Inspired by Chris Cwik’s work this morning discussing some of the biggest busts of this past season, I will take a look at a couple more players mentioned in the first comment of that article. Assuming you did not own any of these busts and endured the heartache they gave their owners, a disappointing season is a welcome phenomenon that drives down the player’s cost in next season’s drafts. Of course, the question then becomes whether the player will rebound, which is precisely what we’ll try to figure out. We will assume the stud in question is owned by another team in a keeper league and you have the opportunity to make an offer for said player.
What went wrong: Ummm, lots. A fractured thumb limited him to just 313 at-bats, and when he played, he wasn’t very good. His ISO was at just .131, BABIP dipped to .317, batting average dropped to .259 and HR/FB ratio fell to 10.4%, all of which were career worsts.
Why you should ask about Choo: To be honest, I am not sure that you necessarily should. Choo is one of those who has a good mixture of pretty good skills, but nothing spectacular. He had relied on a high BABIP to maintain a strong batting average, and even posting a .317 mark, which is still above league average, led to him hitting just .259, which is scary. He’ll steal you some bases, but he’s not particularly fast, and he strikes out at an above average clip. The good news is his LD% remained stable and he hit fewer fly balls, so his career low BABIP was probably undeserved. He’s still only 29, so we really shouldn’t expect any age-related drop-off any time soon. I was never the biggest fan of Choo to begin with, so I would stay cautious, but now does seem like potentially the best chance you you will have to acquire him relatively cheaply.
What went wrong: Injuries, a lack of power and a disappointing batting average. Mauer missed about two months with leg problems, which limited him to just 296 at-bats. After surprising the world with 28 homers in 2009 and a .222 ISO, his power declined for a second straight year, as his ISO actually dipped below .100 for the first time, to a Michael Bourn-esque .081 mark. And last, a BABIP well below his career average resulted in a sub-.290 average for the first time.
Why you should ask about Mauer: There are still fantasy players out there who don’t believe in position scarcity or do not properly adjust values for catchers. This is most positive for the top tier catchers as they see their perceived value drop more than the bottom tier, who are only worth a couple of bucks to begin with. Most people mistakenly believe that Mauer has to hit for power again to justify his perch among the top catchers. This is false. What sets Mauer apart is a batting average that for his career sits at .323 and his playing time. He typically has garnered around 600 plate appearances each season, which is huge for a catcher. That allows him to rack up the runs and RBIs. Unfortunately, he is probably done stealing the odd base here and there, so that will cost him a couple of bucks of value. The injury issues are a real concern, but there is little reason to believe he won’t rebound in the hitting department, as he remains a line drive machine.
What went wrong: After 2010’s power outage, the big question was not if Bay would rebound, but how much would he. Would you believe that his ISO actually dropped this season, to a career worst .128?! How he could have managed to post a measly sub-10% HR/FB ratio these past two seasons is beyond me. And don’t blame the ballpark; he was actually better in the power department at home than on the road the last two years.
Why you should ask about Bay: Speaking of the ballpark, the Mets are moving the fences in. One of those cheers you heard after the announcement was certainly Bay’s. Maybe that will help jump start his power. If not, the good news is that he continues to be willing to swipe the occasional base, as he has now stolen double digits in six of his last seven seasons. His .245 average should rise as his BABIP rebounds closer to his career average, plus a hopefully higher HR/FB ratio will also add some additional hits to his line. You could probably acquire Bay for peanuts, or even as a throw-in, so I still think he is worth the gamble.