(*) FACTS/FLUKES: Ellsbury, Aoki, Dozier, Escobar, Buehrle

Will venue change benefit Ellsbury? ... The allure of Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, NYY) lies in the possibility that he'll produce like he did in 2011, when he conjured up a 30-HR season seemingly out of thin air to complement his plus speed. Now in pinstripes, are there any signs of a power revival? 

Year   AB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F     PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd  SB  SBO%
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====  ===  ==  ====
2009  624  .301  .275    7   88  33  50/18/32   66   84   5%   145  70   43%
2010* 102  .239  .256    5   91  26  49/16/35   48   35   0%    97   8   37%
2011  660  .321  .313    7   85  34  43/23/34  145  115  17%   103  39   30%
2012  303  .271  .259    6   86  30  47/20/33   70   91   5%    96  14   22%
2013  577  .298  .276    8   84  34  51/21/28   85   78   7%   136  52   33%
*- inc MLEs

Its chances of returning are slim:

  • A fluky 17% hr/f% gave PX a boost in '11, and has since regressed back to career norms. 
  • Pounding the ball into the ground at a 51% clip is a surefire way to keep HRs at bay. However, his monthly FB% trends from June until September (21%, 24%, 33%, 36%) offer a modicum of hope that can he take advantage of Yankee Stadium's short RF porch (+33% LHB HR). 
  • xPX was skeptical in '11, and has provided little in the way of hope for future power gains since then. 

Here's what we know Ellsbury will bring to the table: High ct%, substantial SBs and a respectable BA that is semi-h% dependent, which isn't much of a negative given his history of above-average hit-rates. Those pluses alone make it hard to justify Ellsbury as a first-round talent, but his late-season FB surge and move to a more favorable stadium has a "stars-aligning" sort of feel to it. If he can avoid any health scares, we'd be surprised if Ellsbury doesn't eclipse double-digit HRs in '14. 

 

Aoki needs the green light  ... If there's one thing Norichika Aoki (KC, OF) has proven since coming over from Japan, it's that he knows how to get on base, as his .356 OBP and elite 1.38 Eye in '13 can attest. But after a "down" year statistically, its come into question whether his assets make him a useful fantasy commodity. 

Year     AB     BA    xBA   bb%   ct%   h%  GB%  Spd  SB  SBO  HR   
====    ===   ====   ====   ===   ===   ==  ===  ===  ==  ===  == 
2010*   583   .358   ----    11    90   36  --   ---  19  11%  14  
2011*   643   .292   ----    10    91   30  --   ---   8   6%   4  
2012    520   .288   .294     8    88   31  55   132  30  27%  10 
2013    597   .286   .282     8    93   30  60   144  20  16%   8
*MLEs (Japan)

Aoki should be able to at least match last year's stats:

  • He bumped up his Spd a bit, but a drop in SB% and SBO hindered his SB total. KC led the league in stolen bases in '13, so it's likely SBO will return, making 30 steals a realistic possibility. 
  • They say you can't steal first base, but Aoki doesn't need to—his ct% and bb% provide ample opportunities for him to utilize his speed. 
  • He may find HRs harder to come by moving from Miller Park (+23% LHB HR) to Kauffman Stadium (-25% LHB HR). 

Batting leadoff atop a talented and maturing KC lineup, Aoki will likely be an efficient source of runs, and assuming his legs are still fresh at age 32, KC's steal-friendly philosophy on the basepaths should allow him to challenge 30 SBs. But rising GB% paired with moving to a pitcher-friendly park suggests a dip in HRs, which ultimately caps his upside. He's a three-category producer and solid third OF, but not much more. 

 

Can Dozier repeat? ... Brian Dozier (2B, MIN) experienced a growth year in 2013 that not many saw coming, swatting 18 HRs with 14 stolen bases. He flashed a bit of power and speed in the minors, but nothing to this extent—how skeptical should we be of a repeat?

Year      AB    BA   xBA  OPS vR  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F     PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd  
====     ===  ====  ====  ======  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====  ===   
2011*    311  .272   ---  -----    6   84   --  --------   93  ---  ----  143   
2012     316  .234  .234  .547     5   82   27  42/21/38   63   80   6%   103   
2013     558  .244  .256  .649     8   78   28  38/21/41  118   99  10%   123    

Dozier's skills are solid, but lack upside:

  • He added some patience at the plate, but his ct% took a slight dip, as is customary when pitchers get a "book" on a player. 
  • His 11 HRs and 138 PX in the 2H was out of character, and xPX cautions us to expect a repeat power surge despite the slick uptick in FB%.
  • BA has some wiggle room for growth, but it's difficult to expect much improvement given his current struggles versus right-handers. 
  • His steals were less of a surprise, and his plus speed was aided by a 16% SBO. 

Owners who take a chance of Dozier will be banking on the assumption that his 2H was the result of actual skills growth rather than an aberration. With power hard to come by from the 2B position, Dozier offers some real value, and if he's able to improve upon his struggles vR, his league average bb% and ct% could produce a BA in the .270 range. Don't expect a full repeat, but returning top-10 value at 2B may not be too far-fetched. 

 

Escobar's luck runs out ... 2012 proved to be a tough act to follow for Alcides Escobar (SS, KC) as the h% luck that spurred his .293 BA regressed in 2013, exposing his myriad of offensive weaknesses. Now entering his age 27 season, is there any hope for a bounce-back?

Year   AB   BA    xBA   bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F    HR  PX  SB  Spd  SB%
====  ===  ====  ====   ===  ===  ==  ========  ==  ==  ==  ===  ===
2009* 555  .270  .254    5   83   32  52/17/31   4  58  37  172  74%
2010  506  .235  .256    7   86   27  44/21/34   4  54  10  184  71%
2011  548  .254  .262    4   87   29  53/18/29   4  58  26  162  74%
2012  605  .293  .272    4   83   34  53/23/24   5  66  35  134  88%
2013  607  .234  .250    3   86   27  46/23/31   4  45  22  135 100%
*- inc MLEs

He'll need to make a few corrections first:

  • Escobar's BA fell 60 points, a result of h% regression and his consistent inability to take a walk. His .559 OPS was borderline atrocious, and all but assures his spot at the bottom of KC's order.
  • Contact rate actually increased, but his shift away from a GB-heavy approach actually hurt him, given his non-existent power. For Escobar, more balls in the air merely means more pop-ups or routine FB outs. 
  • However, his acumen on the basepaths is advanced, as seen in a rising SB% that actually reached perfection in '13. When Escobar does run, odds are he'll be successful. 

Unfortunately for Escobar, it seems his success in '12 was largely reliant on his balls finding gaps rather than true skills growth, and h% isn't really a skill one can "own." However, he's given us two seasons of strong LD swings, and if he cuts down on the FBs there's a decent chance for BA recovery. And if he ever learns to draw a walk, he could be a game-changer with SB. But expect similar SB totals for now. 

 

Is Buehrle worth an add? ... Time to cut to the chase with Mark Buehrle (LHP, TOR): After 12 seasons of mediocre skills and moderately successful results, does Buehrle, now 35 years old, offer any redeeming value to fantasy owners?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%  S%  Ctl  Dom  Cmd    G/L/F   hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ==  ===  ===  ===  ========  ====  ===
2009  213  3.84  4.46  28  73  1.9  4.4  2.3  45/19/36   11%   51
2010  210  4.28  4.87  32  70  2.1  4.2  2.0  46/16/38    6%   44
2011  205  3.59  4.20  30  75  2.0  4.8  2.4  40/20/35    9%   56
2012  202  3.74  4.19  28  73  1.8  5.6  3.1  41/22/36   11%   71 
2013  204  4.15  4.11  31  72  2.3  6.1  2.7  45/21/34   11%   53

He displayed minor blips of change:

  • Dom is on a three-year growth curve, but remains unremarkable. An 8% SwK% doesn't portend any drastic gains. 
  • Given his middling peripherals, luck variances tend to affect him more than most. A minor bump in h% resulted in ERA growth, and a 31% HH% marked a career high. 
  • His GB gains look promising, but he's been at 2013's level before with similar K-rates without producing anything beyond his typical ERA in the high-3's. 

To expect Buehrle to have a late-career renaissance a la teammate R.A. Dickey would be quite the stretch, and would mean banking on continued GB and Dom growth, which we don't see happening. His 2H 3.49 ERA says he's capable of stringing together a few hot months, but they're more likely to be luck-related rather than based in skills-growth. He's had a remarkably consistent career, but professional respect doesn't warrant a fantasy add. 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.