I was trading tweets with USA Today fantasy writer Steve Gardner on Sunday morning about a 5 year keeper league draft he was participating in at the Baseball HQ Seminar out in Arizona. The idea behind the league is to draft a team of players, but you have to keep the players for the next five years. Here is how the conversation started:
Fantasy baseball question: Which players would you target if you had to keep them for the next 5 years? #FirstPitchAZ panel is drafting now.— Steve Gardner (@SteveAGardner) November 4, 2012
My initial response was "Trout, Harper." They were the first two names to come to mind while I was writing. Well, here is how the first round of this draft went:
1. Ryan Braun
2. Mike Trout
8. Joey Votto
9. Bryce Harper
10. Starlin Castro
11. Justin Upton
12. Matt Kemp
The Carlos Gonzalez pick was Gardner's, and I told him that I would have taken others before CarGo. I have to say I am shocked that Heyward, Gonzalez, and Votto were taken ahead of Harper, actually. Harper should have been taken in the top 5, and maybe even top 3. Over the next five years, we could see him put up multiple 30 home run, 20+ stolen base seasons. And I may be conservative on both.
Getting back to Carlos Gonzalez, when checking his FanGraphs player page recently, I noticed that his power and stolen base totals have dropped in each of the last two seasons. Here is his HR/R/RBI/SB numbers over the last three seasons:
2010: 34 HRs/ 111 runs/ 117 RBI/ 26 SBs
2011: 26 HRs/ 92 runs/ 92 RBI/ 20 SBs
2012: 22 HRs/ 89 runs/ 85 RBI/ 20 SBs
I think we can all agree that his 2010 season came out of nowhere, and that he would not duplicate that season, but I don't think we saw a two year drop in all of his roto counting stats. He seems to battle nagging injuries every year, and he hasn't played more than 135 games since his breakout 2010 season. Couple that with a bad Rockies lineup, and I wonder if his numbers will continue to slip across the board.
Looking at his batted ball data via FanGraphs, Gonzalez is hitting more and more balls on the ground, and his fly ball rate is dropping as well. Let's take a look:
2010: 42.5% GB/ 36.6% FB
2011: 48.4% GB/ 33.6% FB
2012: 48.9% GB/ 29.5% FB
The fact that he isn't hitting fly balls in the best hitter's park in baseball has to be concerning for fantasy owners. Hitting more ground balls is good if you have speed, but the Rockies and fantasy owners are not looking for infield hits from CarGo. They are looking for more line drives, and fly balls landing in the bleachers. They are looking for a return to something close to his 2010 season, not a sustained drop in his performance at the plate.
According to FanGraph's plate discipline data, Gonzalez is swinging at less balls inside and outside the zone, but his whiff rate has increased in each of the last three seasons. In addition to swinging at less pitches, he is making less contact:
2010: 60.2% outside zone contact, 88.7% zone contact, 77.6% contact
2011: 59.1% O%, 88.6% Z%, 76.1% contact
2012: 55.1% O%, 87% Z%, 73% contact
The trend in contact rates is not a good one, so there is a small chance we see his batting average dip as a result.
Gonzalez was shut down with a hamstring injury at the end of the season, so we could see his stolen base totals drop again in 2013, as the Rockies new manager will more likely limit how often he runs to keep him healthy and in the lineup. Once a player suffers a hamstring injury, he is prone to more hamstring injuries.
Does CarGo's negative trend in counting stats worry you? Will he be overvalued on draft day? I think his 2010 season is carrying him, but he could disappoint in 2013. Thoughts?