Every year, some of the best value in your baseball draft or auction can be found by investing in last year's busts. Most of them are just a year removed for greatness and they all had huge projections for the previous season, but something just didn't go right. Plenty of your fellow owners will be too gun-shy to pull the trigger on some of these guys, especially whoever owned him last year. But not you. You will be armed at the draft table with the knowledge of which of last year's bums is primed to become this year's stars. Or at least a candidate for this year's "best value" when all is said and done.
Let's take a look at some of the most prominent busts from 2010 and their respective outlooks for this season.
Aaron Hill, Blue Jays -- The poster child for last year's busts. Hill offered the worst return on investment last season, posting a slash of .205/.271/.394 with 26 homers, 68 RBI and 70 runs. This after hitting .286/.330/.499 with 36 bombs, 108 RBI and 103 runs in '09. The first point here is how imperfect RBI and runs are at determining how good a player is, but that's another argument (although I'm not sure why it's still an argument) for another day. The difference in K-rate was negligible, but his BABIP fell off a cliff, dropping to .196 from .288. The explanation. His line-drive percentage was all the way down to 10.6 percent after being up at 19.6 in '09.
While Hill isn't going to duplicate his '09 numbers, I actually like him heading into '11. The main reasons? That BABIP and line-drive percentage we just talked about were career-lows by far. Before the '10 season, his career-low BABIP was that .288 in '09, and his worst line-drive percentage was 17.3 in '08. With guys like Chase Utley, Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dan Uggla, Dustin Pedroia, Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips, second base is not the shallow pool it once was, but if I miss out on those guys, I'd have no problem waiting around and grabbing Hill. But I wouldn't grab him if this next guy is still around.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox -- Probably my favorite bounce back candidate for '11. Look, pretty much everyone in the baseball world expected Beckham to become Chase Utley 2.0, at least from a fantasy standpoint, last year. We all heaped some unrealistic expectations on the guy. For that, Gordon, I'd like to apologize on the behalf of all fantasy writers. We understand it was your first full year in the majors and you were just 23-years old. We shouldn't have expected you to become the second coming of Ryne Sandberg in Chicago just like that. Sorry Gordon. Now don't disappoint us again.
Beckham settled down in the season's second half, posting a .310/.380/.497 line with six homers after the All-Star break. As we discussed with Hill, there are a lot of second basemen to go around this season. You could do much worse than biding your time and grabbing Beckham late. Especially when he ends up with numbers comparable to Phillips.
B.J. Upton, Rays -- Just like '09, last year was a season Upton would soon like to forget. He hit just .237/.322/.424. His homers were back up to a respectable 18, but he's yet to recapture the power he flashed in '07, when he hit 24 jacks in just 548 plate appearances, 62 fewer than he had last season. His BABIP has fallen each of the last four years, dropping all the way to .304 in '10 from a career-high of .393 in '07. A BABIP that high wasn't sustainable, and a player with his strikeout rate (30.6 percent last year) is always going to have a wide gap between BABIP and actual batting average.
So, is Upton a guy to target or a guy to avoid? Well, one thing we know about him is the steals will be there. The speedster has stolen 42-plus bags each of the last three years, despite posting OBPs of .313 and .322 in '09 and '10, respectively. Even in his three down seasons since breaking out in '07, he has racked up 37, 33 and 38 doubles. Not only did his home run total jump back up to 18 from 11, but 10 of those were in August and September. That's a signal to me that he has rediscovered his power stroke. Upton is a '10 bum that I'd love to have in '11.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- After a monster '09 in which Lind hit .305/.370/.562 with 35 homers and 114 RBI, Lind came crashing down to earth last season. His slash was .237/.287/425, and he fell to 23 homers and 72 RBI. The culprits, which should come as no surprise for a player in his second full year, were a higher K-rate (to 25.3 percent from 18.7 percent) and, in turn, a lower BABIP (plummeted to .277 from .323).
There's reason to believe in a bounce back for Lind in '11. For one thing, he hit at every level in the minors before getting the full-time call to the show. Clearly, pitchers made an adjustment to him last year. The question is, can he adjust to what they were doing that made him a less effective hitter? I think you'll see an uptick in rates, but I'm not expecting him to return to the 35-homer plateau. Give me Drew Stubbs over Lind any day.
Curtis Granderson, Yankees -- Granderson posted a 30/20 season in '09 before moving to the hitter's paradise that is new Yankee Stadium. In the confines of the Yankee lineup, Granderson appeared headed for another great season. Instead, he hit .247 and posted a .324 OBP. What's more, he stole just 12 bases, and hitting toward the bottom of the Yankee order, he scored a paltry 76 runs. Even his 24 homers were a disappointment, considering the way in which Yankee Stadium has played to the benefit of left-handed hitters.
You know what you're getting out of Granderson. He's not going to hit .300 or get on base 40 percent of the time all of a sudden. He's a black hole against lefties, and his value is mainly derived from his ability to go 30/20. That's what makes last year's steals total so troubling. Granderson only attempted 14 steals last year. If he's running that infrequently, he's nothing more than a third outfielder. I'd stay away unless the price is really right.
Ben Zobrist, Rays -- Similar to Aaron Hill in that he totally fell off the map last year. Different from Hill in that he's more likely to come close to reproducing '10 than '09. Zobrist entered last season looking like a boon at the shortstop position. He was coming off a 27-homer, 17-steal year to go along with a .297 average and .405 OBP. Unfortunately for Zobrist, last year's .238/.346/.353 with 10 homers a better indication of the player than his career year the previous season.
Zobrist was the beneficiary of a .326 BABIP in '09 even with a K-rate of 20.8 percent. His walk rate and line-drive percentage and walk rate were better in '09 than they were in '10, but not markedly. The huge difference in '09 Zobrist was his that 17.5 percent of his fly balls were home runs. For comparison's sake, Albert Pujols' HR/FB rate was 18.3 percent last year. Zobrist's '09 power binge came from nowhere, as he hit just 23 home runs in 1,642 minor-league plate appearances. There's no reason to expect '09 was anything more than an anomaly. Steer clear of Zobrist this year.