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Can Juan Uribe Keep it Up?

In 2004, Juan Uribe posted a 108 wRC+ as a 24-year old. He had position eligibility at 2B, 3B and SS and was one of the most exciting middle infielders in fantasy baseball. Flash forward to 2010 and Uribe has a 107 wRC+ and position eligibility at the same three infield slots. But despite this strong play, Uribe is almost an afterthought in fantasy circles.

After the 2004 season, in which he batted .283 and hit 23 HR, Uribe declined in subsequent years. While the power remained strong, he saw his AVG drop to where he hit .235 and .234 in back-to-back seasons. After an injury-plagued 2008 season, which also saw Alexei Ramirez cut into his playing time, Uribe left the White Sox and signed with the Giants as a minor league free agent.

Uribe bounced back in a big way in 2009, posting a .289 AVG while rebounding from 7 HR in 2008 to 16 HR. This year the AVG has fallen off, currently .261, but he has nearly matched last year’s HR output with 15 HR in 380 ABs.

Last Player Picked has Uribe’s season worth $11. Among second baseman in mixed leagues he is tied for the 10th-best dollar value and among shortstops he ranks tied for sixth. All of this comes from a player who Couch Managers had with an ADP of 256.

For fantasy players, the key question is: Can Uribe keep it up, whatever “it” may be? In his breakout season of 2004, Uribe posted a .307 BABIP, certainly not a mark to turn anyone’s head. But from 2005 through 2008, Uribe had marks of .264, .240, .259 and .287 in the category, helping to explain the sub-par AVG. Last year he had his best season, with a BABIP of .325, and this year he checks in with a .274 mark.

If we look at his batted ball profile, we see Uribe has dramatically increased his GB%. In his last year with the White Sox, Uribe had a 34.4 GB%, a career-low, but basically in line with what he had done previously. Last year he had a 39.5 GB% and so far this year it is 43.5 percent. While Uribe is hitting fewer fly balls, he is compensating with a higher HR/FB rate. Last year he set a career-high with a 12.6 percent rate and this year Uribe has a 13.2 mark.

But while Uribe is poised to post career-best HR/FB rates in back-to-back years, it was not significantly better than his career marks. Lifetime he has a 10.1 HR/FB rate and he topped 12 percent in two seasons prior to 2009.

One other statistic of note is how well Uribe has hit in San Francisco. In his time with the Giants, Uribe has a .326 AVG in 344 ABs at home compared to a .233 AVG in 395 ABs on the road. Additionally, he has 18 HR at home compared to 13 in road parks.

Uribe is a free agent following the 2010 season. The Giants already have 2B Freddy Sanchez under contract for 2011 and hold a club option on SS Edgar Renteria. UZR shows Uribe as a good fielder at 2B in his two years with the Giants, but below average at SS.

Regardless of where he signs, Uribe should still be a good power option in the middle infield for 2011. But fantasy owners may be disappointed with his AVG, especially if he leaves San Francisco. While it is normal for BABIP and AVG to fluctuate wildly year to year compared to other fantasy stats, Uribe’s career marks in those categories do not show someone to count on to be a plus performer.

Still, even with just a fair mark in AVG, Uribe should be a valuable fantasy player due to his power, as MI who can hit 20 HR do not grow on trees. In 2009, only 14 players with MI eligibility hit 20 HR. Updated ZiPS projects Uribe to finish with 20 HR in 2010.