Where should we value Adrian Beltre?

Adrian Beltre has got to be considered an interesting name as fantasy drafts inch closer and closer.  We all know his history.  With the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, his walk year, he put up unbelievable numbers, hitting .334 with 48 HR, 121 RBI and 104 R.  He parlayed that into a huge 5-year, $64 million contract with the Seattle Mariners where he has never come close to living up to the contract.  He enters another walk year in 2009, where he is due $12 million, and at 30-years old (he’ll turn 30 in April), he’ll be in a position to cash in another big contract.

Will anyone actually pay him, given his rather mediocre last few seasons?  That’s an issue for another day.  The question for fantasy owners, though, is if he can have another big season with the money on the line?  There are also concerns since his season ended early thanks to a torn ligament in his thumb, but that is not expected to affect the start of his 2009 season.

Before we get too far into this, let’s take a look at the numbers he posted last season:

556 At Bats
.266 Batting Average (148 Hits)
25 Home Runs
77 RBI
74 Runs
8 Stolen Bases
.784 On Base Percentage
.457 Slugging Percentage
.279 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously, I’m not about to expect numbers even close to his 2004 campaign.  Since then his high in HR is just 26, while he’s failed to eclipse a .276 average.  He did manage to post a big RBI season in 2007, with 99, but we all know what type of offense the Mariners are going to possess this season.

Still, with Raul Ibanez now playing in Philadelphia, there should be more RBI opportunities available to him.  What other big bat does the team even have?  Wladimir Balentien?  Russell Branyan?  Jose Lopez?  Jeff Clement?  Barring any type of move, which I guess is possible, the heart of the Mariners line-up is going to be Beltre, which really should be music to fantasy owners ears.

Of course, it could mean fewer pitches to hit, but I’m not going to buy that, especially early on.  I don’t think Beltre instills much fear in opponents, who may be willing to challenge him.  When you look at his splits, would you blame them?  With runners on base he hit .248 and he was even worse with runners in scoring position at .216.

Does that mean he’s a complete bust with runners on base?  In 2007 he hit .282, while in 2006 the number was at .271.  Granted, in both of those years he was lower with runners in scoring position, but it still tells me that he was not as bad as he showed last season.  With more opportunities and being more of a fixture of the offense, I would expect him to surpass 90 RBI, and even push towards 100 once again.

The average?  His BABIP last season was .279, after years of .284, .296 and .297.  That’s just a little bit of bad luck, and if he can continue his improved plate discipline he showed last season (his career K% is 17.3% and was 16.2% last season; his career BB% is 7.3% and was 8.3% last season), an improved average is certainly in order.

Is he going to approach .300?  Not a chance in my opinion, but I could see him right around .275-.285, certainly a solid number.  Of eligible 3B with over 400 AB, there were 10 who were at .285 or better, which does not include Chris Davis (295 AB) or Ty Wigginton (386 AB).  It does include Carlos Guillen, Mark DeRosa and Melvin Mora, all of whom I would say without a doubt that Beltre has more value then.

Basically, what it tells you is that if he can hit for that type of average, he’s not going to hurt you at all.  He’s obviously not going to win the category, nor should you expect him to, but if he is not going to hurt you then it is acceptable.

His FB% was consistent with his career number at 38.5% vs. 39.2% (career).  While the number has decreased over the past 3 seasons, it is coming down from a career best for a full season of 41.6%.  In his big season, it was becHis big HR season was in part due to 23.3% of his flyballs went for HR, a number that he hasn’t even come close to repeating (nor should he, as that number would have put him in a tie for fourth in the league last season).

It wouldn’t shock me to see him improve on the 13.8% HR/FB he posted last season, though that was his second best number of his career (next to the ’04 number), so maybe it’s not likely.  It would appear that it is more likely that he just goes along the path he’s set the past three seasons (25-26), with 30 as the absolute maximum.

Last season, with 25 HR, he was 11th in HR among eligible 3B.  If he could up his total to 30, he would have been 4th, so that tells you how tightly packed it is.  He’s not going to be among the elite, but he very easily could find himself right in the middle of the pack.

With all that said, let’s see what I’d project him at for next season:

.279 (168-602), 27 HR, 97 RBI, 87 R, 10 SB, .297 BABIP, .336 OBP, .473 SLG

So, where are we?  We have a 3B who is likely to be the main cog in his team’s offense, giving him a chance to drive in a lot of runs.  He’s got a little speed (he’s had a total of 33 SB over the past 3 seasons) and makes the most of it.  He’s not going to hurt you in average, but should be right in the mix in the power department for 3B.  That tells me that while he’s not of the elite, if you miss out on the top tier guys, there are a whole lot worse options available to you so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger, especially in a contract year.

That last phrase may be the most important, because if it is myth or not, there have been enough players who seem to have had big seasons in a walk year in the past.  Heck, Beltre is one of them.  I haven’t finalized my 3B rankings quite yet, but I would think he’ll be right with Ryan Zimmerman in the final rankings (which will be released in a week or so).  That means he’s certainly a usable option in all formats as a starting 3B.

What do you think?  Would you draft him as a starter or would you be more comfortable with him as your corner infielder or on your bench?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

2 comments

  1. Mariners Fan says:

    I know it’s not the point, but you said “He parlayed that into a huge 5-year, $64 million contract with the Seattle Mariners where he has never come close to living up to the contract.”

    Here are his Value vs. Salary info from Fangraphs:

    Value Salary
    2005 Mariners $8.0 $11.4
    2006 Mariners $17.8 $12.9
    2007 Mariners $10.9 $12.9
    2008 Mariners $18.3 $13.4
    TOTAL $55 $50.6

    He has been worth over $1M per year more than his contract as a Mariner. Obviously we don’t care about defense in Fantasy, but in real baseball it matters, and it matters a lot.

  2. admin says:

    OK, and that’s fair enough. I do think that we would all agree that offensively, he has been a disappointment for the Mariners, however. They were expecting someone who would be one of the best in baseball and he simply has not been that.

    With his defense, you are right. It brings additional value to him that we as fantasy players do not get the benefit of. Honestly, he’s a player a lot of teams would love to have, but just not the offensive production that was hoped for.

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