If you do a couple of things really well, people will trip all over themselves to praise you but if you do everything well and nothing spectacular, people will underrate you. Let’s take a quick look at Ryan Howard and Carlos Beltran. Howard gives you HRs and RBIs and people drool over those numbers. There have been 2009 mock drafts with Howard going in the first round despite being the 18th-best fantasy hitter in 2008.
Meanwhile, Beltran contributes in five categories but is no threat to finish in the top three in any of them. He’s a late second round pick in the same mocks, even though he was the 10th-best fantasy hitter last year, according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. And it’s easy to see why. In 2004, he nearly went 40-40, missing by two home runs. Last year Beltran went 27-25 and simply did not have the sexy numbers.
The decline in steals is not a great shock, as Beltran is in his early 30s now. But what happened to the power? How does a guy who hit 41 home runs in 2006 manage just 27 in 2008, despite nearly 100 more at-bats (606-510)? Let’s look at this graphically.
As the preceding graph shows, Beltran has undergone a steep decline in his FB% (the blue line) in the past few years. Also, his HR/FB rate has dropped noticeably, too. However, his FB% is not out of line with what he’s done previously. A 13 percent drop in two years seems extreme, but Beltran’s 2008 rate fits in perfectly with his marks from 2002 and 2003.
Beltran’s BABIP, SLG and ISO were all within just a few points of his lifetime marks in 2008. And just to reiterate a point made earlier, Beltran was the 10th-best fantasy hitter last year. It is counter-productive to obsess about his declining power when Beltran is simply one of the safest and most reliable fantasy hitters available.
In 2006, Beltran was the 13th-best fantasy hitter. Then in 2007 he ranked 18th. If you are drafting in the middle of the second round and Beltran is available, it would be a mistake to bypass him. He is very durable, his established rate of production puts him at the top of the second round and there is always the slight chance he returns to 40-homer levels and exceeds expectations.