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.
After exploding onto the fantasy scene in 2009 with 91 runs, 27 HRs, 91 RBI, 17 steals and a .297 batting average, I declared Ben Zobrist to be a legitimate, multi-position stud.
My claim didn’t come without warrant. Zobrist has always displayed excellent plate discipline and on-base ability, posting a 15.7 percent walk rate and .429 on-base percentage in five minor league seasons. His 2009 breakout campaign (15.2 BB/9, .405 OBP) was foreshadowed with his 2008 second-half splits: nine home runs, .264/.361/.521 in 144 at-bats.
However, my man crush on Zobrist backfired last season, as he hit just .238 with 10 HRs. He did, however, swipe 24 bases.
Yet despite this, Zobrist’s batting eye remained in tact.
- 2009: 95 walks, 104 strikeouts in 501 at-bats
- 2010: 93 walks, 107 strikeouts in 541 at-bats
Zobrist even increased his contact rate, from an already above-average 81.9 percent in ’09, to 84.4 percent last season.
Heck, even his fly-ball rate remained nearly the same.
- 2009: 38.5 percent
- 2010: 38.1 percent
The biggest difference was in his HR/FB rate and BABIP.
- 2009: 17.5 percent
- 2010: 6.0 percent
- 2009: .326
- 2010: .273
Zobrist actually hit .285 with a .385 OBP in the first half last season, but his BABIP plummeted in the second half:
- July: .219
- August: .185
- September/October: .195
This unfortunate turn of luck destroyed Zobrist’s batting average, and thus his run-scoring and run-producing totals.
If we assume a normal BABIP in 2011, a batting average in the .270 range should be expected. That leaves his HR/FB rate as the only unknown. Perhaps his 17.5 percent mark in ’09 was too lofty, but his 6.0 percent clip last season isn’t realistic either. If we project a rate similar to his career average of 11.2 percent, Zobrist should push for 20 HRs this season.
Thanks to his versatility, Zobrist will receive plenty of at-bats this year. He’ll likely see time in both the outfield and infield, and should maintain first and second base eligibility. His spot in the Rays’ new-look lineup is not quite as clear, though he could bat first, second, fifth or sixth. His run-scoring and run-producing totals will be directly affected by this.
Either way, the switch-hitting Zobrist appears likely to bounce back in his age-30 season. With 20/20 potential at three different positions, Zobrist offers one of the most flexible and dynamic packages in fantasy baseball.
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Image courtesy of: Dennis Adair
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