Upside is all you hear about this time of year.
“Pick the player with upside” has been written at Chinstrap Ninjas a number of times, mostly because it’s a great strategy. What isn’t discussed enough is downside risk.
Downside risk encompasses the qualities we look for when determining busts. It is easy to spot — there’s plenty of it in our eight stars to stay away from busts post — if you look in the right places.
Let’s take a look at 12 more players with a heaping portion of downside risk on their plate in 2010:
He could be excellent this year, but Miguel Montero is not replicating that .294 average. If he slumps bad enough it will cost PT to Chris Snyder — who Montero leapfrogged in Arizona last season. You can’t score or drive in runs if you’re splitting time.
Adrian Gonzalez hit 28 homers on the road last season and finished with only 40 because of his spacious home park. That’s a phenomenal HR rate in opposing parks. Downside risk says he’ll hit 10 less homers in 2010. That makes his statistical comparison somewhere between Kendry Morales and Paul Konerko. You wouldn’t pick either of those players at 31st overall, where Gonzalez is getting picked.
There’s downside risk written all over Aaron Hill‘s statistics. His home run to fly ball rate was the highest of his career by more than six percent. He also had never approached 100-30-100 status until last year. Can the Blue Jays provide enough help for him to repeat those numbers?
Like Hill, Ryan Zimmerman‘s HR/FB took a significant jump in 2009. To expect another 100-30-100 in the Nationals lineup might be a stretch. Again, like everybody on this list, Zimmerman has the potential to be excellent, but could end up overvalued.
Want a poster boy for downside risk? How about Ben Zobrist? Before his All-Star awesome 2009, Zobrist’s career highs were 42/12/30/9/.327. Where did 91/27/91/17/.297 come from? Was it because he finally got the opportunity, or did he reach his ceiling?
If it takes you nine Major-League seasons to hit more than 30 homers, like it did Michael Cuddyer, and it was only your second season with more than 16, it should raise questions.
Which Matt Holliday are we going to get in 2010? He should be the one that finished the season for the Cardinals or could be the one that started the season for the Athletics.
Zack Grienke threw six complete games and three shutouts in 2009. He set outstanding career bests in ERA, IPs and Ks. Those marks were significantly better than anything else he’s done at the pro level. Maybe he’s the next Johan Santana, but for argument’s sake, let’s just say he’s a really good Zack Grienke. Chances are he’ll regress in 2010.
There’s a tired arm in the making for Justin Verlander. He struck out 269, but also threw 240 innings. His previous high IP was 201 (twice). He should have worn a hardhat out to the mound with that kind of workload. Verlander’s ERA last season was 3.45, but in 2008 it was 4.84. He also struck out hitters at a far slower pace (163 in 201 innings) in 2008.
A previous stint with the Yankees was not a good one for Javier Vazquez, but he’ll be better this time around. The problem is, he had a career best 2.87 ERA with the Braves last season. He’s moving to the American League where he’ll give up more runs. Vazquez also gets a good neck workout every game (more fly balls than ground balls) and that’s a move you don’t want to see pitchers practicing at Yankee Stadium.
The biggest problem with closers is that they’re really only good for one statistic, saves. The second biggest problem is turnover. Half the guys who were closers in 2009 won’t finish as closers in 2010. As of right now, Jonathan Broxton looks like Mike Tyson in his prime. Unbeatable, what with all those punchouts. Weren’t we heaping the same praise on World Series champion Brad Lidge back in 2008? We’re keeping Broxton at the top of our rankings, but understand that downside risk is included free of charge.
Heath Bell is the no-doubt opening day closer for the Padres, but his fielding independent pitching (2.42) was the best mark of his major league career and .60 lower than his career mark (3.03). Take away last season’s breakout and Bell is 2-for-13 in Major League save chances.
Where else do you see downside risk in 2010? Respond in the comments, or you can email responses to ep(at)chinstrapninjas(dot)com.