In terms of Yahoo! ranks, Martin Prado has been the seventh most valuable fantasy third baseman, one behind Adrian Beltre and one ahead of David Freese. Despite having just two home runs, Prado has seen a big bounce back from his poor and injury riddled 2011 season, and should be able to sustain solid numbers close to his career averages for the remainder of the season.
In comparing Prado’s .307/.350/.459 All-Star season in 2010 to his current .314/.384/.450 mark this year, the first thing that is noticed is an improved command of the strike zone. In seeing a near identical amount of pitchers per plate appearance (3.94 in ’10 to 3.98 in ’12), Prado has turned his walk-to-strikeout ratio from 0.47 to 0.88. The big improvement in both his walk and strikeout rates points to his performance being sustainable, which is obviously a good sign for any current or prospective owner.
While his BABIP seems high at .341, Prado’s hit tool is comparable with many of the top hitters in the game. Since his 503 PA season in 2009, Prado has a BABIP of .331, .335, .266, .341. The more you look at his poor season last year, the more it looks like an aberration, and has once again made Prado an underrated fantasy player.
Hurting Prado’s value is his loss of 2B eligibility, which is unfortunate. The Braves are basically unwilling to play him at second at all, with Dan Uggla seeing more-or-less every start at the position and Prado not even seeing an inning at the position since 2010. Even so, having outfield and third base eligibility is a plus.
One dimension of Prado’s game that has gone unnoticed is his stolen base ability. The Braves seem to be running more so than in recent memory, with Jason Heyward and Prado already matching their stolen base total of last season. Prado is four for five in stolen base attempts, and is just one off his career high of five. He will never be a speed demon, and he is actually rather ineffective at stealing bases, with a career SB/CS ratio of 17-16 and an awful 4-8 mark last year. Even so, most leagues count for just stolen bases, and if the Braves are willing to run him consistently, he could nab 15 or so bases — he is currently on pace for 17. Along with 10-15 home runs and the potential for 100 runs near the top of a potent Braves lineup, Prado could become a four-category performer.
While he will never be a leader at the position in any single category, being able to perform in several areas is a plus quality for a relatively weak and currently injury-saddled position. If Prado can sustain his high quality walk-to-strikeout rate along with the occasional stolen base and home run, he should be a valuable player for the remainder of the season.