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2011 Fantasy Bust: Ichiro Suzuki

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According to Mock Draft Central's draft results, Ichiro Suzuki's average draft position is 33rd overall, one pick after Nelson Cruz and a few picks before both Andre Ethier and Justin Upton. Considering his draft position, Ichiro is certain to be a bust. As a basic strategy, I try to target players early that have the ability to help my team in four to five fantasy categories. If these players don't fall to me at opportune times then I may look to draft some less versatile players later in the draft to help fill the void in specific categories. Ichiro would fit into my category of one dimensional players, but he seems to be taken early in most drafts each year. Let's illustrate this by comparing his 2010 five-category statistics with a few players taken near him in 2011 drafts (All stats according to Fangraphs).

Player              GP       BA      HR       R         RBI      SB

Ichiro               162      .315     7          74        43        42

N. Cruz            108      .318     22        60        78        17

J. Upton           133      .273     17        73        69        18

Keep in mind that Cruz played only 108 games and Upton played almost 30 less games than Ichiro in 2010. It's easy to see that Ichiro is a liability in the HR and RBI departments. I would also like to get more than the 74 runs he scored when I pick a player 33rd overall and he plays in a full 162 games. With the weak lineup surrounding Ichiro, I would expect his 2011 run total to be closer to 75 than the 100 mark he enjoyed for most of his career. As a player with the ability to hit .340 and steal 40 bases, Ichiro has generated excess value in only the batting average and stolen base categories in the past. Is it worth drafting him 33rd overall to receive his contributions in these two categories?

As mentioned earlier, when I have the option early in the draft I am looking for the five-category player. If I can't fill my team with five-category players and get to the point of drafting players to fill a few categories the key requirement becomes consistency. Ichiro has been one of the best contact hitters in the game over the past decade, so you would think he'd be the model of fantasy consistency. His numbers over the past six years paint a different picture:

Year                 BA                   BABIP            Steals                          

2005                .303                 .316                 33

2006                .322                 .348                 45

2007                .351                 .389                 37

2008                .310                 .334                 43

2009                .352                 .384                 26

2010                .315                 .353                 42

Ichiro's two most valuable categories have not been so consistent over the past six years.  His batting average has fluctuated between .303 and .352. It may be justifiable to pick a two-category player early if his BA is towards the higher end of that range, but certainly not if he is at .310 or below. Part of the problem is the nature of the category. Batting average is dependent a lot on BABIP. While BABIP can be controlled by batters to some extent, it is also heavily dependent on luck each year. A single player's batting average and BABIP show a low correlation from one year to the next which makes both difficult to predict. This is evident with Ichiro in the past. His batting average and BABIP one year look nothing like the next.  Ichiro also doesn't exactly put up huge steal numbers.  He has topped 40 steals in only 4 of the last 10 seasons. Juan Pierre has reached that number in 9 of the last 10 seasons. Pierre is also being drafted 130th on average. Sure Ichiro generally has a higher batting average, but he seems just as likely to bat .310 in 2011 as he does to bat .360. I have a hard enough time wasting a high pick on a player that will only help my team in two of the five categories; I want to be assured that he's going to put up elite numbers in both of those categories. Pass on Ichiro at pick 33. Use those high picks to draft players like Nelson Cruz or Justin Upton that will contribute to four or five categories. Eight to ten rounds later if you realize you are in need of steals then draft a guy like Juan Pierre at a much cheaper price.