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Luis Valbuena: Power Move

The 99wRC+ Wonder.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

So I like Luis Valbuena, sue me.  I took over a dynasty team this year, and prior to the draft, I had only one 2B option, Dan Uggla.  So that should give you perspective on the kind of team I was taking over.  I quickly amassed over 40 moves before opening day, I decided my starting 2B was going to be Luis Valbuena.  My team is bad, and I've since made so many moves that only 6 of the original MLB players remain on my team.  But Valbuena, a short term add, has remained a steady producer on my roster.  So lets take a look at what he's done, and how he's done it.

Valbuena is a not a fan of 5 category production, in my dynasty team's case, 6 category production (OPS).  He leads all 2B with 19 HR, 10th in runs (43), 14th in RBI (36), 54th in SB (1), and an ugly 93rd in AVG (.199).  For those of you who care, he's 40th in OPS with a fairly average .715.

So will this very average option, improve, devolve or remain the same as the season goes on?  We'll start with the obvious.  His walk rate of 9.6% is 2% higher than league average, and his K% of 22.3% is 2% higher than league average.  This leaves him with a K/BB of .43, league average is .37.

Then you must notice his .193 babip, 104 points below league average, and 66 points below his career average.  So now we ask ourselves, should Valbuena's average remain in the dumpster, or should it be merely very bad?  Most signs seem to point up for Valbuena.  He does a good job of taking balls, and swinging at strikes.   He sprays the ball all over the field, and his 292ft average homerun and fly ball distance puts him in between Machado and Todd Frazier AKA good company.

Courtesy of Brooksbaseball.net

What gives Luis?  You seem like you could be good, and if anything, you average homerun and fly ball distance, high fly ball percentage, and home park would make one think you should actually have more homers than you do today.

We don't want to twist facts, and while his 25th worst line drive rate is definitely not helping him, it shouldn't leave him as a low grade Adam Dunn.  In fact his hard hit rate is 70th out of 162 batters who have qualified for the batting title, and his medium hit rate is 69th in baseball, obviously meaning his soft hit rate is 60th lowest in baseball, or for those of you who don't like to think, Valbuena's better than over 100 other players who qualify for the batting title.

Now while I do love math, I'm not going to force anyone to be a math genius for this next part.  He makes more hard and medium contact than most of the league.  He swings at more strikes and less balls than the average player.  When he puts the ball in the air it goes as far as Manny Machado and Todd Frazier.  If you're a fan of exit velocity, on fly balls and line drives, he's essentially hitting the ball equally as hard as Kris Bryant.   He has been he second least lucky player on balls in play in baseball this year with a .193 babip, with a .199 average.  Think about that, his batting average on balls in play is so bad, that his actual average, which includes a 20+% K rate, is better, he's essentially surviving off homers alone so far.

Is Valbuena a lifesaver for your fantasy team?  Probably not.  But does he seem bound to improve?  Definitely.  If your team has any sort of need for infield depth, he's also eligible to play 3B, where he's been playing this year in real baseball; Valbuena is an excellent buy low candidate.  Please take notice.