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AL Player Spotlight - September 29th, 2010

Michael Leone

Denard Span OF (MIN) – I really like Span to improve upon his numbers next season. His average dropped from .311 last season to .271 this year, yet his contact rate rose by almost 4 full percentage points. His EYE was up slightly from .79 to .82. The main culprit has been a .253 singles average. Span’s singles average last season (578 at bats) was .321, and two years ago (347 at bats) it was .283. Given Span’s speed and GB% (53.9% career) combined with his very solid EYE, we should expect his singles average next season to be higher, as it was in his previous two seasons. I also think Span will steal more bases. As we discussed, his average should rise, and he has walked over ten percent of the time throughout his career, so he gives himself opportunities. He also may be given the green light more often; Span has stolen 25 bases this season while getting caught just 4 times (86% success rate). Also, a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for a full season would certainly boost his runs scored.

CC Sabathia SP (NYY) – Sabathia bolstered his CY Young resume last night by winning his 21st game of the season and lowering his ERA to 3.18. About a month ago, Joe voiced his concern that Sabathia would not be a top 5 fantasy SP next season and would wind up closer to the back end of the top 10. I have to fully agree. Sabathia (31) is on the back end of his prime years. Couple that with a declining K/9 (8.93/7.71/7.42) and rising BB/9 (1.38/2.10/2.62/2.83), and there’s reason to think he might not be elite next year. His FIP of 3.56 is more indicative of Sabathia’s skill than his actual ERA. Don’t get me wrong a 3.56 ERA is not bad, but the age of the pitcher is upon us as 17 starters have sub-3 ERA’s currently. Sabathia will still challenge for a spot in the top ten because he contributes a lot of IP and will once again be a 20 win contender pitching for a stacked Yankees team.

David Price SP (TB) - In a night where 3 CY Young candidates threw, Price perhaps fared best by shutting out the Orioles over 8 IP (8 K’s, 0 BB’s). I’m finding it tough to evaluate Price’s value heading into 2011. He’s an immensely talented lefty who will enter next season at the ripe age of 25. Despite that youth he’s already improved greatly over 2 ML seasons. His K/9 grew from 7.15 to 8.07 this season while his BB/9 dropped from 3.79 to 3.56. However, Price’s ERA (2.84) far exceeds his FIP (3.54) and xFIP (4.04) thanks to a strand rate and HR/FB% that are likely unsustainable. This is most likely a case where Price’s peripherals will catch up to his performance. Still, I’m not drafting him to be a sub-3 ERA pitcher again, and most likely will, making him overvalued in my book.

Justin Smoak 1B (SEA) – Smoak hit a two run homer off of Scott Feldman which ended up standing as the game winner. It was Smoak’s 12th homer of the season. Smoak has put up disappointing fantasy numbers as a rookie, but a perfect storm has worked against him – transition struggles, bad luck and moving from a hitter’s park to a pitcher’s park. Despite Smoak’s .207/.290/.340 triple slash, there’s a lot to like about him heading into next season. First, there’s opportunity. As Schuyler pointed out the other day, the Mariners will give Smoak every opportunity to play every day. Secondly, his power is starting to develop as he posted a .218 ISO in 225 plate appearances at AAA this season. Thirdly, Smoak’s AVG/OBP/ALG line is hiding the fact that he has had some immediate success at the major league level. Cue his 10.8 BB% and 22 LD%.

David Murphy OF (TEX) – Murphy fared well against King Felix last night going 2-4 with a double and the lone Ranger RBI. He put the ball in play all four at bats. Murphy is a very underrated player with a career .282/.342/.447 line, and I think he could be undervalued heading into next year’s drafts (depending on how much playing time he is in line to get). The 28 YO Murphy has continually shown improvements in plate discipline (EYE’s of .35/.44/.46/.63 the past four seasons), and he has walked nearly 10 percent of the time in each of the past two seasons. Murphy also provides decent pop; his career ISO is .178. He’s also flashed his ability as a base stealer this season. In 16 tries, he has been successful 14 times. So, in a hitter’s park, in a very good lineup, Murphy could be a steal if he were able to obtain 500+ at bats.

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