Plug and Play: Raul Ibanez

When news broke that 39 year old, lefty slugger Raul Ibanez was signing with the Yankees, his ADP took a significant jump.  In fact, he jumped nearly 35 picks (3 rounds in a 12-team league), going from 21st round bench help to 18th round possible fifth or sixth outfielder.  But while there still may be something left in the tank, Ibanez won’t be an everyday player.  He might make for an acceptable option in deep AL-only leagues but for mixed leagues, he’ll better serve you on the “plug and play” level.

Without totally trashing the guy, it must be noted that the days of Ibanez being a consistent and reliable power threat are coming to a close.  First off, his at bats are going to vastly decrease this season as he becomes the left-handed half of the Yankees DH platoon with Andruw Jones.  Yes, Ibanez will find his way into a starting outfield job every once in a while, but the days of 500 at bats are over.

Secondly, you can’t deny the declining skills.  Last year, his K% climbed up to 18.4%, and while his was over 21% just two seasons ago, this one came without the big power increase.  That year he smacked 34 home runs as opposed to the 20 he eked out last season.  But more telling was that he was up there hacking away as evidenced by the near 8% increase in his swing rate and the 10% swinging strike rate.  And not only that, but he was hacking at bad pitches — his O-Swing% was up to 32.2% from 23.9% the year before.  Not that we are privy to Ibanez’ innermost thoughts, but it’s obvious that he too is noticing the decline and that it is harder for him to catch up to pitches these days.  He’s trying to do too much.

But again, he is still going to have value when the Yankees have him in the lineup against right-handed pitching.  If you look at his career splits, he’s got a 9.5% walk rate, just a 13.8% strikeout rate and a .363 wOBA to go with his career .291 average.  Not to mention his mark of one home run every 23 at bats versus righties.    Play the matchups well enough and you might be able to squeeze out 15 home runs if he can grab 350 at bats this season.  Yankee Stadium plays well for left-handed power and even with a declining skill set, Ibanez should be able to clear that short porch in right field.

Be mindful of his ADP trending upwards though.  Don’t get suckered in and reach too high.  While joining the Yankees and being a part of that lineup in that home park can be plenty alluring, you’re not going to see some sort of renaissance to the Ibanez of old.  Reaching 15 home runs will be a challenge enough, let alone hoping for him to reach the 20-HR barrier.  No, this is more about squeezing those last few drops out of the bottle when you’re dying of thirst.



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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com


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