The guys in this fourth tier are the last ones that are both a) going to be younger than 35 next season and b) established talents in the league. The rest of the crew — we’ll have a “best of the rest” tier — will be old or unproven. Sure, lots of these tier four guys are coming off of bad seasons, but they all have track records that suggest that 2012 will be better. And they all look like players that could be useful in 2013, too. Probably.
This ranking might be the most controversial. And I’ll admit that if this was a ranking for 2012 alone, he’d probably be up a tier. But this is a keeper ranking. Ideally, you want to have a keeper that is in the prime of his career. For example, I’ve been trying to sell Alfonso Soriano in an 18-team 20-keeper league for two years now. He’s not dead yet, but he’s got no value. You have to get ahead of the aging curve and trade a guy before people think he’s old in dynasty and keeper leagues.
And this is your last chance to trade Matt Holliday like the top-end talent some think he still is. Sure, he still has the skills to hit .300, but you want power and speed with your batting average if you’re talking about an elite fantasy player. And Holliday’s speed is kaput. He was never a prodigious pilferer — he’s only stolen more than 15 bases once in his career — but he dropped all the way down to two stolen bases last year. His four-component speed score declined for a third straight year, too, and at 2.7 is well below average. His legs are suddenly a liability.
Injuries are part of the picture, but the trend is hard to discern. The 31-year-old outfielder only hit the DL once last year for his right quad strain, but he missed 36 games due to various finger, back, thigh and appendix issues. In 2010, he missed one game to a groin strain. 2009 was also a healthy year. But 2008 saw him miss 20 games with back and quad issues. Watch him play, though, and you’ll see that the athleticism that his game is built upon is slipping away. He may still be cut and chiseled, but the parts aren’t moving the same way. Something doesn’t look right.
All that means in the end is that you have at three-year decline in all the speed stats: stolen bases, triples, speed score, infield hit percentage… and those drops will eventually drag on his batting average, which is also in a four-year decline. Add in home-run power that’s good but not great (only 16.2% HR/FB career), and you get a guy that, if he’s entirely “healthy” next year, should hit about .290 with 25 home runs. That doesn’t beat a 50-stolen-base speedster like Bourn, or a young masher like Bruce or Stanton. Even Pence should add stolen bases to an otherwise similar line.
And then you have to ask yourself: How healthy do I think he will be?
Victorino is only ten months younger than Matt Holliday, and yet his statistics seem to suggest a different trajectory for his fantasy value. His speed score, for one, has remained above seven for five straight years — and hit a peak (7.8) in 2011. His raw stolen base total (19) was not great, but his success rate has always been elite (86% last year, 81% career). He hit a career-high in 16 triples last year.
Injuries? Yeah, Victorino is showing a trend towards more missed time… kind of. he missed 30 games due to injury in 2007, 15 in 2008, seven in 2009, 13 in 2010, and 28 last year. And yes, one of his DL trips last year was for a thigh strain. But Victorino still has his power and his speed, and even after missing time last year was worth $14 to Holliday’s $12.
And that power is actually growing with age, as it usually does. Watch his ISOs progress from his rookie year: .128, .143, .154, .153, .170, .212. That’s a pretty clear progression, and it follows a move from hitting more ground balls to hitting more fly balls (1.25 career GB/FB, 1.01 in 2011). This might mean that his batting average won’t be great every year, but he hit his career mark in that category last year (.279) and he can do that again.
Victorino turns 31 this month, but put him up against Holliday and his peripherals are prettier.
We’ll cover the rest of the tier on Wednesday.
All 2010 auction values come from Zach Sanders’ new and improved auction value tool.
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