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Baseball Quick Hits: Beltran, Soto, Shields, Braun

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Carlos Beltran will start the 2011 season in right field as opposed to his traditional center field position. This announcement reflects negatively on Beltran's mobility going into the season. If he can't run well enough to play center field then he probably can't run well enough to steal many bases either. I wouldn't be surprised if Beltran struggled to reach double digit steals this year. His fantasy value takes a large hit if that's the case.

In 2010, Geovany Soto walked in a ridiculous 16% of his plate appearances. That would have tied him for the league lead in walk rate if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He was also able to hit 17 homeruns in only 100 games. For some reason, despite Soto's effectiveness at the plate, his backup Koyie Hill saw 231 plate appearances last year. His line was .214/.254/.298. Apparently these numbers weren't available to Lou Pinella. The good news is that Pinella's successor, Mike Quade, appeared to give Soto the bulk of playing time after taking over the manager job late in the summer. With his great approach at the plate and ability to hit for power, Soto should be a nice bargain this year.

More thoughts after the jump:

 

I wrote here about the favorable situation Rays starters found themselves in last year. Apparently I should have written that article before 2010, because no one told James Shields. Shields led the league in both HR/FB ratio and BABIP. That would be difficult for a pitcher on a good defensive team in a hitters' ballpark to do, let alone a Rays pitcher. These numbers are usually largely influenced by luck. Could we just assume Shields was the unluckiest pitcher in the league last year? Could Shields have been to blame for his bad luck? I'm guessing a little of both. According to Fangraphs' pitch type values, Shields had the least effective fastball in the league last year. This is strange considering he actually added 1 full mph of velocity to his fastball. One issue could be that he also added 1.6 mph to his changeup, the best pitch in his arsenal. This would have decreased the fastball/changeup differential. Either way, with the weak year to year correlation of BABIP and HR/FB ratio, it is difficult to expect Shields to be near the league lead in these categories again in 2011. I expect his fantasy production to bounce back in 2011.

 

Ryan Braun's BB% and K% the last four years look like this:

Year                 BB%                K%

2007                5.9%                24.8% 

2008                6.3%                21.1%

2009                8.1%                19.1%

2010                8.2%                17.0%

Braun has hit too many ground balls the past couple of years, but the numbers above suggest he has improved his approach at the plate each year. His shrinking K rate can only help his batting average, and if he is able to get his fly balls back up then his power numbers will follow.  Despite Carlos Gonzalez's coming out party last year, I expect Braun to be the highest scoring fantasy OF in 2011.