Of course Nick Swisher thinks Cleveland rocks. He just signed a four-year, $56M contract that has a fifth year vesting option that could push the total to $70M. Who wouldn’t think Cleveland rocked for that kind of dough? But obviously the real question is how Swisher will play in Cleveland and what does the move do to his fantasy value. Leaving the friendly confines and short-porch in right of Yankee Stadium doesn’t sound like a positive move, particularly when 19 of your 24 home runs comes from the left side of the plate, but in looking at his overall numbers through the years, he should be the same ol’ Swish this year.
Consistency has been a great word to describe the switch-hitting Swisher’s numbers since that 2006 season when he hit a career-best 35 home runs as a member of the Oakland A’s. Sure, there have been fluctuations in power, walks and strikeouts, but overall, the numbers have all stayed within a fairly limited range. FanGraph’s Jeff Sullivan did a real nice breakdown of his splits to show that as a lefty against right-handers, he hits for significantly more power but has almost twice the strikeouts as he does walks. As a right-handed batter against lefties, he walks slightly more than he whiffs and hits for a higher average. And from both sides of the plate, his on-base skills are first-rate. Sullivan also went on to show that Swisher is a strong pull hitter no matter which side he hits from and given the dimensions of Progressive Field, his power from the left side should remain unaltered.
So given that bundle of information, it’s hard to imagine that Swisher’s totals will deviate much. Sure, there might be some added pressure if the Tribe really does bat him cleanup, but with on-base specialist Carlos Santana offering quality protection in the lineup, he should be just fine. Fantasy owners should be able to rely on close to 25 home runs with a .260-ish average. If the table-setters do their job, he could see an increase in RBI and if the hitters behind him do their’s his runs scored total should fall in with his career averages.
But what I also like about Swisher’s move to Cleveland is the effect he has on his teammates. While a stodgy Jorge Posada might differ, Swisher’s levity and, for lack of a better way to put it, youthful exuberance, does tremendous things in a clubhouse. He helps keep some of the veterans loose while he helps teach the younger players that it’s okay to be yourself and to have a good time while playing the game. As a fan of Santana, Jason Kipnis and Drew Stubbs, I have a sneaking suspicion that the addition of Swisher to this group will help relax these guys which could, in turn, help elevate their game. Obviously there’s no guarantee and little empirical evidence to back the theory, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of conjecture.
So overall, I think the move is a good one and Swisher should be treated the same in drafts as he’s been over the last few years. The position eligibility at both first base and the outfield is helpful and the expected statistics are solid. Bill James’ projections probably didn’t account for a move to Cleveland, but I don’t see much change coming. Draft with confidence.