In 2012, there were exactly seven qualified players who posted an ISO over .250 and a slugging percentage over .500. They were Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Willingham, Jay Bruce, and Jason Kubel. Yes, Jason Kubel. Granted, of the group, Kubel had the least amount of value by WAR, but this kind of demonstrates the kind of company Kubel’s resurgence kept.
A year later, and Kubel is without a job and as much uncertainty as he’s probably had since he destroyed his left knee in 2005 when he was just a rookie. His 2013 was an unmitigated (unless it was mitigated by Kubel himself) fantasy and real-world disaster. He started the year on fire, hitting .306/.359/.611 with three home runs until he got hurt in mid-April, landing on the DL with a quadriceps injury.
Perhaps he rushed back. He returned on the 28th of April and from that time to May 15th, he hit just .167 in just 30 at-bats and was used as a pinch hitter on four occasions. He spent another short period on the shelf nursing the same quad and for the remainder of his time as a Diamondback, he hit .210/.279/.287 with just two home runs and 23 RBI in over 200 plate appearances. His BABIP was still above .300, so it wasn’t rotten luck, and he was striking out over 35% of the time.
He was designated for assignment in August and the Cleveland Indians picked him up for two weeks in September where he was just generally awful over eight games played, striking out in almost half of his at bats.
Granted, most fantasy managers didn’t draft Jason Kubel to recreate the magic that had him up among some of the big boys on the list above. But they also probably didn’t expect to be drafting a player producing results like he was Pete Kozma hitting left handed.
Heading into the season, Steamer had Kubel pegged for a .255/.331/.455 slash line with 20 HR and enough runs and RBI to be relevant. He was getting drafted for a few bucks in auctions and leaving the board somewhere around the 22nd round in typical snake drafts. So he was maybe a hair more than a flier, but not by much.
And now Kubel is nothing more than waiver wire material.
But I’d say keep an eye on where he lands and what kind of role they have in mind for him. Clearly, if he falls into a platoon role, then meh. But if some budget conscious team decides to throw a starting role at him, he could be an interesting bench stash just in case he wants to re-up with the Devil on that 2012 production. He’s a player with a career .191 ISO, which ain’t half bad. He’s been a major league regular for seven years and he’s had an ISO below .170 just once, and he’s produced four seasons of 20+ home runs.
Something sinister and terrible happened to Kubel in 2013, and I’m sure it’s wrapped up somewhere with being injured, but I suspect there’s more to the story of his collapse than we probably even want to know. I wouldn’t care to wager a first born, or even a born, on a Kubel resurgence, but I’m willing to put it within the realm of possibility. His fall was so precipitous, it’s hard to recall that he was a fairly useful third outfielder in fantasy baseball — even if you completely ignore what he did in 2012. If he finds the right environment, it’s not completely insane to think he could return to being useful, if unspectacular.
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