Is Bay a #1 Fantasy Outfielder?
Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor
Image courtesy of Icon SMI
Jason Bay has finally escaped the shackles of Pittsburgh. With the loaded line-up of the Red Sox surrounding him, Bay enters 2009 again looking like one of the top fantasy OFers in the game, much like he was in 2005 & 2006. The question is, can he return to those lofty standards?
Overall, his 2008 campaign was impressive:
577 At Bats
.286 Batting Average (165 Hits)
31 Home Runs
10 Stolen Bases
.373 On Base Percentage
.522 Slugging Percentage
.328 Batting Average on Balls in Play
It’s easy to point to his move to Boston, but he was playing exceptionally well prior to the trade from Pittsburgh. In the first half of the season he hit .287 with 19 HR, 53 RBI and 64 R. Obviously, being on the Red Sox is a boost to his value, especially if David Ortiz can remain healthy.
That isn’t the story here. The idea of him playing in Boston is all fine and dandy, but the he has proved that he can contribute while playing in a weaker line-up. No, the real question is if he can continue to excel or if a flashback to his 2007 disaster could be in store.
Tendonitis in his knee was credited for his down campaign. Could it creep back into the picture again and sideline him? Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t expect it. Last season certainly should have eased those concerns.
Despite hitting 31 HR last season, his HR/FB was not what he has proven capable in the past. Since 2004 he’s posted the following ratios:
- 2004 – 21.3%
- 2005 – 17.0%
- 2006 – 18.8%
- 2007 – 11.4%
- 2008 – 15.0%
He has shown the potential to hit HR at a higher pace then he did last season, though a regression in the number of fly balls he hits could offset it. Last season he set a career high with a 46.0% FB%, placing him fifteenth in the league.
While people want to point to his full-time move to Fenway as a positive, it certainly wasn’t last season. In 87 AB he hit just .264 with 3 HR. That gives me a slight cause for concern. I know, the thoughts of him playing pepper with the Green Monster are enticing, but I don’t see them as a given considering that production last season.
Yes, he will be playing in a significantly better line-up (as we mentioned). In Pittsburgh all he really had was Nate McLouth. Now he’s got Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and others joining him.
That should help him repeat his RBI total, as he has exceeded the 100 mark on three occasions. The runs, however, could be lacking depending on where hi hits in the order. Last season they were using him in the #5 hole, and while that Red Sox line-up is deep, it’s not that deep.
He will be depending on J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek to consistently drive him in. Is it possible? Yeah, I guess, but it is highly unlikely. I wouldn’t expect this to be the fourth time he crosses the century mark.
With a career 12.5% walk rate, he offers a very good eye though he still strikes out an awful lot. Last season it was at 23.7%, below his career mark of 26.4%. That is the biggest reason that he does not hit over .300.
His key to a good season is the walk rate. In the three seasons where he has gone 100/100 he’s posted walk rates of:
- 2005 – 13.7%
- 2006 – 15.2%
- 2008 – 12.3%
In 2004 & 2007, his walk rates were below 10%.
With all that said, let’s take a look at what I would expect from him this season:
.278 (157-565), 28 HR, 108 RBI, 85 R, 9 SB, .317 BABIP, .370 OBP, .492 SLG
Before people question the AB, I have him projected for a 12.81% walk rate (83 walks). This projection pretty much supports more of the same from Bay, for the most part. While he is going to have more opportunity to drive in runs, hitting lower in the line-up will likely limit his run scoring potential.
To me, that costs him from being a top #1 outfielder. He’s more of a great #2 (I had him ranked as the #12 OFer in my rankings, which you can view by clicking here) in my book. While the fact that it is his contract year could motivate him further, I’m just not buying it.
What about you? What do you expect from him this season?