Skeptics Say: If an outfielder might not be able to hit 20 homers he better be able to steal bases, and Ethier won’t be doing that either. Couple that with his strike out percentage going in the wrong direction 4 years in a row and a swinging strike rate that has gone up the last 3.
Peer Comparison: 33 year old outfielders didn’t fare too well in baseball last year. There were 4 according to the stats filter on espn.com, and they aren’t really an inspiring bunch: Juan Rivera, Jason Bay, Ryan Ludwick and Vernon Wells. Ethier’s power is similar to all of them (exception being Wells) but he will give you a better average and OBP than anyone in that group. This isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison, but outfielders hitting their mid 30’s don’t usually discover a fountain of youth. Notice that (spoiler alert) none of those players are in our Top 162 players count down. A sign of things to come?
I botched that one. Ethier won’t be 33, but looking at who is available at the outfield position, and who you can pick up around the same time that Ethier will go in drafts, I just can’t justify getting someone who isn’t a threat to steal bases, or hit homers at an above average level. Of the 63 qualified batters last year that were outfielders, only 15 hit as many or less homers than him, and of those guys 11 of them had double digit steals. The ones that didn’t? Juan Rivera, John Jay, David DeJesus and Kosuke Fukudome. If you are going into battle starting any of them, then pray the bats on your opponents team all pull hammies.
Team Outlook: The Dodgers are a mess. New ownership is going to come in at some point, but they are kinda tied up until then. They haven’t added any major pieces, but they haven’t exactly lost any either, with the most notable departure being Kuroda (replaced by either Capuano or Harang.)
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline – #28 in the Top 80 Outfielders; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com – #54 in the Top 70 Outfielders & #190 in the Top 250 Players; RotoChamp – #110 in the Top 300 Players
Projection: Personally I’m looking for outfield help elsewhere this season. While I don’t think he is going to do as poorly as he did last season, if an outfielder isn’t going to deliver power or steals he has to bat better than .300, and his career numbers and trends don’t indicate that will happen either. Given the lack of significant moves the Dodgers made on offense, there isn’t promise his RBI or Runs totals will go up considerably from last season. My optimistic projection:
.286 AVG, 15 HR, 70 R, 75 RBI, 1 Steal, .362 OBP, .824 OPS in 590 ABs.