While reviewing the elite 5×5 hitters, I stumbled across many interesting findings.
Several deserved even further research. Having both Brewers 1B Prince Fielder and OF Ryan Braun as elite RBI producers was near the top.
Both Braun and Fielder are stars. They’ll probably drive in themselves with their elite 30+-homer power, but they are going to need some help.
After looking at a handful of projected lineups, it’s pretty obvious these people are chemically enhancing their lives. Here’s how I see the top working out, at least early:
Alcides Escobar, SS — Projections are all over the place, and I’m sure ours will fluctuate wildly between now and Opening Day. The good side of his expert projections give Escobar 70/5/50/30/.290. In his AAA year, Escobar had a 76/4/34/42/.298. His best minor league numbers — 95/8/76/42/.328 — are great. A big-time prospect, let’s see how he reacts.
Casey McGehee, 3B — After rostering McGehee in several leagues last year, I’m excited to see what he can do. Experts are giving him a 60/15/70/0/.280 line. He did have a high Batting Average on Balls In Play last year, so the average could drop to .280, but the reason for his less than exciting numbers in the other categories is Matt Gamel. Not so sure that’s a good idea. Coaches want McGehee to bat second, that’s a vote of confidence. More soon.
Braun — Will hit 3rd. Some fan lineups have him batting second. Absurd.
Fielder — Some of those same lists have Fielder hitting third. These people are on hallucinogens.
Corey Hart, OF — Was injured last year and really disappointed. While you can blame a lot on Hart’s injuries last year, his home runs per fly ball rate has declined for two consecutive years, so leave your optimism at the door. Experts have him putting up a 75/20/70/15/.270 line.
Rickie Weeks, 2B — Weeks is all over the place on fan lineups. Some have him batting leadoff, some have him hitting cleanup, others have him hitting in the back end of the lineup. Expert projections have him posting 80/15/50/15/.260. He had abnormally high BABIP and HR/FB rates in 2009.
The end-game sleeper in the crowd is Carlos Gomez.
Gomez’s defense is so good he’ll keep his center field job even if struggling at the plate, like he did with the Twins in 2009. He hit just .229 with 51 runs and only 14 steals. It was nothing like the budding star we all saw in 2008.
When Gomez won the Twins’ CF job in 2008, he scored 79 runs, drove in 59, stole 33 bags and hit nearly 30 points higher. He also became the first Twin in 22 years to hit for the cycle.
Playing for the Met’s AA club in 2006, Gomez scored a 53/7/48/41/.281 line. His minor league BABIP was well over .300 and it was .330 in 2008, meaning that his .286 BABIP in 2009 looks unlucky. He has the potential to bounce back at least 30 points in BABIP which should boost his average considerably.
There are no guarantees with any player or any advanced statistic, but Gomez has the makings of a sleeper, particularly if Escobar struggles at the plate and the team decides they need speed at the top of the lineup.
Expert projections: 60/6/45/25/.260
My optimistic projections: 80/6/45/35/.270
He’s getting picked at the end of drafts (234.04 ADP at Mock Draft Central) if he’s being picked at all (not being picked in 15% of drafts), so if he makes those optimistic 80 runs and 35 steals he provides considerable value.
The other non-pitcher hitter in the lineup is catcher Greg Zaun. But Zaun is just keeping the backstop warm for a couple prospects.