Key Stats: Martin Prado had 18 three-hit games last season. He finished 11th in baseball in total hits despite missing time in August with an injured pinkie and missing the last couple games of 2011 with a hip pointer and pulled oblique. He ended up finishing 9th in MVP voting, but it is conceivable that he would have been a top five candidate if he had stayed healthy. The reason he was so valuable in both fantasy and real baseball last season was because of his versatility. Prado slid right into the third base position once Chipper Jones went down, and this season expects to play the outfield if Chipper can stay healthy. That means in 2011 he will be eligible at second, third and in the outfield. Good luck finding another one of those players who also gets 200 hits.
Skeptics Say: Walks were down, strikeouts were up, and the HR:FB rate were higher than they were in 2009. Three bad ratios. Perhaps the most telling statistic that Prado was in trouble as far as his strikeout to walk rate was that he swung at more than 26% of pitches that were out of the strikezone. In 2009, he swung at under 21% of pitches that were out of the strike zone.
Peer Comparison: The 2011 second base draft class is better this season than any in recent memory. Aaron Hill is the thirteenth best second baseman in the rankings here, and at age 29, he is just one season removed from being one of the thirty best players in fantasy baseball. That said, it isn’t inconceivable that you draft Prado as your third baseman rather than your second baseman. The thirteenth best player at the third base position according to the rankings here is Pablo Sandoval. Like Hill, Sandoval fell off the face of the earth last year, but is still relatively young. Here’s a look at what Hill and Prado’s numbers would give you combined last season versus those of Sandoval and Prado last season:
Hill & Prado: 170 R, 41 HR, 134 RBI, 7 SB, .259 AVG
Sandoval & Prado: 161 R, 28 HR, 129 RBI, 8 SB, .288 AVG
The edge goes to Prado and Hill. Of course, the best bet might be to pick the guy that you think has a better chance to bounce back. In my opinion, that player is still the more physically fit Hill.
Lineup Outlook: Prado spent most of the season hitting first and was most successful as the leadoff hitter. His spot in the order changed out of necessity once Jones was lost for the year and he was activated from the DL. Bobby Cox placed Prado third in the order to act as a replacement for Jones. Typically neither spot in the order would be ideal for someone who only walked 40 times in over 650 plate appearances, but Prado hits for a high enough average that it doesn’t matter as much. I would expect that Fredi Gonzalez puts Prado back in the leadoff spot given the return of Jones and addition of Dan Uggla as players that can fill the third and fourth spots in the order. If Jason Heyward takes the next step in his development hitting second behind Prado, Prado won’t have trouble getting to 100 runs for a second straight year.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #8 Second Baseman, #11 Third Baseman & #91 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #8 Second Baseman & #8 Third Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #64 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #76 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #74 Overall; RotoChamp: #50 Overall
Projection: Despite all the injuries, the 140 games Prado appeared in was a career high. In September he showed signs of wearing down by having his lowest OPS and average month of the season. Look for him to come back stronger and ready to play a full season in 2011.
104 R 16 HR 60 RBI 3 SB .314 AVG .830 OPS
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