The New Grady Sizemore

Last October, Grady Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee. After over five months or recovery and rehab, he returned to big-league action. Since his return, he has put up a .282/.333/.641 line with six home runs in only 78 a-bats (13 AB/HR). If Sizemore were to stay healthy, accumulate 500 at-bats and maintain his current home run pace, he’d be looking at 38 home runs by the end of the season.

Sizemore has a career high of 33 homers (2008), so we’ve seen power potential before, but he seems to be looking to take his power game to the next level?

Many fantasy experts were and perhaps still are are a little hesitant to endorse Sizemore as a fantasy value for the entire season. Microfracture surgery is thought of as having a tremendously adverse affect on a baseball player, if not career altering, especially for a player who’s speed is part of his value. Carlos Beltran is a living example of this. However, Sizemore is over five years younger than Beltran and showing that he’s capable, at least for now, of playing at a high level almost everyday. That being said, Sizemore isn’t the player he has been in the past, which may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Once regarded as one of the premier power/speed threats in the game, Sizemore owners will have to accept that the speed side is not nearly what it used to be. He has only attempted one stolen base on the year and that attempt was unsuccessful. Clearly, he’s not pushing himself speed wise, which may end up being a wise decision for him as well as for fantasy owners in 2011.

Sizemore, from the looks of things, has changed his approach at the plate. He has been super aggressive early on, swinging at almost 50 percent of pitches he’s seen and being ultra aggressive when he sees a pitch inside the strike-zone, swinging at those pitches over 73 percent of the time. He has only seen about 3.4 pitches per plate appearance so far. Rather than focus on making better contact and being more of a “leadoff hitter”, Sizemore seems to be trying to drive the ball deep in every at bat, leading to a 25.6 percent whiff rate and a 52.5 percent fly-ball rate, but also a .641 SLG and .359 ISO. While the sample size of fewer than 100 plate appearances is too small to draw any solid conclusions from, it makes perfect sense that Sizemore would change his approach given the nature of his injury.

It remains to be seen if Sizemore can continue to stay healthy for the rest of the season, but if he does, his new approach could result in a career high in home runs. I don’t think his AVG will stick much above .265 if the high fly-ball rate holds true, but Sizemore hasn’t been a source of AVG since 2006 anyway.

The Indians would probably be better served moving Sizemore down in the order — to the four spot in my opinion — capitalizing on his ability to hit the long ball. Such a move would also be better for fantasy owners, as Sizemore’s RBI totals would likely inflate.

While the thought of 30-35 home runs from Sizemore is tantalizing, there is still a lot of risk in holding onto him this season. His knee may not hold up over the grind of over 100 more games and his AVG is due for a regression. Given those concerns, now is a great time to try and sell high. He has been recenty traded straight up for: Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen.