Let's start off with a story. Two years ago, my best friend was talking to me about potential keepers for his AL Only team, despite it being May or June. He was already punting and trying to find guys he could hang his hat on for the next season. He was listing off some people and including Edwin Encarnacion on there. I looked at him like he was crazy. Sure the power was there in bursts, but he often played such bad defense that it wasn't worth supporting his league average to slightly above average offense. I told him Encarnacion was in no way a keeper. Well...as Summer rolled on, Encarnacion continued to heat up...in a big way. Like going from a 688 OPS in the first half to a 887 OPS in the second half and I had to eat some serious crow after that. Obviously, I changed my tune as he continued to perform extremely well, but I stuck to my guns for a little longer than I probably should have on Encarnacion. Long story shot, he kept Encarnacion and profited from his full year breakout last year.
Why talk about this when the title of this piece would lead you to believe it's about Nate McLouth? I have an ongoing joke with that very same person (and Baltimore fan) about McLouth's hot start. I told him I was rooting for, but didn't believe in the Orioles last year - with a big part of that being based in my belief that a good team could in no way start Nate McLouth. Well, looks like I'm eating crow again as McLouth has gotten off to a tremendous start, posting an 853 OPS thus far in 2013, which if sustained for a full season would equal his career high set in 2008. I don't believe that McLouth will continue on his torrid pace, but the question that haunts me is...suppose that he does?
I was asked on Twitter to run the production level numbers for McLouth and they are as follows:
|Baseline: 2013 (162 game pace)||675||578||.299||.395||.458||140||16||54||59|
The biggest issue I see with McLouth going forward is the OBP. McLouth is on pace for 92 walks this season despite never earning more than 68 in a previous season. With his walks decreasing, I imagine his runs will decrease, despite hitting atop a fairly potent Orioles lineup. McLouth's stolen bases are also a sticking point. He has 11 so far in 2013, and racked up 12 in a partial season in Baltimore last year. His on pace number is 59 and even his 60% production level is 35. I don't believe he'll reach even that number. If his average (career .250), walks and stolen bases drop, McLouth goes from being a fantasy dynamo to a useful, but likely replaceable piece. I'd be selling high while I can.