Fresh off a new deal with the New York Mets, David Wright headlines the National League's top tier of third basemen.
David Wright just signed what amounts to be an eight-year contract extension worth a total of $138 million, making him the most expensive player in New York Mets history. (Because it was totally necessary to beat Johan Santana's $137.5 million commitment with the team.) Wright became the highest paid Met on the heels of his second best season, according to FanGraphs WAR, and now sits atop the hot corner throne in the National League.
In our consensus rankings released today, Wright comes in as the NL's top ranked third base option for 2013 -- at No. 4 overall -- trailing the AL's Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria. Wright was more well-rounded than spectacular in 2012, hitting a solid .306/.391/.492 in 670 plate appearances with 21 home runs, 91 runs, 93 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He didn't lead third basemen in any major offensive category, but he didn't fall outside the top eight in any, either.
Despite the bounce back season (he hit .254/.345/.427 in an injury-shortened 2011), Wright owners are left wondering what's in store for 2013, as the franchise cornerstone saw his power come back up after hitting a disappointing 14 homers in 2011 -- still far away from his 33 homer peak in 2008. In his first four full seasons, Wright averaged 29 home runs. In his last four: 18. If you split the difference, you're looking at about 23 home runs per season, which still seems like a low number for Wright. But is that what you should expect from him going forward?
In 2012, Wright's strikeout rate and walk rate -- at 16.7 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively -- mimicked his rates from when he was hitting 30-plus home runs back in 2007 and 2008, which is good. But it didn't translate into more home runs, which is bad. His HR/FB rate was barely up from 2011, at 12.5 percent, and, during his power days, it was regularly in the mid 16s. One possible cause for Wright's low HR/FB rate is an increase in O-Contact% (contact made on balls outside of the strike zone), which was a career high 71.6 percent in 2012. (History tells us home runs are less likely on balls hit outside the strike zone.) On top of that, his fly ball rate went down and his ground ball rate went up for the second straight year.
A further problem -- one that obviously didn't scare the Mets from signing Wright long term -- was drastic first half and second half splits in 2012. Prior to the All-Star break, Wright hit .351/.441/.563. After the All-Star break, he declined to a .258/.334/.416 line. Looking closer, Wright's slugging percentage declined each month until reaching a season low of .359 in August (then slightly recovering in September). This was accompanied by a big boost in strikeouts (low of 9 percent in June; high of 24.3 in July), and a slip in the walk rate (high of 18 percent in April; low of 6.1 in Sept.). So while Wright's overall strikeout and walk rates improved from 2011 to 2012, there were concerning trends as the season progressed.
What Wright might not give you in home runs, he makes up in speed. Like his home run totals, his stolen base numbers have been a mystery of sorts, ranging from 34 in 2007 to 13 in 2011. His days of 20 steals are probably gone (although not entirely impossible), but challenging 15 is again likely. And at third base, stolen bases are a rare commodity.
After his big pay day, Wright is going to be slightly overvalued on draft day, in my opinion, but he remains one of the premiere third basemen to target in the second or (ideally) third round. He could push for 100 RBI, but I don't see the home runs climbing past 25. Because he is so well-rounded and it's a good bet you're going to end up with a .300 hitter at season's end, Wright can be safely drafted among the top 5 third basemen. His ceiling might not be tremendous anymore -- like when he hit .325/.416/.546 with 30 home runs and 34 steals in 2007 -- but his 2012 stats are repeatable, with the opportunity for a bit more.
Statistics from FanGraphs.