Key Stats: Going back to 2006 (and probably further, but I don’t keep records that far back) Ichiro Suzuki has not been ranked worse than 116 in any season. When we talk about the term consistency in fantasy baseball Ichiro is the standard which we based that term off of. Despite being on the worst offense for the second straight year in all of baseball, Ichiro has never had a season in which he has finished with fewer than 74 runs in 11 seasons. He also has had at least 26 steals every season including last year when he finished with 40.
Skeptics Say: The season that Ichiro was ranked 116 was last season. A large part of that is the players around him, but those players aren’t expected to change drastically. He averaged 111 runs per season from 2001 through 2008, but only finished with an average of 81 runs per season over the last three years. The most notable concern with Ichiro is that his average not only fell under .300 for the first time last season, but his average fell under .280.
Peer Comparison: Ichiro was the only outfielder over 31 years old that stole more than 30 bases last season. He did it by a healthy margin. He will be 38 next season, but his speed is still a teriffic asset to any fantasy team. He’s never a flashy pick and aging. That could lead to some very cheap steals (among other numbers if things turn for the M’s offense). Here are the outfielders that stole 40 or more last season.
Coco Crisp: Stole 47 bases (career high) & has averaged 114 games per season since 2004
Brett Gardner: Stole 49 bases & hit 13 points lower than Ichiro
Michael Bourn: Stole 61 bases, but was worse than Ichiro in the rankings every year but 2011
Matt Kemp: Stole 40 bases & won’t come cheap
Emilio Bonifacio: Stole 40 bases & was never more than a utility infielder before last year
Drew Stubbs: Stole 40 bases, but was a batting average killer
Cameron Maybin: Stole 40 bases in a breakout season, but still had ranking worse than Ichiro
Ichiro can make himself useful in a number of formats.
Lineup Outlook: Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak are the best hopes for Ichiro getting back into the century mark as far as runs are concerned. Smoak’s average doesn’t look great, but he did have an extra base hit once every 10 at-bats (a better rate than Adam Lind among others). Among players with at least 250 plate appearances, Ackley was in the top 20 in baseball in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance. Given that Ackley was the team’s number three hitter last year and could project there again this year, that bodes well for Ichiro’s potential to steal bases.
Projection: Ichiro’s BABIP was insanely unlucky last season. He did have a lot more pop ups to the infield, but a BABIP that fell 56 points below his career BABIP was terribly unlucky. The average will return to the .300 territory, but who knows if he can keep playing 160 games and getting 40 steals.
81 R 5 HR 49 RBI 35 SB .303 AVG .340 OBP.710 OPS in 660 plate appearances