This is one of the oddest years for fantasy baseball owners, as after the first three picks the first round is extremely wide open. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see someone selected fifth or sixth in one draft, only to be selected in the early-to-mid second round in the next. Therefore we are going to analyze all of the potential first round picks, looking at their pros and cons to determine if they should be selected in the first round or left for later rounds.
Up first, let’s look at Ryan Howard.
2010 Campaign: The Phillies lineup suffered from a lot of injuries, which certainly had an impact on Howard’s production. Howard himself was not immune from the problem, playing in 143 games in 2010 after appearing in 322 out of 324 games in 2008 & 2009.
The impact was certainly seen in his numbers. If you didn’t know any better, his line of .276 with 31 HR, 108 RBI and 87 R would look fine. However, you have to realize that from 2006-2009 his low in home runs was 45, his low in RBI was 136 and his low in runs was 94.
What happened: The injury cost him the majority of August (40 AB), but what is really noticeable is that Howard just never had a “big” month. He has always been a slower starter, hitting no more then five home runs in an April since 2006. What he has always been able to do, however, is routinely put up double-digit home run months after that. Just look at his number of 9+ HR months by year:
- 2006 – 4 (including a 14 home run August)
- 2007 – 3
- 2008 – 3
- 2009 – 2
- 2010 – 0
His biggest month in 2010 came in July, when he hit eight home runs. At 31-years old, it’s hard to believe that he’s simply lost the power that he once displayed, but there certainly has been a downward trend of sorts.
Obviously, in that ballpark, you have to think that he’s going to continue to hit home runs, even though he has never been dependent on Citizen’s Bank Ballpark for his power stroke. In 2010 he hit 16 HR at home and 15 HR on the road. In 2009, he actually hit 27 of his 45 HR on the road.
It also should be noted that Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley also missing a significant period of time didn’t help matters. Those are two of the biggest and best bats in the Phillies lineup and without them, everyone else’s numbers are going to struggle.
What to expect in 2011: Howard is going to hit for power, I don’t think anyone is going to question that. The question is, can he return to 40+ HR power? His HR/FB rate has declined the past three seasons:
- 2008 – 31.8%
- 2009 – 25.4%
- 2010 – 21.1%
He hit 31 HR in limited AB and with a career low HR/FB, so there is plenty of reason to believe that, if healthy, he’s going to come extremely close to that mark. With only two hitters reaching 40 HR in 2010, that instantly gives him credibility.
He’s also going to pick up RBI and R, especially if the rest of the lineup can stay healthy along with him. It’s a power packed lineup that’s going to score runs, and Howard is right at the center of it.
The problem is that he strikes out a ton (32.0% for his career), which makes it nearly impossible for him to even come close to .300. In fact, it’s probably more likely that he hits .250 despite all of the power. At a position where you can find other options who will hit 30-35 HR and are almost guaranteed to hit .285+, that’s a huge negative.
The Verdict: Howard is among the premier power hitters in the game, but he plays one of the deepest positions and has the potential to struggle, potentially dramatically, in the average department. That puts a huge question mark over his head, making him better suited to be an early-to-mid second round pick in my book.
I’d much rather take a player at a weaker position in the mid-to-late in the first round, like a Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longoria and hope that a Howard, Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira are available when my second round pick comes around. That just puts you in a better scenario all around.
What about you? Is Howard a player you would consider in the first round? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections: