When you think slugger, the first name that should pop into your head is Ryan Howard. He is the premier power hitter in baseball today, plain and simple. Over the past three seasons he’s hit 153 HR while driving in 431 RBI and scoring 303 runs. Those are some very impressive numbers, but are they first round impressive?
He seems to be sitting right on the border, with an ADP of 11.21 according to Mock Draft Central. He’s been drafted as low as #18, so it’s obvious that not everyone views him as a viable option that early. In the first Rotoprofessor Mock Draft, he was selected with the #18 pick. In the second he went #11.
So, which is right? Is the risk of a low average enough to scare owners off?
I know there is a philosophy out there that the only way you draft someone in the first round is if he helps you in all five categories. Well, Howard would be crossed off the list right off the bat, as he offers absolutely no speed. He has 2 SB in 4 attempts during his career.
There are a few 1B who steal some bases, like Lance Berkman (18). Even Albert Pujols chips in with 7 last season, so he not only doesn’t help you there, he hurts you.
As for the average, we are going to have to take a little bit of a closer look. Here are his averages over the past three seasons:
- 2006: .313
- 2007: .268
- 2008: .251
A huge decline, obviously. How does the BABIP translate? Let’s take a look:
- 2006: .363
- 2007: .336
- 2008: .289
I know he strikes out a ton, and that’s simply not going to change. He also deposits a lot of balls over the fence, another fact that isn’t going to change. Last season, in his 610 AB, he put the ball in play 363 times. Let’s contrast that with someone like Pujols, who put the ball in play 433 times. That’s a big difference, and by putting the ball in play less, there is more volatility in his BABIP.
His luck almost has to be better then it was last season, meaning he certainly can rebound and put in a good average. I’m not going to count on that, but it is not unthinkable to see him posting a BABIP in the .330 – .340 range, which clearly would raise his average back to .275ish.
Is that an elite number? Far from it as 14 players eligible at 1B had a higher average then that last season. Still, I know I’d be a lot more comfortable drafting him knowing that his average would not be crippling to my team.
He’s not among the elite in runs scored, but given the number of HR he hits, it is very easy to project him out for 100 runs once again. When you are driving yourself in almost 50 times, it doesn’t take much. Last season, only 5 1B scored over 100 runs, with just Berkman scoring more then Howard. That’s certainly a big help.
Only Adam Dunn was less then 10 HR away from Howard last season, and he hit just 40 compared to Howard’s 48. No player was within 15 RBI of Howard, with Josh Hamilton finishing a distant second at 130 compared to Howard’s 146.
Can we expect that same type of dominance form Howard? No, of course not. In 2007 he finished 20 RBI behind A-Rod, as well as 7 HR behind him. It is very easy to say that one player, any player, is going to post a remarkable season, out-performing Howard. It is very possible, but what we do know is that Howard is going to be right there among the league leaders, likely in the Top 2 or 3 in each category at worst.
How many other players can you say that about? Outside of Alex Rodriguez, there really isn’t one is there? Albert Pujols is great, but he is not likely to be at the top of the HR leader board. Adam Dunn has the power, but hasn’t shown the ability to drive in runs at a pace resembling the top performers in the league.
Howard is a special player in the power department, one that certainly gives you an advantage. I know the average is a concern, and given his skills it is a number that is going to be very volatile. The extreme shift could be playing a role, but that’s an argument I’m not buying. With a little bit of luck, the number is going to be usable.
The advantage he gives you in two categories is just too much for me to ignore and he is certainly a player that I would draft if I’m selecting at the very bottom of Round 1. The only other player in baseball that you could say, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’s going to be in the Top 3 of both HR and RBI is A-Rod and we all know he’s going to be gone by Pick #3. I just can’t let get past me if I have the chance.
What about you? Would you consider Howard a first round selection or would you be more comfortable taking him in the second round?
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.