Waiver Wire Offseason: AL

Asdrubal Cabrera | Cleveland | SS (+2B)
2009 Final Stats: .308/.361/.438

If the Indians hadn’t spent the first two months digging their graves, and the rest of the season lying in them, Asdrubal Cabrera‘s first full season would have gotten more attention, as he ramped up his all-around offensive game significantly while making an in-season position shift from second base to shortstop. He reversed his bias toward hitting LHP, hitting .311/.364/.456 while batting lefty. He showed great basestealing skills, going 17-for-21, easily the best he’d done at any level besides his 2007 in Double-A (23-for-30 in 425 PA). He mashed 42 doubles and four triples to go with his six homers. Overall, he had the seventh-best wOBA among MLB shortstops in 2009!

Asdrubal Against Minnesota (Icon/SMI)

It may be for the best that Asdrubal is getting out of the danger zone that is second base. He wrestled with knee, hamstring, and elbow issues in 2009, and had minor surgery to clean out his elbow after the season. Reducing the plays on which runners are trying to do him harm has to be to his advantage. And he has plenty of range and arm to play shortstop, by all indications. In just over 1,000 innings played at shortstop, his UZR is below average, but MLB average for a shortstop is very rangy, and the Indians have every reason to believe that he will improve his defensive statistics with a steady position, as opposed to changing back and forth between the two middle infield spots. Besides, he has the luxury of following Peralta, who has very limited range at shortstop, so the bar will be set pretty low at first.

2010 will see Cabrera’s BABIP decline from the unreasonably high perch at .360, but his seasonal age will be just 24 years old, and some maturation can be expected. He wouldn’t really help his game by trying to hit more homers, but expect at least a handful of that copious batch of 2009 doubles to turn into homers in 2010. In what should be a quietly potent lineup, he should have ample run production, regardless of his lineup slot, which is currently slated to be No. 2 again.

The Emperor Awaits his
AL East foes… (Icon/SMI)

Kevin Youkilis | Boston | 3B/1B
2009 Final Stats: .305/.413/.548

In Sabermetric scoring systems or sim games, Kevin Youkilis really shines. He’s been seventh in WAR in the AL each of the past two years, and—despite playing a position where offense is plentiful—is just a notch behind the top dogs like Mauer, A-Rod, Longoria. Without stealing bases, hitting homers, or racking up 650 AB (in addition to nagging injuries such as back spasms limiting him to around 600 PA, his walks drag down the AB total—and the value of his batting average—somewhat), he’s not going to excel in many 5×5 categories, though runs and RBI should continue to be ultra-strong, totaling near the 200 mark. And being 3B-qualified really amps up his relative value for 2010. While there’s always a nagging fear that he’s playing over his head (he slugged just .439 in his lengthy minor-league career and .453 was his high before 2008), he’s not really a huge HR guy even slugging .550, so his value wouldn’t drop too much if his slugging fell below .500. CHONE projects him at .473, and the Fans at .532, we’ll split the difference and suggest he’ll check in around .500. Don’t pay for his 2009 levels, but don’t fear much of a decline, either.

Nick Markakis | Baltimore | OF
2009 Final Stats: .293/.347/.453

The helium seems to have drained out of the fast-rising Markakis baloon in 2009. Strat-O-Matic players may not have noticed, since he still womped RHP (.312/.376/.504) and got his “1” (the best) range rating on defense. But his +/- and UZR fielding metrics collapsed (-5.8 fielding runs on Fangraphs), and his overall batting line represented a sharp decline from his stellar 2008 season, which, in turn, was a step up from a very good 2007 campaign. So, what’s to come in 2010? Is he on the Ben Grieve Death Spiral? Is the .262/.305/.376 batting line against LHP a sign of future platoondom? Will he remain anchored at first base after swiping 18 bags in 2007?

In one of those ultra-imprecise judge-from-a-distance verdicts, our short answers to the above are that we think Markakis will be just fine as a hitter because he was mostly just fatigued in 2009 … with a few caveats. His fade at the end of the season came after a long (bad) season for the O’s, and he was at .306/.358/.481 on August 29. Facing the tough pitching of the top AL East teams down the stretch didn’t help, but even the Indians got him out in September. As for his speed and fielding, we don’t have any good reason to expect those to return to form. The bunting he’s been working on—as noted by Heater e-Magazine Orioles expert Brian Joseph (though it didn’t make the cut for this week’s edition)—isn’t likely to help his value any, either in real life or in fantasy leagues. Player statistics show variance, and Markakis’ 2008 was buoyed by a .350 BABIP, and his .317 BABIP in 2009 was probably lower than expected, assuming he’s retained some of his once-good speed. So, entering his age-26 season, coming off a “down” year, we can certainly expect some rebound … just don’t expect him to vault right back up to the curve he’d been on pre-2009.

Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. Acta Sports is currently SOLD OUT. Until they publish more, the book can be ordered through major booksellers.

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