2011 was supposed to be a big year for Shin-Soo Choo — he was coming off his 2nd straight 20-20 season, his looming military service requirement to the Korean government was in the rearview mirror and he was just entering his prime age. Many (including yours truly) predicted a true breakout, and drafted him as an OF1. The statline that ensued packed about as much punch as Ralph Wiggum’s love life. Choo started the season in a horrendous slump before being caught for a DUI, and from there his slump spiraled out of control. Finally and mercifully his season hit rock bottom when a thumb injury sidelined him for a long period of time. Hailing from a culture that holds honor and duty in very high esteem, it would be foolish to say that the distraction of the DUI was not at least partly to blame for his first half struggles.
The story takes a positive turn after that, as Choo successfully and uneventfully rehabbed from his injury and returned in the second half. The results were enough to remind owners of why they spent a high draft pick. He flexed his 20-20 skillset, hitting 3 homeruns and stealing 4 bags in August to go along with an otherworldly .348 batting average. This resurgence was ultimately cut short when Choo fell victim to “the year of the oblique,” straining the pesky muscle and ending his season prematurely. When evaluating Choo for early 2012 drafts, I find myself largely ignoring his abysmal first half 2011 and looking to that solid month of August. In doing so I am trusting that the problems were largely between the ears and that he put them in the past in the 2nd half and will be fine for this season. His ADP currently sits in the 70s, which is a pretty sizeable value for a true 5 category threat with a proven floor of production.
While we are on the subject of toolsy outfielders, I may be in the minority but I’m buying Carl Crawford this year. Yes, last year was about as ugly as it gets, and yes he still will probably be relegated to hitting in a less-than-advantageous spot in Boston’s lineup in 2012. These rather unsavory facts aside, I think a pretty convincing reason can be made to draft Crawford at his current ADP (mid-late 3rd round). At a glance his paltry 11 homeruns look bad, but consider that his career average for homeruns in a season sits somewhere around 15. Additionally, his 2011 ISO is actually HIGHER than his career ISO. Recall that you are NOT drafting Crawford for his power. You drafted him because he is a speedster that hits double digit home runs. He hit that power mark last year, and will continue to do that going forward.
Since power is not Crawford’s game the bigger issue was obviously his inexplicable drop in steals from 47 in 2010 to 18 in 2011. The aforementioned position in the lineup certainly played a part, as did nagging injuries, but in my opinion the largest single factor in this drop was his utilization. I really think that the Red Sox put the brakes on his game. This year, sweeping changes have been made to the Red Sox in both the front office and managerial positions. Since they have made such a huge investment in Crawford, they will really have no choice but to turn him loose going forward. This, coupled with an additional year getting used to the “pressure” environment in Boston, makes me bullish on Crawford this year.
Some more quick busts turned 2012 fantasy baseball value picks:
Nick Swisher – Still hitting in a bandbox in a great lineup. Yankees do not have better options anyway.
Kevin Youkilis – GGOW (Greek God of Walks) getting drafted in the 6th round at a weak 3B position? Yes, please.
Ike Davis – The latest casualty to the Mets’ training staff looks like a fine value at the end of drafts this year. Keeping with our Simpsons theme, pretty sure Dr. Nick could do a better job than the scrubs treating these injuries.
Brandon Belt – Maybe we were a year early on the hype train? At a round 15 price tag, I’ll pay to find out.
Andre Ethier – No, we haven’t forgotten about you. If your knee is finally right you might win some leagues as a flier OF3.
Jaime Garcia – Not really a “bust,” but HUGE home/road splits kept him from realizing true potential. Maybe he’s afraid of airplanes? Could be huge if he figures out how to pitch on the road.
Adam Dunn – There’s not much more that can be said about his 2011. Hopefully it really was Ozzie Guillen that was the problem and he could go back to hitting 40 HRs for his fantasy owners. Still hits in a favorable environment.