RUFIO! RUFIO! RUFIO!
Baseball is as guilty as any sport or form of entertainment when it comes to out-of-control hype machines. It is nearly impossible to predict with complete accuracy how a young player will handle the jump to the big leagues or how they will pan out in the long run. We as baseball fans, and more importantly fantasybaseball fans, have impossibly short memories. Prospects are here today, gone tomorrow. We overdraft a hyped young’n only to have him flounder in the big show, then we forget about him. The process is very frustrating. However, it also leads to the delightful subset of players known as the post-hype sleeper. Post-hype sleepers are a greatly valuable fantasy commodity. They’re the change found in the couch. The beer in the very back of the fridge. You know they’re there, but they’ve been pushed to the back of your mind, only to be stumbled upon later when you least expect it- and probably need it. But not for you, clever fantasy baseball-person, you. You’re getting ahead of the curve. You haven’t forgotten. You lie in wait, mock drafting, plotting, scheming. You know there is value to be had with these gently used former shiny prospects. Where these players were reached for last year, they’ll slide to the later rounds in 2012. So dust off your 2011 Baseball America preview, get your notepads ready, I’m going to squeeze some knowledge juice from my mind grapes.
Don’t You Forget About: Pedro Alvarez
Oh, Pedro. Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. What have you done to yourself. Our poor Pirates fan friend Trevon had the misfortune of drafting the big fella last year and, well, he’s still reeling. Could it be so simple that he was out of shape?
Looking at Alvarez’s 2010 debut season compared to his horrendous 2011, it is odd how many peripherals were so similar, or maybe that makes sense – his rookie season was supposed to be a stepping stone, not the norm. 2010 was a good season, for a rookie. He was supposed to jump off from there, not roll over and eat it in 2011. His BABIP dropped almost 70 points, so that helps explain his atrocious average. His power, both on sight test and the ISO stat, dropped almost in half. Both of these probably had something to do with the increased GB rate Alvarez experienced. His GB% jumped almost 10% and his FB rate dropped 14%, which clearly affected his power numbers. These are the things you can see in the numbers, but more can be seen in watching Alvarez with your own two eyes. He got lazy. You could see it both in the weight he put on and the swings he took.
I watched many of Alvarez’s regrettable at-bats, so I assumed this was the case. The internet, in all its wisdom, backed me up on the research side (thank you, fangraphs). Thanks to the fascination with stats, we now have documentation of the actual swings a batter takes and where the balls they swung at were. In 2011, the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone Alvarez swung at jumped to 29.9%. In addition, the rate of CONTACT with those pitches outside the strike zone jumped up to 56.3%. Overall, he just swung at a lot more pitches. I’m not smart enough to solve whethere or not all the dips and spike are statistically relevant in an actual math sense, I haven’t done a math problem like that in a long time. Given the similarities of other peripheral stats and his overall atrociousness (not to mention plain common sense of seeing he got fat and lazy) gives credibility to the idea that maybe all Pedro needs to make a step up – not the BIG step up, mind you- and be productive is a healthy-living offseason and a better eye at the plate (stop swinging at the low outside changeup you goof! It’s like he’s playing wiffle ball!).
Are we left with a .250-2.260 hitter capable of hitting 20 homers? His minor league trajectory and overall pedigree led us to believe he was going to be in a higher tier, hitting .280 with 30 homers and 100 RBI once the Pirates became legitimized. Part of the problem is the unproven nature of the Pirates lineup, sure, but Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, even Jose Tabata and Garret Jones, are solid players. And all of them have made considerable steps forward as major league hitters. Pedro Alvarez needs to get his act together – there will be no sleeper posts next year if he doesn’t improve. But 2012 is a new season, a new slate (hopefully a more fit slate, too).
So for 2012, don’t you forget about Pedro Alvarez.