First, some history: Last season, the Baron exhibited his usual over-enthusiasm for whippet-thin outfielders who promise both power and speed, and also Matt Holliday. Coming out of a draft in which I took Holliday first (coming off 36 HRs in ’07), a still-2B-eligible BJ Upton second (24 HRs in ’07) and Alex Rios third (24 HRs in ’07), I knew I lacked a big-bopper in the Prince/Ryan Howard/Dunn mold, but figured I could count on at least 80 HRs from this trio—with a ceiling closer to a 100. Holliday in Coors seemed like a lock for 35* and who knows? Maybe Rios and Upton both hit 30**!
Instead, I got 49 homers. Not from Holliday. From all three. Combined.
I got 25 from Holliday (a drop-off of 12), 15 from Rios (drop-off: 7) and 9 – 9! – from Beej Upton (a drop-off of, oh, you can do the math.) Needless to say I finished last in home runs.
The point is, we usually assume that if we draft a guy in the first three rounds, we can expect more, or at least the same, power numbers going forward. There’s a reason why shiny young studs like Evan Longoria go high while old battered war-horses like Jermaine Dye go later: It’s The Upside, Stupid.
So if you, like me, took David Wright in the first round this year, you were probably counting on 30-35 home runs this year, give or take one new spacious ballpark. Wright, after all, has donked 27, 26, 30, and 33 HRs in the past four seasons, respectively. And he’s 26 this year! Almost the magic age!
And if you pegged him for 30 donks, that’s about 5 per month, which means he should have, oh, about 10 right about now.
He has three.
Now, if you’re a David Wright owner (like me), you’re probably having all kinds of terrible, nerve-wracking, wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat fears. Maybe the cavernous Citifield (or Metco, as it’s been dubbed on this site) has robbed him of his power. Maybe the absence of Carlos Delgado (every day) and Beltran (most days) means he’ll never again see a fat pitch to swat. Maybe you’re even wondering if he was – don’t say it! – dipping into that special homer-juice that seems to have once been a staple of David Ortiz’s liquid diet.
My advice: Do not panic. To paraphrase Grey, oh nervous David Wright owner, this is what David Wright do.
Having owned him back in ’06, I remembered that, post All-Star break, he went into a terrible, homerless funk, succumbing to the now infamous Homerun Contest Swing Funking Up Jinx. He went into the break with 18 HRs, then hit 8 the rest of the way, including just two each in August and September. Two each. Four. In two months. Sound familiar?
In 2007, as you may recall, Wright went homerless for the entire month of April. Nothing. Nada. No big flies. Do you think his first-round-drafting owners were nervous then? Just a smidge?
He wound up with 30 donks.
Last year, when Wright set his career high in homers, his worst months were April (four) and June (four). For the most part, he was pretty consistent – more consistent than the previous two years – never hitting less than 4 homers and never more than 7 in a month.
The point is, Wright is not Howard or Pujols – he won’t ever hit 12 to 14 homers in one month. He will, however, pretty consistently, put up three months in a row, and four out of six, with 6 to 8 HRs. Let’s say he does that this year in June, July and August. That will get him to, say, 25 by September. Add four more in the final month, and presto magic: 29. Which is totally in line with his career totals, and is about what you expected, or should have, on Opening Day.
So if you have him, exhale. If you don’t have him, this is, as they say, a prime “buy low” opportunity– two months being just long enough for his owners to get antsy, especially with the added “knowledge” about Citco being really spacious and the Mets lineup being more full of holes than Courtney Love’s tights.
If you trade for him today, you won’t get all his 29 homers. But you will get most of them. That would definitely be worth, say, a Mark Reynolds and a Heath Bell.
Go forward, and prosper.
*Obviously, Holliday’s drop-off in HR production between ’06 and ’07 is worrisome, in hindsight, when evaluating current underperformers, as nothing obvious changed in his situation in those two years. However, having owned him in ’06 as well, I knew – and should have been more wary of – the fact that his total was inflated by his insane September, in which he went nuts and hit 12 HRs and carried the Rockies singlehandedly into the playoffs (and me to a championship — yay me!). He went into September with 24 HRs, and if he’d simply matched his previous norms in the other five months – somewhere between 3 and 7 homers – he would have ended the year between 27 and 30 HRs, not at 36. Which would have prepped me better for a year in which he “only” hit 25. Such anomalies are worth taking note of.
** As for Rios and Upton, they are enigmas to me. Upton, after all, went on to hit 7 more HRs in the playoffs alone, practically matching his season total. This year he has 2 HRs in two months. They say his shoulder is wonky. I say, “Good luck on a team that’s not mine!” As for Rios – well, I’m done with him too. If you own either of them this year, then they’re your headaches, not mine.