Martin Prado had a lot of things going for him headed into the 2014 fantasy season. His projections weren’t difficult to accept given a solid, if unspectacular, body of work since 2009. He had position eligibility at second base, third base, and the outfield. And given the dearth of risk, the cost to acquire him was relatively low. And then Martin Prado went out there and tossed up a stinker in March/April, hitting just .263/.317/.342 with no home runs, and demonstrated an uncharacteristic 17% strikeout rate and miserable 20% infield fly ball rate. He even started appearing on the occasional waiver wire.
Most reasonable projection systems had Prado good for a .290/.345/.430 slash line with 12-14 home runs, 80 runs, 70 RBI, and a fist full of steals. By mid-May (May 16) he was hitting just .249/.289/.308, still without a home run, no stolen bases, striking out at a career high 18%, and on pace for just 67 runs and 48 RBI. Yeeks.
Then a funny thing happened. Prado was taken out of the game on May 18 due to his reporting of blurred vision, saying he couldn’t recognize any pitches, and I think a collective “aha!” was heard across the fantasy landscape. The guy can’t even see!
Since that time, however, Prado has been raking. Over his last 17 games and 68 plate appearances, Prado is hitting .350/.426/.550 with two home runs, 13 RBI, 11 runs, and a stolen base. His pace is back to what we’d expect with ZiPS suggesting a .280 batting average with double digit home runs and RBI/Runs in the mid to upper 70′s. What a difference a couple weeks can make. Maybe he had emergency lasik surgery.
What’s more, his success isn’t entirely wrapped up in uncharacteristic luck. His BABIP over the last 17 games is .365, but based on his hit trajectory during that time span, it actually should have been a tick higher. Prado also reduced his strikeout rate under 10%, which started to mirror the Prado with a 10.7% K rate over his career.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this is the start of something big for Prado. Last season, by May 15, Prado was hitting .235/.289/.343 with four home runs but just nine RBI and a single stolen base. From that time period on, Prado hit .300/.349/.445 with ten home runs, 73 RBI, and 50 runs scored. He never did act as much of a threat on the bases, but he was a pretty useful player in a variety of formats. His wOBA over the course of 2013 looked like this:
Prado hasn’t historically be a slow starter, but neither was Aramis Ramirez, and then it turned out he spent the better part of five productive seasons playing possum until July arrived, and it became rather predictable. Prado is 30 this year, so maybe it takes a little extra time to get the bat where it needs to be, who knows. But should you have a need at 2B, 3B, OF, or if you have a comparatively thin roster and you want to prepare for the inevitable injury, Prado is a pretty useful guy to have around and his value might never be lower in 2014. The time seems about right to kick the tires.
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