Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.
Aaron Hill ascended into the elite ranks of second basemen in 2009, posting a ridiculous line of: 103 runs, 36 HRs, 108 RBI, six steals, .286 batting average.
Despite these career-high totals, Hill’s BABIP (.288) was actually lower than his then-career mark of .307. His 2009 contact rate (83.9 percent) was also in line with his career total of 84.5 percent. His fly-ball rate (41.0 percent) was slightly elevated (career 38.7 percent), but given he was in his age-27 season, the jump wasn’t unreasonable.
The big outlier was in Hill’s HR/FB rate. From 2005 to 2008, Hill’s fly balls went over the fence just five percent of the time. That number rose to 14.9 in 2009, a precipitous jump that painted his 36-HR season unrepeatable.
2010 wasn’t as kind to Hill, but it wasn’t because of a realistic HR/FB rate. He spent 15 days on the DL in April with a hamstring injury, and then proceeded to post the lowest BABIP (.196) in at least 40 years (I stopped searching after 1970). Hill also had the fifth-highest fly-ball rate last season (54.2 percent), suggesting an altered plate approach.
Hill’s wFB (fastball runs above average) was -8.1 last season, compared to his previous career mark of 9.3. This suggests Hill’s bat speed slowed last season, forcing him to cheat and thus causing him to miss on breaking pitches off the plate, leading to a career-high 31.3 percent o-swing rate (previous career 21.6 percent). Although he maintained his career contact rate of 84.5 percent, he wasn’t making good contact.
For Hill to post a normal BABIP and fly-ball rate in 2011, he’ll have to re-adjust his swing. It’s likely that he tried too hard to match his lofty 2009 home run total last season, leading to the ugly batted ball rates. An adjustment should yield another 25-HR season with a .270 batting average.
Although a quadriceps injury has kept him on the bench thus far this spring, the Blue Jays don’t believe it’s serious and Hill hopes to play in a game sometime soon.
Hill is currently projected to bat fifth in Toronto’s lineup this season, though he could move back up to the two hole based on his performance. Either way, expect a bounce back season from the 29-year-old two-bagger.
Fantasy managers are clearly underrating him this spring based on his current 166 ADP on Mock Draft Central. Given my projections, however, he’s a top-100 player. Keep an eye on the progression of his injury this spring. Assuming at least 550 plate appearances this season, he could be a big steal in your upcoming fantasy draft.
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Image courtesy of: Chris Creamer, Sportslogos.net
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