Cases already heard:
All rise! Court is now in session.
In our third case we have the Plaintiff, Mr. Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants, vs. the Defendant, Mr. Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox. Mr. Sandoval claims that he is more qualified to be your starting third baseman than Mr. Youkilis. As a result, Mr. Sandoval believes he should be drafted ahead of Mr. Youkilis. Representing Mr. Sandoval is Chris Campanelli and representing Mr. Youkilis is Bryan Curley. Let’s get it on!
Some people call him Kung Fu Panda. Others call him Round Mound of Pound. And some just call him Pablo. What all these names have in common is that they refer to a player that can flat out rake. Pablo Sandoval burst onto the scene in 2009 and instantly became one of the best third basemen in the game. He batted .330 last year, which was good for second in the National League behind Hanley Ramirez. Yes that’s right, he had a higher batting average than Albert Pujols, the best hitter on the planet. Sandoval also finished with an OPS of .943, which was better than the likes of Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley. Among third basemen in all of the major leagues guess who had the highest batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS? That’s right, Pablo Sandoval. Not surprisingly, Sandoval was a good source of fantasy power as well. He belted 25 HR and had 90 RBI. If you don’t consider Sandoval a star already, it might be time to rethink that notion.
While Sandoval may have a few clever nicknames, Youkilis has one that speaks volumes: The Greek God of Walks. Whether you’re a leadoff hitter, a middle-of-the-order stud, or a bench guy looking to impress the manager, the ability to see pitches and work counts always works in your favor. Youkilis is a perfect fit for the Red Sox with a skill set as balanced as Boston’s offense figures to be, and as the go-to-guy in all key RBI spots, Youkilis will continue to produce.
He has scored at least 90 runs in three of the last four seasons, and since moving to the middle of the lineup in 2008, he’s batted .309 while averaging 28 HR and 105 RBI. Most importantly, hitters with his kind of discipline are valued metronomes, rarely skipping a beat. Boston has made a living on acquiring players with the kind of consistency Youkilis has, and so should your fantasy team.
Pablo Sandoval should be drafted ahead of Kevin Youkilis because he will make more of an impact on your team. As stated earlier, Sandoval batted .330 last year. That is significantly higher than Youkilis’ average of .306. As for their power numbers, the two are virtually identical. Youkilis hit 27 HR with 94 RBI, which is only 2 HR and 4 RBI more than Sandoval. The only real advantage Youkilis has over Sandoval is in the R department where Sandoval finished with 20 fewer R scored.
However, this advantage will not be that great next year because the Giants have added some more power behind Sandoval which should help with his R total. Instead of Travis Ishikawa or Ryan Garko hitting behind him, Sandoval will now have Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff knocking him in. Sandoval should also be able to improve upon his RBI total because he will have a full year of Freddy Sanchez and his career .300 average hitting in front of him. Sanchez will replace the hodgepodge of .250-.260 hitters that were mostly in front of Sandoval last year.
Another reason to believe that Sandoval’s power and run totals will increase this year is that he will be hitting exclusively in the three hole. Before becoming entrenched as the Giants number three hitter last year, Sandoval batted 192 times in batting slots lower in the order. Being the team’s number three hitter for a full year will certainly help Sandoval’s RBI and R totals next year. As for Youkilis’ run total, it may go down without slugger Jason Bay hitting behind him.
It is also important to note that Sandoval plays in more games than Youkilis. Last year, Sandoval played in 153 of his team’s games. In comparison, Youkilis only played in 136 games. This is nothing new for Youkilis. From 2006-2008, Youkilis played in 147, 145, and 145 games, respectively. The reason for this is not injury. Rather it is due to manager Terry Francona’s tendency to give his players rest throughout the season. This year should be no exception, especially since Mike Lowell will need some at-bats off the bench.
The most important reason to draft Sandoval over Youkilis may be that, at age 23, Sandoval still has room for growth while the 31 year old Youkilis does not.
If you’re in a keeper league Sandoval would be the clear-cut winner, but for most fantasy managers 2010 is all that counts. Chris makes some great points about San Francisco’s offense improving from last season when they were ranked 26th in all of baseball, but how much better are they? Even with Jason Bay’s signing in New York, Boston isn’t going to plummet from their 2009 offensive ranking of third, and Youkilis has the luxury of some real hitting talent in front of him:
- Jacoby Ellsbury – .301 AVG, 70 SB in 2009
- Dustin Pedroia – career .370 OBP with 40 SB and MLB-leading 233 R in last two years
- Victor Martinez – .303 AVG, .381 OBP, and 88 R in 2009
And in case you didn’t notice, Sandoval wasn’t exactly the most disciplined hitter at the plate. Let’s put his 2009 numbers to the test by comparing them to a larger sample. How about the career of a player with similar peripherals? Yup, Mr. Free-Swinger himself, Vladimir Guerrero.
Sandoval had a higher batting average despite swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone, walking less, striking out more, and hitting fewer line drives, all of which are major factors in a player’s average. Despite all this, he had a BABIP nearly 40 points higher than Guerrero’s career and an average only nine points higher. Luck was clearly a factor in Sandoval’s successes last season, and noticeable regression is to be expected. Could Sandoval develop Guerrero’s power? Perhaps, but that’s more of a factor in the coming years and not 2010.
What does this all add up to? Youkilis has the edge in both R and RBI by virtue of his offense’s prowess. They both should hit around 25+ HR, and they both steal around five bases. So the question becomes, “Is Sandoval’s likely slight edge in batting average substantial enough to lose the extra R and RBI?”
No, it isn’t.
Bryan argues that Sandoval is due for a regression based on his high BABIP and high O-Swing %. However, Sandoval had a higher BABIP with the Giants in 2008 than in 2009. So by the same logic, Sandoval’s regression was actually last year! Sandoval also had BABIP of .387 and .347 in the minors so you know he can sustain it. As for O-Swing %, free swingers such as Alfonso Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero have proven that players with high O-Swing% can put up monster fantasy numbers.
While it is also true that Youkilis has the edge over Sandoval in R, I don’t think its fair to say he has the edge in RBI. Sure Youkilis has Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Martinez hitting in front of him. But he did last when he managed only 94 RBI. As stated earlier, Sandoval has better hitters in front of him this year than last and he will be the team’s number three hitter from opening day. His 90 RBI from a year ago will certainly increase.
Calling their HR prowess equal is also a conservative approach. It’s a good bet that Youkilis will not hit 30 HR since he has never done so. Sandoval on the other hand has a better chance of reaching the 30 HR mark. He hit 25 HR at age 22. If he continues to progress next year, it’s reasonable to believe that he will hit a few more HR than Youkilis. After all at 5’11” 246 pounds, Sandoval looks like a mini Prince Fielder. If you’re still not sold on his power, check out this video of Sandoval in a 2008 HR Derby.
So the real question is, does Sandoval’s 30-point edge in batting average and power potential outweigh the loss in R?
Yes, yes it does.
So far this season I have been a strong advocate for many young players including Yovani Gallardo, Justin Upton, and Andrew McCutchen. I will be a strong advocate for Sandoval as well, but I won’t take him over Kevin Youkilis.
Young, free-swinging players on bad offensive teams worry me. There is an immense amount of potential lying somewhere in Sandoval, but there is also the potential for disappointment. As we saw with Alexei Ramirez last season, raw talent without a semblance of plate discipline can easily regress. Sandoval has the tools, but Youkilis has the track record.