(*) FACTS/FLUKES: Teixeira, Middlebrooks, Masterson, Gomes, Diamond

Teixeira no longer elite? ... Because few first basemen have played at a high level for as long as Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY) has over the past decade, we almost take it for granted. But he finally hit a rough patch with his power in 2012, failing to amass at least 30 HRs for the first time since 2003. Conventional wisdom says that at 33, this is the start of the inevitable decline, but do his BPIs agree?

Year   AB   BA    xBA   bb%  ct%  Eye  h%    G/L/F    PX   hr/f HR  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ===  ====  ==  ===  
2008  574  .308  .309   14   84  1.04  32  43/21/36  149  19%   33   99
2009  609  .292  .308   12   81  0.71  30  36/20/44  165  18%   39  103  
2010  601  .256  .281   13   80  0.76  27  36/19/45  147  15%   33   76
2011  589  .248  .281   11   81  0.69  24  35/18/47  151  17%   39   88
2012  451  .251  .282   11   82  0.65  26  41/19/39  138  16%   24   76

Not completely. Teixeira's still got some juice left:

  • A calf injury wiped out most of his September and contributed to the low HR total, and a 2H PX rebound (154 PX) suggests 30-HR power hasn't disappeared.
  • Declining Eye is a concern, but the relative stability of bb% and ct% stave off any fears of a full BA collapse.
  • His GB% has spiked before (see: 2008), but a 19% hr/f that season was able to mitigate the damage. He couldn't repeat that in '12, and hr/f% isn't a stat that tends to rise with age. 

Teixeria has readily admitted that he's on the back-end of his career, a confession that's unlikely to improve his ADP on draft day. And while a slight decline is present, it's moving at a snail's pace for now. Expect a nice return-on-investment if he drops past the second round.
 

Can Middlebrooks survive without walks? ... Will Middlebrooks (3B, BOS) endeared himself to Red Sox fans and fantasy owners alike during his rookie campaign, filling in for—and ultimately replacing—Kevin Youkilis (3B, NYY) before a fractured wrist ended his season in August. But while Youkilis made a name for himself as the "Greek God of Walks," Middlebrooks appears to be his polar opposite.

Year    AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%   Eye  h%   G/L/F     PX  xPX   hr/f  HR  Spd  SBO 
====   ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ===  ===   ====  ==  ===  === 
2011*  427  .258  .248   4   71   0.15  33    ---     149  ---   ---   15   72   9%
2012** 360  .292  .276   5   75   0.21  34  44/22/35  152  119   21%   22   72  10%
====================================================================================
2012#  267  .288  .269   5   74   0.19  34  44/22/35  148  ---   21%   15   65   8% 

* MLE
** includes MLEs
# MLB-only

His impressive debut was also very reliant on luck factors:

  • With a poor plate approach, Middlebrooks is almost certain to experience a BA will drop, as xBA suggests.
  • His PX also played a role in boosting his BA, but he has three factors working against a repeat of 150+PX: GB tilt, xPX nearer to league average and an unsustainable hr/f%. Some regression is likely.
  • Spd hasn't yet developed, but new BOS manager John Farrell's more liberal approach on the basepaths (TOR ranked No. 8 in team steals in 2012) means double digit steals are a possibility.

It's rare to find so many reasons for pessimism with such a promising young talent, but the proof is in the BPIs—he's still a work in progress. Owners who overbid for Eric Hosmer (1B, KC) last year will know better than to get caught up in the hype that's likely to surround Middlebrooks on draft day. He'll be hard-pressed to avoid the sophomore slump.
 

Which Masterson will show up in 2013? ... Justin Masterson's (RHP, CLE) follow-up to his breakout 2011 campaign didn't go quite as planned, as he lost the accuracy that made him effective and posted the highest ERA of his career. Now reunited with former manager Terry Francona in CLE, can Masterson return to form, or was 2011 an anomaly?

Year    IP   ERA   xERA   vL  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  hr/f   G/L/F    DOM%/DIS%  BPV
====    ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ==== ====  ========  =========  ===
2009    129  4.52  3.87 .323  4.2  8.3  2.0  10%   54/15/31    38/25    68
2010    180  4.70  3.78 .290  3.7  7.0  1.9  10%   60/15/25    41/28    65
2011    216  3.21  3.56 .291  2.7  6.6  2.4  6%    55/18/27    55/12    78
2012    206  4.93  4.08 .296  3.8  6.8  1.8  11%   56/19/25    47/26    55
========================================================================== 
2012 1H 103  4.09  4.02 .279  3.7  6.9  1.8  9%    55/20/25    50/13    55  
2012 2H 103  5.77  4.22 .309  3.9  7.0  1.8  14%   57/19/25    44/39    54

Without Ctl, Masterson becomes painfully ordinary:

  • Masterson doesn't have the lofty Dom necessary to offset a 3.0+ Ctl.
  • While he was able to tame his Ctl in 2011, fly balls also left the park less frequently (hr/f), which corrected itself last year.
  • Lefties continue to own him, and he was especially ineffective during the 2H of 2012 (see: DOM%/DIS%).
  • The extreme GB tilt is what keeps him relevant, and provides a solid baseline for a rebound.

Masterson will be counted on to anchor the CLE staff this season, along with fellow disappointment Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP, CLE). He's worth a deep speculative play because he owns 2011's skills, but there's no real track record to suggest they'll return. Plus, he'll always be a risky start against southpaw-heavy lineups. He's nothing more than a rotation filler until his Ctl improves.
 

Opportunity knocks for Gomes ... BOS' recent acquisition of mercurial masher Jonny Gomes (OF, BOS) looked like merely a stop-gap until Ryan Kalish (OF, BOS) was deemed ready to take on a full-time role. But Kalish's recent shoulder surgery opens the door for Gomes:

Year   AB   BA    xBA    vR  bb%  ct%  Eye   h%   G/L/F    PX   xPX  hr/f  HR  
====  ===  ====  ====   ===  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====  ==
2008* 261  .188  .203  .182   8   67   0.28  24  34/10/56  129  156  13%   9
2009* 412  .256  .270  .244   8   68   0.27  31  34/24/46  188  156  22%   28
2010  511  .266  .239  .257   7   76   0.32  32  29/21/50  113  125  9%    18
2011  311  .209  .219  .167   13  66   0.46  27  34/18/48  138  136  14%   14
2012  279  .262  .225  .209   14  63   0.42  35  31/19/50  171  159  20%   18
*includes MLEs

There's a reason Gomes has amassed over 400 ABs just once since 2007:

  • His struggles vR have kept him on the wrong side of platoons, including a lowly .715 OPS against them last year. Daniel Nava (RHB, BOS) (career .768 OPS vR) will likely eat into his playing time early on.
  • While his uppercut stroke boosts his hr/f%, it will also continue to threaten his h% consistency.
  • Atrocious ct% will almost certainly prevent any sort of BA revival, although rising bb% makes him an asset in OBP leagues.
  • However, power hasn't wavered over the years, which xPX confirms. Plus, playing homes games at Fenway Park (+6% RHB HR) is an upgrade over O.co Coliseum (-12% RHB HR).

Gomes will never admit it, but he has been and always will be a one-trick pony. But those HRs are still valuable—especially if he can reel off a few hot streaks over the course of the year. He's worth an end-game flyer given the playing time potential, but make sure to shield your eyes when balls hit off the Green Monster come his way.

 

Diamond needs some help to repeat ... To say Scott Diamond's (LHP, MIN) 2012 success was a surprise would be an understatement—he lost 19 games between Triple-A and a brief stint in the majors in 2011, with a 6.28 ERA. Then something clicked, he cut his Ctl in half and anchored the MIN rotation for the majority of 2012. However, the sustainability of his success depends on multiple factors.

Year    IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  hr/9   G/L/F    H%  S%  BPV
====   ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  ==  ==  === 
2009*  131  4.67  5.96  4.1  6.6  1.6  0.4   --------  39  74  50
2010*  159  4.17  4.73  3.2  5.9  1.8  0.4   --------  35  72  57
2011#  39   5.08  5.19  3.9  4.4  1.1  0.7   46/21/33  35  71  -3
2012#  173  3.54  3.99  1.6  4.7  2.9  0.9   53/21/26  30  74  72
*minors
#MLB-only

Based on his track record, a repeat doesn't look plausible:

  • His weak Dom became less of an issue when he started pounding the lower-half of the strike zone with accuracy.
  • Poor Ctl in previous seasons allowed hitters to wait on pitches to hit. In addition, any Ctl regression could wreak havoc on his ERA.
  • xERA confirms that he's barely a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher even with normal luck.

Diamond's skill set lends itself to polarizing results: either he maintains Ctl and gets lucky again, or a few more balls find holes (or the fences) and he's back in the minors by June. If you're the gambling type, though, it couldn't hurt to roll the dice if the price is right.

 

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