2012 Projection: Andre Ethier

What started out with a bang — including a 30-game hit streak — ended with a season-ending knee injury. Andre Ethier’s 2011 numbers were a letdown, but he had been playing through pain for much of the second half. Can he rebound in 2012?

Andre Ethier, OF, LAD – Age 29 in 2012
2012 Projection: .289/.365/.478 .843 OPS, 24 HR, 77 R, 88 RBI, 2 SB

Ethier is set to have arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday. Recovery time is expected to be relatively short enough that Ethier should be 100 percent before the beginning of spring training. Unless we find reports of setbacks during his recovery, it should be safe to assume that the knee won’t affect his 2012 performance.

Baseball Prospectus‘ injury experts Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh do a great job of explaining why Ethier’s knee injury sapped so much of his power in this article. The article is a subscription piece, but they sum up their analysis with this line:

Ethier’s stride and hip rotational velocity was compromised, since he was not able to rotate his legs and hips quickly.”

So what can a healthy Ethier do for your fantasy team in 2012? Well, in 2009 he hit .272/.361/.508 with 31 home runs, 92 runs scored and 106 RBI. In 2010 he hit .292/.364/.493 with 23 home runs, but he missed 15 games due to a fracture of his right pinkie finger. He remained consistent with his slash number this season, but, obviously the knee injury shut down his power game. If we discard his SLG from this season, we find that Ethier has actually been extremely consistent when on the field over the last three seasons.

Given his age (29) and consistency at the plate over the past few years, and his AB/HR rates in 2009 and 2010, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Ethier has another 30 home runs season if he plays around 160 games. On the low end, I’d expect at least 20 homers to go along with a decent AVG/OBP. We could point to his BABIP as a source of possible regression in AVG, and I buy that to a certain extent, but Ethier has been a consistent line drive hitter over the last three years.

2009 LD%: 20.5%
2010 LD%: 21.6%
2011 LD%: 25.3%

With a healthy knee and the ability to hit for more power once again, Ethier should see a drop in his line drive rate in 2012, but his track record suggests it should remain around 20 percent.

Basically, Ethier is who he is. He’s a good hitter, though he has definitely had issues against left-handed pitching. That being said, he’s not a roto star, though it will be interesting to see how his drop in power numbers and knee injury affects his 2012 draft stock. If he falls far enough, he could actually be a very nice value pick. We’ll have to wait and see.