by Will Overton
This is the second installment of my new weekly post, Making the Leap. Last week I looked at Nelson Cruz and debated whether or not he could and would make the leap this year from good to great. I considered Cruz too much of a risk to predict he would make the leap, but this week we have another outfielder to take a look at.
I thought about bringing up Hunter Pence this week, but I think most people agree that Hunter Pence is in line to make a jump of some sort with a full season in Philadelphia. Instead I want to focus on Pence’s new teammate and fellow Phillies Outfielder, Shane Victorino.
Can two Phillies outfielders make the leap this year? Let’s take a look at the case for and against Victorino and then I’ll chime in with my own opinion on the matter.
The Case Against Shane Victorino Making the Leap
One of the biggest cases, maybe the biggest, against Shane Victorino going from good to great is that while he is a jack of all trades, he is a master of none. Victorino contributes in many categories, but he is not great in any, and the top players in fantasy baseball have that one category they can dominate in.
Victorino has topped 30 steals in three different seasons, but he’s never hit 40 in one and last season he only reached 19 steals. I don’t know that Victorino can’t become an elite steals guy, but he hasn’t shown it yet.
Another thing I’d like to see from Victorino is a bit more productivity from the leadoff spot. While Victorino has a strong eye at the plate, he still hit just .238 last season when hitting at the top of the batting order. I think the Phillies would like to turn the leadoff spot over to him, but he has to prove that he deserves it. There isn’t a huge difference between the one and two spots in a lineup, but hitting first does allow more chances to steal and it also leads to more run scoring. Securing the leadoff spot would go a long way and Victorino has yet to prove he can handle hitting first and the Phillies still have Jimmy Rollins around.
The Case For Shane Victorino Making the Leap
The Phillies offense is not great, but it is good and it is a lot better now that Hunter Pence has joined the middle of it. More importantly though is the fact that Victorino plays with this offense in one of the most hitter friendly parks in America.
Victorino hit 17 HR’s despite playing in only 132 games in the season. Victorino posted his best AB/HR of his career last season at 30.5. That’s not world beater numbers, but given another 20 games Victorino should’ve cleared 20 HR’s for the first time in his career. Victorino plays his home games in the right park to make a jump in power, and Victorino hit even more HR’s on the road last season than at home.
The power wasn’t the only thing that Victorino improved in last season. Victorino took more walks and struck out less which is a positive sign as he pushes towards his first .300 season. Victorino has hung around the .280 – .290 mark for his whole career with the exception of the 2010 season which appears to be the aberration. If Victortino’s plate discipline can continue to improve he could make it to .300.
While Victorino is 31 and the window is closing on him becoming a top guy, he has gotten better consistently with the exception of 2010. It is perfectly within the realm of possibility that Victorino can hit 20 – 25 HR’s and steal 35 – 40 bases. If he can do it in the same season he’ll push the top 30 overall fantasy players.
I don’t think Victorino is a lock to crack the upper echelon of fantasy baseball this season, but I do think he has a chance. If healthy Victorino would’ve broken the 20 home run mark last season and I think he’ll do it this season if he stays healthy. And he may not be great in any one category, but I’d rather have a guy who can get you production in all five categories than one who dominates a category and is a liability in another.
I don’t know if he makes the full leap, but I think Victorino is a top fifty player right now and he’s not being viewed as one. The odds are not great, but the possibility is still real that Victorino makes the leap this season.
What are your thoughts on the Flyin Hawaiian? Does he make the leap from good to great this season? Who else do you think should be discussed for this topic? I am always open to suggestions so if you have one leave it.