Is Ian Kinsler a First Round Pick?

Mar 4, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Let me ask you this, had Chase Utley not gone down with injury, would you be considering Ian Kinsler in the first round?  Your answer to that question should go a long way in determining if Kinsler is deserving of a first round draft choice or not.

That’s not to say that Kinsler is not a tremendous player.  That’s not to say that Kinsler is not a player that I crave to own.  In fact, in my keeper league he was the one player that I informed other owners that was nearly off-limits in trade talks, unless they came to the table with an offer that simply blew me away.

Kinsler is that good, and his 2008 performance backs it:

518 At Bats
.319 Batting Average (165 Hits)
18 Home Runs
71 RBI
102 Runs
26 Stolen Bases
.375 On Base Percentage
.517 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Can he stay healthy for an entire season?  At this point that’s a question that all fantasy owners need to be asking themselves.  He’s missed time each of the past three seasons:

  • 2006 – Dislocated thumb
  • 2007 – Stress fracture in his foot
  • 2008 – Sports hernia

One could argue that these are all just separate instances, not related to each other in the least.  That is a very fair point, and while it is true you have to wonder why they keep happening to him.  Will 2009 finally be the season he stays healthy all the way through?  Hopefully, but are you willing to bet your first round pick on it?

As for the numbers, I have little reason to believe that he can’t repeat his tremendous 2008 campaign.  He was a career .303 hitter in the minor leagues, and while a lot of that success came at lower levels, it still does show that he can hit.

His strikeout rate dropped tremendously, from 17.2% in 2007 to 12.9% last season.  I don’t think he’s going to be able to keep the number that low, but I wouldn’t expect a full regression either.  Hitters mature, they develop.  He will be 27-years old on June 22, so it’s not like this improvement came in his late 30’s.  He’s just entering the prime of his career.

Couple the fall-off in strikeouts with a likely fall in BABIP (he was in the Top 20 last season), and a .300 average no longer looks like a certainty.

The power and speed are for real, as he’s shown that potential in each of his three major league seasons.  In the power department, he’s posted:

  • 2006 – a HR every 30.20 AB
  • 2007 – a HR every 24.15 AB
  • 2008 – a HR every 28.78 AB

Utley last season hit a HR every 18.39 AB, though there’s no real comparison between the two in the power department.  Over the last three seasons, Utley has hit 87 HR vs. Kinsler’s 52.  Utley is the cream of the crop when it comes to power hitting 2B.

Kinsler’s advantage comes in the speed department, where he has shown the potential to steal 30 bases in a season.  The key word there is potential, because he’s never actually achieved it, including in the minor leagues.  Is the first round really where you want to be drafting on potential?

I know, he’s already been a 20/20 second baseman (in 2007), and likely would have gotten there last season as well.  But what makes him a better option in the first round over, say, Brandon Phillips, who has actually posted a 30/30 season?

Is it the average?  Well, I’ve already said that I’d expect Kinsler’s to fall under .300, so the difference is not going to be all that great.

Is it the runs?  That may be a fair, as Kinsler has a big advantage there.  He will be hitting atop a Rangers line-up expected to score runs in droves.  That makes him a 100+ run candidate once again, something that only five second baseman did last season.

While Kinsler is not going to threaten driving in 100 runs, only one second baseman did that last season (Utley).  His 71 RBI placed him ninth, and while a healthy season would move him up the list, he’s not going to be among the elite at the position.

So, we put everything together and what do we get?

  • An average at or around .295
  • 100+ runs scored
  • A potential 20/30 player, who has never actually reached that plateau
  • A potential injury risk

There seems to be an awful lot of inherent risk there, a whole lot of what ifs.

If that were not enough to scare owners off, the fact that a player like Brandon Phillips, who could outperform Kinsler in both HR and SB, is posting an ADP of 30.22 (according to Mock Draft Central), or a third round pick.

Couple that with the fact that if Utley was healthy, owners would not even be considering Kinsler in the first round, says it all.  He is not a player that I would take when he’s going.  I’d much rather take a player who I know what I’m going to get, before targeting one of the other names in the third or fourth round.

What about you?  Are you willing to select Kinsler in the first round?  If so, why?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

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