Key Stats: What a difference protection in the lineup makes… Pence was having a solid all-around year before a July trade freed him from the quad A squad in Houston. The power numbers were down slightly, only 11 HR’s and a .163 ISO (his lowest ever) through 100 games with the Astros, but once he reached the city of Brotherly Love he was a new man, equaling his HR’s to that point and producing a .234 ISO and a .954 OPS in 54 games down the stretch. We can’t say the ballpark played a factor last year as according to statcorner.com both Citizens Bank Park and Minute Maid Park are extremely favorable to the long ball off right handed bats.
Skeptics Say: One aspect of Pence’s game that really drove up his value was that he could be viewed as a power/speed threat in the outfield. Having stolen 14 and 18 bases in 2009 and ’10, I thought 2011 would be his first 20/20 season. Managerial minds prevailed though, and saw that despite the steal totals Pence was accumulating, he wasn’t very efficient getting thrown out 44% and 33% of the time in ’09 and ’10. He either wasn’t given the green light to go or was much more selective on the base paths in ’11 attempting 10 steals all year. If that is all we are going to get out of him going forward, his value has definitely dropped some.
Peer Comparison: Yahoo! ADP has Pence as a 4th round pick. 2011 was a career year for him posting new highs in RBI, OBP and WAR while coming close to matching career highs in HR’s, AVG and SLG. His .314 avg though could have something to do with a monstrously high .361 BABIP, which we can’t expect him to replicate. Going forward, we are already expecting a lower average next year, and worse than career averages in steals. At the other end of the spectrum, available some 30 picks after Pence, we have a player coming off a down year, who in ’09 and ’10 posted 20/20 seasons, batted .300 and posted OBP’s of .394 and .401. He played in only 85 games last year, which helps explain his lack of power, but his speed was still on track with 12 steals. Take what you want from ADP results, but going forward, would you rather pay 4th round price for career year Hunter Pence, or wait 3 rounds and gamble on Shin Soo Choo bouncing back? I’m not saying Pence isn’t a good pick, if he was around at the end of the 4th, depending on how I had drafted up to that point I may grab him, but if Choo is there in the 7th sign me up.
Lineup Outlook: Pence is key to an aging lineup, that said, if they can stay healthy they have guys that can still produce.
Projection: I would look for the AVG and OBP to drop from last year, but the HR’s and RBI’s should be where we have seen him previously. The fans at Fangraphs think he’ll break 100 RBI’s but I’m not that optimistic. All in all, Pence is who we think he is, but the potential for 20 steals isn’t realistic anymore.
.286 AVG, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 86 R, .340 OBP and a .830 OPS in 590 AB