Triple-A, where he went .300-31-121 in 457 at-bats.

The average fan thinks anyone can play first base and not have it affect their offensive numbers. But players from Mickey Mantle to Mike Piazza have found out otherwise. Perhaps Atkins’ position split last year was nothing more than a fluke. But perhaps it wasn’t.

We all want to draft undervalued players. We search for sleepers and reach for them during the draft, hoping they can match our expectations. But with Atkins, we have a player who is being valued at what he did in 2008. Unlike with our favorite sleeper, we know what Atkins is capable of at the major league level – we saw it three years ago in 2006.

If you pick at the top of your draft and don’t end up with Alex Rodriguez or David Wright, it makes sense to target Atkins either at the end of the sixth round or beginning of the seventh. This is in line with what he did last year and if he just duplicates what he did in 2008 you are in okay shape. Yet you still have the upside potential of a healthy player not far removed from a $31 season.

That seems like a better idea than reaching for Pablo Sandoval in the 15th round.


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