Edwin Encarnacion has been an absolute fantasy monster this season. Tonight, he connected for his 24th and 25th home runs of the season and he’s been flirting with a .300/.380/.550 line almost all year long. I’ve been touting EE for years now and wrote this about him in the offseason…
“I’m a gluten for punishment when it comes to certain players and E5 is one of them. While Encarnacion struggled mightily out of the gates last season, he picked up the pace big-time after the all-star break, hitting .291/.382/.504 with 11 home runs and seven stolen bases. Perhaps one season he’ll put it all together. Perhaps that season is 2012. A late round pick is worth the risk. He’ll try his luck in left field during winter ball, which could add more “versatility”, or at least a chance for more at-bats.”
While I used Encarnacion’s strong second half as the main support for my recommendation, it was the underlying skills that he had shown year after year that made me think of him in the first place.
Back in 2008, EE hit 26 home runs with a 6/1 BB/K ratio and a contact rate between 80-81 percent. Since then, he has continued to show good contact skills while keeping his chase and strikeout rates in check. The problem was that his fly-ball approach never translated into a good enough AVG for him to hold much fantasy value in 12-team mixed leagues. Now (finally) EE’s skills have translated into a breakout season, which a lot of fantasy guru’s have been calling for since his 2008 performance.
What does this teach us as fantasy GMs? Well, for keeper and dynasty formats, it goes to show that underlying skills are always worth investing in. Encarnacion consistently posted low strikeout rates, good contact rates and had shown the ability to take a walk and hit for power. Sometimes, players don’t always peak at 25-27, as is most commonly assumed. In EE’s case, it took until his age 29 season.
The point I am trying to make here is that we, as fantasy baseball writers, can only do so much. The game of baseball cannot be predicted on stats alone and the mesh of skills and numbers can be a mysterious mash-up that drives both you and I crazy at times. However, in the end, our duty is to identify the possibility of success or failure of players that you, the reader, might consider for your fantasy team. In terms of breakouts, that success might come the same year player “X” is touted. It may come the next year, or the year after. In the end, our goal is to provide the evidence that shows WHY player “X” will or will not breakout, and hope that eventually our conclusions come to fruition. Sometimes those conclusions are proven right from the get-go. Other times it takes a while.
Baseball is a game that demands patience. For some players, that patience is demanded more strictly than others.
Focus on the skills a young player shows at the major league level and more often than not, you’ll end up reaping the reward of his peak.