Key Stats: Paul Konkero has averaged 33 HR’s a year since 2004. His worst season in that span (2008) he appeared in only 122 games, and still produced 22 bombs. That was also the only time in that span his ISO has been below .200 (it was .199). He has appeared in 149 games each of the last two seasons, and has batted .300 in both of them. There has been no noticeable, consistent decline in any of Konerko’s peripheral numbers to suggest anything other than another season of lots of HR’s, RBI’s and solid batting average. His walk rate has gone up each of the last three years, leading to some nice OBP numbers.
Skeptics Say: Decline has to start somewhere right? Being 36 when the ’12 season starts Konerko isn’t exactly in the prime of his career. While there aren’t declining numbers to suggest that he is going to start struggling this year, his fly ball% has dropped each of the last three years (but his line drive rate has increased… not ground ball rate, which is a good thing). He has also chased pitches outside the zone at a higher rate too each of the last three seasons. To go along with that, he has made increased contact with those outside the zone offerings, but I’m not sure how much of it is good contact…
Peer Comparison: Konerko was one of three first basemen to hit 30 HR’s and bat .300 this past season (Miguel Cabrera and Mike Morse were the other two) and he and Cabrera are the only ones to do it the last 2 seasons.
Lineup Outlook: Like AL Central rivals Cleveland, the ChiSox have a lot of questions in their lineup. Namely, can big contract players like Dunn and Rios produce like they are being paid to? Prospect Dayan Viciedo supposedly has a lot of power, but provided only 1 HR in 102 AB’s last year, granted he’s still only 22. Lastly, is this the year Beckham breaks out (I’m hoping so)?
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline – #9 in the Top 40 First Basemen; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com – #7 in the Top 25 First Basemen & #41 in the Top 250 Players; RotoChamp – #34 in the Top 300; Mock Draft Central – #7 First Baseman and #45 Overall
Projection: With a lengthy career and little injury history you can use pen for Konerko’s floor this season…I think he’ll be firting with .300 again looking at his increasing line drive and declining fly ball rates, unless this is the year he goes A-Rod on us.
.300 AVG, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 82 Runs, .370 OBP, .860 OPS in 550 AB’s.