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Drew Stubbs and the Strikeouts

A great band name?  Definitely.  Especially if you’ve got a series of gigs in downtown Cincinnati.  But we’re going to stick to fantasy baseball here and talk about the fact that Drew Stubbs’ league leading 205 strikeouts (yes, that’s right, he struck out more than Mark Reynolds) may just help you land what could be one of 2012’s most valuable fantasy assets.  Sure, his 15 home runs and 40 stolen bases will keep him on most people’s radar, but the .243 average, those strikeouts, and the overall decline from 2010’s breakout season should help keep the price down and allow you to grab him at a more bargain cost.

We all saw what happened to Alex Gordon — great talent, serious hype, and after two solid seasons, injuries, demotions and a position switch, Gordon fell off the proverbial map.  For two seasons he languished amongst the cast-offs and the waiver fodder and ultimately found himself classified as one of the many who failed to live up to the hype.  With the benefit of a BABIP increase to a level somewhere between his minor league and 2007-8 totals and a reduced strikeout rate, Gordon found his stroke and had himself quite the renaissance season.  And the best part was, that because of his “bust” label, those that landed him this season did for a song.

Now Stubbs doesn’t have the same “bust” label as Gordon had just yet.  His power and speed combo, even in a down season, give him solid value and again, 40 stolen bases from an outfielder with double digit home runs is big.  But for those that are looking at statistical trends and debating whether or not Stubbs can continue to provide acceptable production, his steadily climbing K% and subsequent batting average drop could be enough of a red flag to keep the interest in him low.

Stubbs then, and consequently you as a fantasy owner, are at a bit of a crossroads, so to speak.  One path leads to a reduced K%, statistical booms and fantasy gold while the other leads to further decline, a wasted draft choice (or auction dollars), and fantasy angst.  Ultimately, that chosen path will be decided on whether or not Stubbs works on his plate discipline and cuts down on the strikeouts.  He already hits for a high BABIP, so if he can just reduce the strikeouts and lower that 11.5 SwStr%, then you would have to assume an increase in Contact% and more balls in play.  Surely some of those will land for hits and help increase the woeful batting average we’ve seen, no?  Couple that with an increased LD%, which we actually saw this year, and maybe we’re seeing a consistent .270 hitter that smacks 25 HR a year with 30-40 SB.  You would have to be a fool to pass up on the opportunity to draft a guy like that for a bargain price.

Of course, then there’s the alternative — Stubbs continues to strike out a ton, his production continues to dwindle and he becomes more of a liability for your fantasy team than anything else.  He goes the way of so many others who look great out of the gate and then disappear just as quickly.  Definitely not the more glamorous path.

He’s one to mark down for next season and come the spring, watch his at bats very closely.  If you see improvement early, then start talking up his increased K% and declining numbers.  Keep your competition as down on him as you can.  If he can lower his K% to even just the 22-23% range, his upswing could be huge and you’ll have yourself some outstanding value at a reduced rate.