Were David Freese's playoff heroics a small-sample-size fluke, or a sign of things to come? (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
It seems like every year, in the playoffs, some random, heretofore mediocre player (or players) rises to the occasion on the big stage and suddenly starts playing like a star. History is littered with Mark Lemkes and Scott Brosiuses (Brosii?), guys who completely tore it up in the postseason after being pretty uninspiring throughout the first 162 games. Since the playoffs are on the largest of stages, there's a natural inclination to think that these players will carry this production into the following season. Yeah, about that...
The problem with the playoffs is that are small sample size shenanigans abound. In a best-of-seven series, even the crummiest hitter can get hot and look like an All-Star (I mean, look at this guy fer cryin' out loud). This doesn't mean they've had a sudden mid-career epiphany, or that they're mad clutch. It's all just random, but unfortunately it happens on national TV so we remember it easily and it can lead us to believe crazy things about their potential value going into the next year's fantasy draft.
A lot of these players aren't necessarily bad, by any means; they're just probably playing way over their heads. Here are five players who had monster postseasons in 2011 who could potentially pose a major danger to any manager come draft day. They made waves on your TV last month, but tread carefully come March.
1. David Freese
Freese is currently the toast of St. Louis after rescuing his team from death's door in Game Six of the World Series with two big hits. Freese slugged a ridiculous .794 with five home runs this postseason and opposing pitchers pretty much found him impossible to get out. This had a lot of talking heads in the media hyping up his potential as a middle-of-the-order rock going forward.
Ah, but here's the catch. Despite his relatively short tenure in the majors, Freese is going to be 29 this coming season. Yes, a 29-year-old with a career .429 slugging percentage in the big leagues. While he could just be a late bloomer, not many players at his age start slugging home runs with impunity. Freese will get a full season's worth of at-bats this year and will probably be a decent enough hitter, with a high average and walks, but temper your expectations for his power if all you're thinking about are his October heroics.
2. Delmon Young
Young wowed us all and placated Yankee-haters everywhere with his home run heroics in October, but all of that shouldn't make us forget that he had a really crappy year overall. Young is a former uberprospect and world champion bat-chucker who is always teasing us with his apparent star potential. However, with five full seasons under his belt and only a .428 slugging percentage to show for it, this is probably the player that Young is. Not a star, or anything close, but a guy you pick up in the very late rounds of the draft in the hopes that he's got another 2010 in him. Don't let his postseason power surge trick you into thinking he's turned over a new leaf.
3. Mike Napoli
Napoli isn't going to be overrated so much just because of the playoffs, but more because of his second half as a whole. He absolutely tore the cover off of the ball after the All-Star break, hitting an astounding .383/.466/.706, and this Ruthian binge carried right on in to the playoffs. He likely would have been World Series MVP if David Freese hadn't decided to stab the Ranger fan base in the heart. If this kind of production is the real deal, Napoli is the best hitter in the majors. Excuse me if I'm not ready to hand him that crown just yet.
Now, don't get me wrong. I freaking love Mike Napoli. Don't believe me? Check out this gushing tribute I wrote for him recently and just try to deny the borderline man-crush that lies within. However, I'm at least a realist enough to know that Napoli's 2011 production probably isn't going to be repeated.
Napoli has always displayed a ton of power, but he'd normally combined that with a low batting average and lots of strikeouts. Before hitting .320 this past year, his career high batting average was .273. Napoli could easily hit 30 bombs again, but he could just as easily hit .220 while doing it. It's likely that Napster's bust-out season was a fluke spurred by his monster second half, and that he'll regress to his career norms. That still amounts to a lot of value at the catcher position, but Napoli's .232/.344/.529 first half line is probably closer to what you should expect instead of his video game numbers from the second half.
4. Allen Craig
Allen Craig can hit. He didn't have to OPS 1.013 in the playoffs for me to tell you that. The only problem is, he's a DH playing in the National League, a classic man without a position. Craig has pinballed all over the diamond throughout his career but has been unable to stick at any position because his glove stinks. This is a problem because he's one heck of a hitter who'd be worth a spot on a fantasy roster with a full season's worth of at-bats. Unfortunately, since he's such a defensive liability, his playing time will be limited, and he's essentially a fantasy afterthought. If the Cards lose Albert Pujols to free agency, they might give Craig a shot at first base, but until he's given a regular job, Craig is only an option in the deepest of leagues.
5. Yuniesky Betancourt
Betancourt is eerily similar to Juan Uribe following the 2010 season. Both are hacktastic shortstops with pop in their bats, both had big home runs in the playoffs, and both entered free agency following the postseason. Uribe's heroics landed him a totally ill-advised three-year deal from the Dodgers; Betancourt's playoff mashing will likely net him a similar contract from some dumb team (probably my Giants).
Don't get fooled yourself. Betancourt is a terrible hitter who might provide you with some power at a depleted shortstop position, but he'll murder you in every other category. If he lands on a team that plays in a hitter-friendly home ballpark, he might put up some superficially decent numbers and be kinda worth it. If he ends up in a pitchers' park like in his days in Seattle, forget it.
Which of these players is most likely to see their postseason production carry over into 2012?
David Freese (53 votes)
Delmon Young (10 votes)
Mike Napoli (63 votes)
Allen Craig (35 votes)
Yuni Betancourt (1 vote)
162 total votes