First Round 2009 – Does Rollins Belong?

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Today I wanted to take a look back at the first round in one of the yearly leagues I participated in and see which players are likely to fall out of the first round in 2009.  It was a standard 5×5, 12-team league.  No keepers whatsoever.

Let’s first take a look at the rundown of the round:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Jose Reyes (this was my pick)
  3. Albert Pujols
  4. Hanley Ramirez
  5. David Wright
  6. Jimmy Rollins
  7. Chase Utley
  8. Matt Holliday
  9. Miguel Cabrera
  10. Prince Fielder
  11. Ryan Howard
  12. Johan Santana

The pick that jumps out at you right away is Pujols, who everyone was recommending avoiding at all costs at the time.  The owner in my league decided to ignore that advice and he certainly was the benefactor.  I’ve talked about Pujols here in the past, but it surely is worth repeating, unless he does undergo surgery this offseason he has to be a top pick next season.  It doesn’t matter what rumors there are of him possibly being shutdown during the season, he is just way too good of a hitter and he proved it again this season.

Actually, most of the round went right about where you’d expect it, outside of Pujols, and a lot of the players are locks to go again in the first round next season.  Rodriguez, Reyes, Pujols, Ramirez, Wright, Utley, Cabrera and Howard are all top talents and fall in that category.

Yeah, someone like Howard has his faults in the batting average department (.241 this season), but that power is just way too special to ignore.  He also does have potential upside in the category, so at the end of the first round I would still roll the dice on him.  I’d understand the thinking of passing on him, and when I really sit down and evaluate things this off season I may change my thinking, but for now I am going to keep him in Round 1.  He is not just leading the league in HR, he’s comfortably in front with 41 HR (Adam Dunn & Carlos Quentin are tied for second with 36).  Put that with a league leading 125 RBI and you have a player that deserves to be taken early.

Cabrera also had his troubles this year, all in the first half.  He hit .284 with 16 HR and 57 RBI in 348 AB, not bad numbers but far from the MVP campaign everyone had expected.  He’s exploded in the second half, hitting .303 with 17 HR and 59 RBI in just 201 AB, and suddenly the overall numbers are pretty close to what you’d expect.  He’s at .291 with 33 HR and 116 RBI, making him a player that easily remains in the first round.

With all that said, we have four players who I’ve left in question that really needs a closer look.  I’m going to look at the first one today in Jimmy Rollins, then we’ll take a look at the other three players over the next week or so.

Jimmy Rollins

Will the real Jimmy Rollins please stand up?  He is a long ways off his MVP campaign, hitting just .275 with 10 HR, 54 RBI, 66 R and 42 SB in 495 AB.  The number that jumps out at me first is the runs scored, and it is simply a number that is unacceptable for a player of his stature and position hitting atop the Phillips line-up.  He missed the majority of April (35 AB), but still his best month thus far has seen him score just 16 runs (August).  Last season his worst month was in May, and he had 17.  In fact, the last time he had a month as low as 16 prior to this season was in August of 2005.

That’s almost amazing to say and the drop-off really is unexplainable.  It’s not his speed, as you can tell by the SB total.  It’s not his on-base percentage, considering he is at .339 this season, compared to .345 last season.  It’s not the production of the players behind him, considering the production out of Utley, Howard and Pat Burrell.  So, what exactly is the problem?  I really wish I had the answer to that question and I’m not sure that anyone really can explain it.

Yeah, the power is down as well, but did anyone really expect him to hit 30 again?  To me, I’d expect him to be in the 18-23 range, a rebound that certainly is not only possible, but likely, for next season in my opinion.  A huge decrease in his FB% (44.2% last year compared to 30.2% this year) is a glaring explanation for his decrease in power.  He has a career 36.0% FB%, so there certainly is reason to believe in a rebound.

As I’ve already said, the speed is there and the average is right around where you’d expect it to be.  The biggest problem is the runs scored, and I have to expect nothing but a rebound next season.  This is a guy who had scored at least 115 runs over the past 4 seasons so it is mind boggling to think that he has lost that ability just like that.  The power decrease isn’t the explanation either, as he hit 14 & 12 HR, respectively, in the first two years of his run scoring barrage, and still put up big seasons.

So, where does this leave us?  Basically, there really is no real reason to shy away from Rollins in the first round next season.  Should he go #6 overall like he did in the draft I’m discussing?  Absolutely not.  He is a great player, but there is no way I’m expecting him to be the sixth best player in baseball next season.

He will, however, have a bounce back campaign and put up numbers that are along the same level as his talent.  It may not be an MVP type year line 2007, but a year similar to 2006 would not be out of the question.  To me, that seems like definite first round talent in every format.

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