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2010 Big Board 41-50: Don’t Forget About Nick Markakis

Fri, Feb 26, 2010

Big Board

Image Credit: Gallery 2 Images

In the coming weeks, I will attempt to create the most accurate 2010 big board available. This draft guide will be released 10 players at a time until my top 50 have been revealed.

These lists will take into account past, present and future values based on standard 5×5 H2H settings. As I introduce each player one-by-one, it’s my goal to reveal something you didn’t already know. Feel free to agree or disagree with my rankings, as I’m always up for a healthy debate.

41. Nick Markakis – RF – Baltimore Orioles

After making significant strides in each of his first three seasons, Markakis seemingly regressed in 2009. While his totals in runs (94), RBI (101), and batting average (.293) were in line with previous years, the 26-year-old hit just 18 HRs a stole only six bases.

The most alarming stat differential lies within his BB%. In 2008, Markakis posted a ridiculous walk rate of 14.2%. Last year, it was nearly cut in half, as Markakis walked in just 7.9% of his plate appearances. This led to a drop in his OBP as well; from .406 in ’08 to .347 in ’09. Further, his o-swing rate (percentage of pitches he swung at outside of the strike zone) increased to 23% last year, after posting an 18% o-swing rate in 2008.

So what does this all mean? Was 2009 simply just a minor setback, or did Markakis reach his ceiling in 2008? Judging by his age, pedigree, and ability, the 26-year-old’s best days are still ahead of him. In fact, Markakis remains capable of posting 100 runs, 20 HR, 100 RBI, 10 steals, and a .300 average; a stat line matched by only one outfielder in 2009: Ryan Braun.

42. Pablo Sandoval – 1B – San Francisco Giants

In 2008, Sandoval combined to hit .349 with 22 dingers between High-A, Double-A, and San Francisco. He proved his big league sample size was no fluke last year, hitting 25 bombs and batting .330 despite playing on one baseball’s worst offensive teams. Although he was never regarded as a top prospect, Baseball America claimed in 2006 that Sandoval could develop into a line-drive hitter capable of batting .300; once again proving their crediblity among talent evaluators.

While Sandoval spent the majority of his time at third base last year, the addition of Mark DeRosa to the Giants lineup is likely to push Kung Fu Panda over to first base. Luckily, Sandoval remains eligible at both positions.

A somewhat improved lineup should benefit Sandoval this year, making the 23-year-old one of the most coveted keeper options with third base eligibility. If everything falls into place, the big switch hitter is capable of posting 100 runs, 25 HR, 100 RBI, and a .320 average.

43. Curtis Granderson – CF – New York Yankees

Granderson’s fantasy value has declined quite a bit since 2007, when he posted a line of 122 runs, 23 HRs, 73 RBI, 26 steals, and a .302 batting average. In the following seasons, Granderson maintained his impressive power/speed combo, but his average dropped from .280 in 2008 to .249 in 2009.

Granderson’s .249 average in ’09 can be attributed to two things. First, his .183 average in 180 at-bats against southpaws. Second, his .276 BABIP (compared to his career .323 BABIP). His FB rate of 49.3% (career 43%) may also explain the low average. It is important to note, however, that Granderson posted a 44.8% FB rate in 2007, and still managed to hit .302. Given a normal amount of luck in 2010, the 29-year-old is capable of posting at least a .280 batting average.

Despite hitting seven more dingers last year than his previous career high of 23, his HR/FB rate was just 12.6%, which is in nearly perfect alignment with his career mark of 12.2%. For this reason, another 30-HR season seems well within reach.

While Granderson’s declining stolen base success rate, triple totals, and infield hit percentages indicate he may not be as fast as he once was, he remains capable stealing 20 bases. His spot in the Yankees lineup however, (possibly No. 7) could prevent that. Either way, he’s proven he can hit 30 HR, steal 20 bases, and bat .280. If he can do all those things in one season, his value goes through the roof.

44. Brian McCann – C – Atlanta Braves

McCann’s average totals over the last four years are as follows: 61 runs, 22 HRs, 92 RBI, .295 batting average in just 486 at-bats. During those four seasons, the 26-year-old catcher has never posted less than 18 HR or 87 RBI.

Coming off his second LASIK eye surgery in as many years, McCann should improve upon his career high 17% strikeout rate from last season. This, of course, should pad his batting average; meaning he could push .300 for the third time in five years. Given a solid Atlanta lineup, McCann should approach 25 bombs and 100 RBI, making him the third best catcher and a top-45 player overall.

45. Johan Santana – SP – New York Mets

Since being traded to the Mets before the 2008 season, Santana’s peripherals have taken a noticeable hit. Between 2002 and 2007 with the Twins, Santana posted a sparkling 9.84 K/9 and a 2.24 BB/9. In two seasons with the Mets, the two-time Cy Young award winner has posted a 7.9 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9. While it’s clear Santana’s best days are behind him, the soon-to-be 31-year-old’s floor remains higher than the ceiling of most pitchers.

Although Santana’s shoulder surgery last September may scare some fantasy owners away, this could actually work in his favor. When debating between Santana and other starters such as Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee, consider this: Including post season innings, Wainwright logged 241 innings last season; Lee totaled 272 innings. Because Santana was shut down in late August, he pitched just 166 2/3 frames. Expect the Mets’ ace to be fresher than he’s ever been in 2010.

46. Adam Lind – LF – Toronto Blue Jays

Lind made his presence felt on (his first) opening day last year, going 4-for-5 with a HR and 6 RBI. Over the course of the next six months, the 26-year-old punished opposing pitchers to the tune of 35 HR and a .305 batting average. Although many came close to this feat, only two other players in 2009 reached it (Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols).

While Lind has proven in the past that his 2009 .326 BABIP is sustainable, expecting him to surpass (or even reach) his 2009 HR/FB rate of 19.8% may be unrealistic. Having said that, 30 bombs and a near .300 average remain well within reach for Lind in 2010. Lind’s rare ability to hit for power and average makes him (in addition to his young age and pedigree) the 11th ranked outfielder and a top-50 player overall heading into the 2010 season.

47. Jayson Werth – RF – Philadelphia Phillies

Werth finally got the chance to start every day last year, and he took advantage of it. The former first-round pick of Baltimore in 1997 hit 36 HRs, stole 20 bases, and came just two runs and one RBI short of 100 in 2009. While Werth has actually displayed this ability in the past, there’s reason to believe he’s reached his ceiling.

According to HitTrackerOnline.com, 47% of Werth’s HRs last year qualified as “just enough”, compared to the league average of 31%. This indicates a heavy dose of luck. His HR/FB rate, however, suggest his power is legit. Although his career HR/FB rate is only 16.7%, he’s posted totals of 21.1% and 19.3% in each of the last two seasons. While his inflated FB rate (44.4% in ’09 compared to his career 39.9% mark) offers another explanation for Werth’s 36 HR, the 30-year-old remains capable of approaching 30 HRs in 2010.

If Werth’s 2010 BABIP matches his career average, he’s even capable of posting a .275-.280 average. Toss in 20 steals (he’s 40-for-44 over the last two seasons) and you have our No. 12 ranked outfielder, and a top-50 player overall.

48. Ben Zobrist – 2B – Tampa Bay Rays

Zobrist’s value is a highly debated topic among the fantasy baseball community after last year’s ridiculous campaign. In his first season logging more than 200 major league at-bats, Zobrist exploded for 91 runs, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 16 steals and a .297 average. Most will argue this was a fluke, but there’s evidence to suggest otherwise.

In 2006, Baseball America claimed Zobrist had “the best strike-zone discipline in the South Atlantic League”, a talent he displayed with a BB rate of 15.2% and .405 OBP in 2009. They also wrote that he had “solid-average tools across the board”, which also proved to be true last year. The doubters even fail to notice Zobrist’s 2008 second half splits, when he hit nine HR and posted a .264/.361/.521 line in just 144 at-bats. In fact, Zobrist’s 2008 HR/FB rate of 17.4% was nearly identical to his 2009 total of 17.5%.

Judging by his .330 BABIP last year, Zobrist’s 2010 batting average may drop from .297  into the .280 range. Despite this, the 28-year-old late bloomer is in his prime years, and remains capable of 20-25 HRs and 15 steals in 2010. Oh yea, he comes with second base, shortstop, and outfield eligibility too.

49. Brandon Phillips – 2B – Cincinnati Reds

2009 was Phillips’ third consecutive 20/20 season, and he’s averaged 22 dingers and 26 steals in four seasons with Reds. While his valuable power/speed combo is tough to find, it comes with a mediocre .265 career average and a disgusting .312 career OBP. Phillips’ .276 average last season ranked No. 15 among players at his position, while his .329 OBP ranked No. 16. This flaw will continue to prevent Phillips from posting elite runs and RBI totals.

While the 28-year-old is likely to approach 20 HRs and 20 steals again in 2010, a .265-.275 average will separate him from players ranked ahead of him at his position.

50. Justin Verlander – SP – Detroit Tigers

Despite all the hype surrounding Verlander, (mostly because he has three 17-plus win seasons, a factor he doesn’t have total control of) the 27-year-old has posted a sub-3.50 ERA, a sub-1.20 WHIP and more than 200 strikeouts just once; and all three happened last year.

While his 2009 10.09 K/9 and 2.36 BB/9 totals suggest Verlander has become an elite pitcher, don’t buy into it…yet. Including 2009′s numbers, Verlander’s has a career K/9 of 7.99, and a career BB/9 of 3.02. Both of these marks are pretty good, but elite? No.

The reality is that all seven starters ranked ahead of Verlander on the big board have posted an ERA at or below 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.15 or below in recent seasons. Verlander, on the other hand, sports a career 3.92 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Expect Verlander’s 2010 to deliver a 3.50 ERA, a 1.20-plus WHIP, and no more than 200 strikeouts.

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  • Barry

    To rank Zobrist ahead of Phillips is both pre-mature and foolish. You have proven throughout this entire big board that pedigree, consistency and pure talent are worth far more than a break-out season – I don’t see Aaron Hill on here…Ben Zobrist has like 14 tries to make it in the big leagues and last year IS the fluke. Maddon has shown he is not afraid to move that line-up around – so you can nearly guarantee if Zobrist struggles it what we would assume to be a “good” spot in the lineup – he’ll be right where the rest of the career minor leaguers are – batting 8 or 9.

  • Nick Kappel

    If you read my reasoning, you know why Zobrist is ahead of Phillips and why Hill is absent from the list.

    Zobrist’s breakout season followed a good 2008 second half, proving his 2009 power stroke wasn’t new. Hill showed similar promise in 2007, but his prospects for 2010 are much less encouraging.

    First, Zobrist bats in a much better lineup than Hill. Second, Zobrist is capable of reaching base far more consistently than Hill AND Phillips – neither of who have posted signle-season OBP north of .349. This, of course, will assist his runs and RBI totals. Lastly, Zobrist comes with 2B, SS and OF eligibility – while Hill and Phillips remain 2B-eligible only.

    It’s interesting that you mention pedigree. Just because he wasn’t touted as the next A-Rod doesn’t mean scouts didn’t believe in his talent. In fact, in addition to Baseball America’s evaluation of him in 2006, his minor league career suggests he’s much better than you’re willing to believe. In 315 career Double-A at-bats, Zobrist hit .327. In 362 career Triple-A at-bats, he hit .301 and muscled over 11 HRs. During this time, he never posted an OBP short of .400.

    Keep in mind Zobrist was 19 when he graduated high school, and attended all four years of college, delaying his pro career – this is why it seems like he had “14 tries to make the big leagues.”

    Zobrist may not reach his 2009 totals again, but there’s factual evidence that suggests he’s much better than “a career minor leaguer”. If you choose to overlook these facts, that’s your loss. You may think last year was a fluke – perhaps it was – but to completely dismmiss any other possibility is both premature and foolish.

  • Ian

    Verlander at 50?
    Do not think so. Verlander is a plain out BEAST, and should have won the CY YOUNG last year. Sabathia only won, cause he plays for the New York Yankees. The most paid-off franchise ever. If he played for say, the Baltimore Orioles, he wouldn’t have won it. Its truly what Corprate America wants, and they get what they want. Baseball is just so stupid know because of it.
    Verlander’s stats at 19-9 3.45 ERA, are pretty good, but if you see the improvment from the one off-year in 08′, its spectacular. Leading the league in strikeouts as well. The CY YOUNG should go to the MVP of pitching, and he is the MVP of the Tigers they need him. If they didn’t have him, they wouldn’t be as good, and the Yankees without Sabathia are great still. Verlander is the best in the AL.

    Alright, well that was I guess arguing about who should have won the CY YOUNG. I believe Verlander is eaisly a top 5 pitcher in the MLB. If he played on the Yankees, he would be considered the best. Why? Cause he plays for them.
    Verlander though should be higher than 50. He is more mature, has a great repertoire, and what pitcher can hit 100mph on his 122nd pitch? No one except Justin Verlander. I can maybe see why he is ranked where he is on your BIG BOARD playing for the Tigers, but if he played for the Yankees, he’d be in Lincecum’s spot. Oh and by the way, on your last line, HE WILL pitch under 3.50. hell, even under 3.25. His WHIP will be better than that.
    I disrespect what you say too saying he will have under 200 strikeouts. He will have 250+ and in my mind most likely break his record of 269 set last season. He is just dominant. 50 still is WAY to high of a number, I find him atleast at 35 as a pitcher. You may not think so, but Justin Verlander is better than half the pitchers you have ranked ahead of him.
    Good Luck with your site, and have a great day.

  • Nick Kappel

    Thanks for reading Ian.

    The fact that Verlander pitches for the Tigers and not the Yankees does not hurt him; in fact, it helps him. The only way a pitcher’s team factors into his value is in his win total. Because Verlander has won 17, 18 and 19 games in recent years, his team has actually helped him.

    Verlander’s 2009 totals are way out of whack compared to his career numbers, that’s why he’s 50 and not higher. There’s no reason to believe he deserves to be drafted as high as Lincecum. Verlander’s best season doesn’t sniff Lincecum’s worst.

    Perhaps your boy finally figured it all out last year, and continued success will follow in 2010. My opinions are based on the facts available to me, and they are just that. In the future, I ask that you respect them, and I’ll return the favor to you. If you cannot do that, please keep your thoughts to yourself. This forum will not tolerate anything other than a healthy, open-minded discussion. For you to say he absolutely WILL without a doubt do anything is foolish. Maybe Verlander proves me wrong, it’s possible. Just keep in mind it’s conceivable that he proves you wrong as well.

  • Pingback: 2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 94: The Key To Ben Zobrist’s Bounce Back Season | Fantasy Baseball Insiders

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