If you owned Edwin Encarnacion in 2012, you were in "Fantasy Nirvana." You probably drafted him between picks 175 and 200, and you ended up with a top ten player. If you were not lucky enough to have him on your roster, like me, you were left scratching your head wondering where that production came from. Edwin was coming off a 2011 season that saw him hit 17 home runs, drive in 55, and bat .272. If you drafted him expecting 20+ home runs and a .262 batting average, like I had him projected to hit, his stat line of 42 home runs, 110 RBI, 93 runs, 13 steals, and a .280 batting average, came completely out of the blue. (See what I did there?) But a repeat of last year in 2013? I'm not buying it.
Don't get me wrong. The signs of Edwin's potential have flashed over his first seven seasons. Even though only two of his seven seasons consisted of 500+ at-bats, he came into 2012 having hit 117 home runs, and even playing part-time, his power metrics were above league average. Even if you would have projected some "potential" into his 2012 power numbers, I am not sure you would have seen a 42 home run season coming in 2012. Batting average? Edwin has always made good contact, and has exhibited some plate patience in the past, and he was coming off of a .272 season, so .280 was not out of the question. Given all that, if you are optimistic about 2013, that is certainly understandable. The Blue Jays will be even more talented offensively in 2013 than they were in 2012. Jose Bautista should be healthy, Melky Cabrera just signed a two year deal, and, finally, Toronto will add Jose Reyes, among others, from the newest addition to the major league farm system, the Miami Marlins. Mr. Encarnacion will have even more talent around him than 2012, but I do not share your optimism for another 40+ HR, 100+ RBI, and .280 batting average. Excuse me while I get my ear plugs, because last year's stat line screams regression.
For me at least,since everything starts with the batting average, I will begin there. Coming into 2012 Edwin had a .260 average over seven seasons, so .280 was not out of the realm of possibilities, but the underlying numbers do not appear to support that level. Edwin has always been able to maintain a respectable contact rate in the 82% area, but his 13% walk rate in 2012 was a career high, however I think a more reasonable number is about 9%. In addition, his walks/strikeouts were also a career high .89, which was so much higher than the typical mid-.50 area he normally plays in that I believe a batting average closer to the aforementioned .260, is more in order.
Power? Edwin certainly took advantage of his opportunities last year, and his underlying stats show that the power is for real. But, just like some of the batting average metrics, there was a spike in his power that history does not support. I can see Edwin hitting 32 home runs in 2013, but I believe another 40+ season is unrealistic. Even without the Marlin's trade, there will be enough talent around Edwin to produce a healthy dose of runs and RBI, but with the reduced batting average and home run production, I think 90 RBI and 75 runs is more realistic than the numbers fantasy owners enjoyed last season.
Finally, I cannot leave this article without talking about Edwin's injury history. 2012 was only the third season he had over 500 at-bats. He missed 81 games in 2009 with a fractured wrist and knee soreness, and another 48 games in 2010 with a sprained wrist and sprained shoulder. For my money, I need to factor in the possibility that he could miss significant time in 2013, which would reduce the already regressed numbers. That puts him even further down the list on my draft board. Which brings me to the question of where he should be drafted. I want as close to a guarantee as I can get for 25+ home runs from my 1B position on my roster. Even with the regression I expect, Edwin Encarnacion certainly has the potential to give those numbers, on a team that should allow him to get a nice amount of runs and RBI to go with them, and a batting average that will not hurt you. I have a concern about playing time, which drives his value down, for me, on draft day. However, in a fifteen mixed league draft, if I have secured two players with power in the first three rounds, and Encarnacion is available in round four, I may take a chance on another 500+ at-bats in 2013. If I miss, I still have some power in my line up with the other two. If I get those at-bats, I have the potential to dominate the offense in my 5X5 league. More than likely, though, Mr. Encarnacion will be gone in the first two rounds of such a league. Thus, for a player who will likely be drafted as one of the top 1B next year, all of the above adds up to a player I will pass on, in 2013.