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How Much Bounce is in Stephen Drew’s Pillow?

Stephen Drew signed with Boston for a year and ten mill, hoping to use that pillow contract to bounce back and get a better long-term deal in the future. For a player that sports an above-average career walk rate and some positive fielding years on his ledger, it’s certainly possible that Drew provides good real-life value but remains a fantasy enigma. After all, there’s a decline in many of his numbers that has nothing to do with his horrific injury at the end of the 2011 season.

For a player that will only turn 30 shortly before next season, it certainly seems like Drew has already hit his decline phase. His isolated slugging percentage peaked in 2008, at .211, and has steadily fallen since. He hasn’t had power that was above league average since 2010, when he hit 15 homers and was a decent back-end fantasy shortstop. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, he’s hit .238 with 12 home runs and a .135 ISO in 681 plate appearances. He’s going to have to bounce back three years to be a valuable fantasy shortstop.

On the other hand, he only had 354 plate appearances before his gruesome injury in 2011, and power takes the longest to stabilize. It’s easy to blame his bad 2012 on that ankle, and it was the same sort of half-season sample (327 PA). If we could show that his early 2011 numbers were better than they appeared, we might have a sense of what a 2013 true-talent Drew might look like.

In 2008, Drew hit his fly balls and home runs an average of 293.7 feet. Among ‘qualified’ leaders in 2012, that would have sat him 34th, right between Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo, amazingly. He held steady in 2009 and 2010 with distances of 290 and 296.7 feet respectively. Before his injury in 2011, that number was already diving — to 282.1 — and it didn’t recover much post-injury (283.8 feet). The batted ball numbers don’t suggest that Drew’s about to enjoy a power renaissance.

But there is the matter of the new park. Generally, you might expect Fenway to be kinder to offense than Chase Field and the O.co Coliseum — and its 105 basic park factor for offense is even with Arizona (106) and much friendlier than Oakland (97) — but Fenway does not allow a ton of home runs to left-handed hitters like Drew. The 92 park factor for lefty home runs in Boston is fifth-stingiest in the game and worse than both of Drew’s former homes. Let’s not give Drew much of a power bounce then.

He’s not one for wheels, at least not any more. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Drew has five steals against six caught stealings, and his best speed scores for his career were only barely above average anyway (6.0 in 2010, 5.0 is average). He hits more fly balls than ground balls (.89 GB/FB career), has an average line drive rate for his career (20.5%), and doesn’t really have wheels — that’s not a recipe for anything better than his career .305 BABIP, which has led to a career .265 batting average. Don’t look there for much of a resurgence either.

From 2009-2010, he had a .270 batting average with 14 homers and seven stolen bases a year, and other than a few more runs courtesy of a strong American League lineup, and a couple fewer stolen bases thanks to father time, that would be a positive outcome for Drew in Boston. Considering how many of Drew’s stats were in decline before he hurt himself, it might be a stretch to ask for anything more than a dead cat bounce from Drew’s fantasy stats in 2013.