Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pass On, Wait For

Q: Are there 2 players who are projected to have similar stats, but their average draft positions are out of whack?

A: Yes. They go by the names Andrew McCutchen & Shin-Soo Choo.

McCutchen barely avoided falling below the Mendoza Line after the break (.216 AVG) to finish with a .259 mark. He posted 2 straight seasons of a .285 average in '09 and '10, and his BABIP fell below his career numbers suggesting some bad luck. He's a 25 year old who makes plenty of contact, so last season was likely an aberration. It's a good bet to think returns to a .285 average.

He hit 23 homers last season after hitting 16 HR at all levels in both '09 and '10. He had a HR/FB rate of 12.2% last year, and marks of 8.7% & 8.8% the two seasons before. Part of the power spike was McCutchen coming into his own at age 24, the other was just the ball taking a nice bounce off the bat. Look for his HR total to decrease to 18-20.

From 2008 to 2010 he has shown the ability to steal 30-35 bases, but only had 23 last year. The biggest reason I found for the drop-off was his spot in the lineup. 10 steals in 82 games batting 3rd, and 11 in 46 games batting lead-off. McCutchen looks to settle into the 3rd spot on a regular basis this season, so put him down to swipe 20-25.

The RBI/R totals should be pretty similar to last season. Look for 85-90 RBI, and 80-85 R. Sadly for McCutchen the Pirates offense is brutal.

Choo by comparison started off poorly, got hurt, and had a hot finish before his season ended for good. Batting just .244 with 5 HR before breaking his thumb in June, he returned for 12 games in August hitting .348 with 3 HR in 46 AB. An oblique injury effectively ended his season.

In 2009 & 2010 Choo hit over .300, had 22 & 20 HR seasons, stole 21 & 22 bags, and was in the 80-90 range in both Runs and RBI. In 2008 he hit over .300, and had 14 HR in 317 at bats. Baseball can be a streaky game, and Choo had 2 entire months wiped out. Had he been healthy those months he could have caught fire, and posted similar numbers to his '09 and '10 seasons.

Choo has the track record on McCutchen in batting average and home runs. They both will be batting 3rd in underwhelming lineups, so expect similar R/RBI totals. As I pointed out earlier McCutchen has the potential to steal 10 more bases than Choo, but I wouldn't expect it.

McCutchen is being taken about 46 picks before Choo according to Yahoo mock drafts. Why? Potential. At age 25 everybody is expecting is a full fledged breakout. They expect the AVG to return, the HR to remain stable or slightly increase, a full season of batting 3rd to produce great R/RBI totals, and the SB returning to 30-35. McCutchen had a better 2011, and has a higher ceiling than Choo. He deserves to be taken ahead of him. But 4 rounds earlier in hopes that all the stars align? No way.

Pass on McCutchen. Wait for Choo.

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