Key Statistics: Alex Rodriguez is no longer a lock as a top 5 draft pick, but he still knows how to swing a bat. 2010 marked A-Rod’s major league record 13th season in a row with 100 RBI and 30 home runs, one of which was the 600th of his career. His 125 RBI last season were good for second in the majors, and his 30 jacks were 8th best in the AL. Rodriguez posted these numbers in only 137 games, so there is potential for his counting stats to improve if he can stay on the field more in 2011. Rodriguez hit .270 last year, his lowest average in 15 years, but some of that could be attributed to his career low .274 BABIP, so his average may improve this season as well.
Skeptics Say: Rodriguez has consistently declined in each of the last several seasons. Age and injury are showing their effects. A-Rod played in 138, 124, and 137 games in each of the past 3 seasons. This has limited him to less than 600 plate appearances a year during the same time frame. Prior to 2008, A-Rod would regularly get 700 chances a year to accumulate stats. The affects of age and health have not just hampered A-Rod’s ability to get in games and drive in runs — he’s not as effective as he used to be in multiple facets of the game. He can’t run (4 SB last year) or defend (not that it matters in fantasy) well, and he’s declined significantly in numerous rate stats, including isolated power (2010: .236, Career: .269), OBP (2010: .341, Career: .387), SLG (2010: .506, Career: .571), LD% (2010: 13.8%, Career: 17.8%), and HR/FB (2010: 17.1%, Career: 23.1%).
Peer Comparison: The last paragraph sounds really ominous, but old and fragile A-Rod is still a much better hitter than many of his peers. When you’re one of the best hitters of all time, a decline to “above average” is going to look worse than it really is. A-Rod is no longer a lock as a 5-category threat, so he can’t hang with an Evan Longoria or a David Wright, but A-Rod’s offensive output is competitive among the next tier of hitters. Among all 3B, he ranked third in HR and first in RBI.
After Longoria and Wright, you have a few options to choose from: Jose Bautista, Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, and Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman and a healthy Youkilis are safe bets for solid production in runs, homers, runs batted in, and average. Bautista is the player you take if you’re looking for big power and are willing to sacrifice AVG. And A-Rod is the risky pick that, I think, has the upside here. He’s risky because his recent track record indicates he’s likely to continue to decline, but that’s not a forgone conclusion. Rodriguez never fully recovered from hip surgery until this offseason. The last time A-Rod showed up to camp intent on getting in shape and training hard in order to put together a better season was during the 2006 offseason. I am not expecting the 2007 version of Rodriguez to magically show up four years later and hit 50+ bombs, but a healthy Rodriguez is the only one of these four players that could match or beat his counterparts in all of the traditional fantasy categories. Zimmerman and Youkilis, combined, have one season of 30 or more homers. A-Rod is coming off of 13 in a row. Bautista can’t hit for average and, even with 54 HR last year, couldn’t claim the RBI title from A-Rod. It will be difficult for him to hit 40 home runs again, let alone 50.
Lineup Outlook: The Yankees scored the most runs last year and there’s no reason to think they can’t score a ton this year as well, which bodes well for Alex. There is room for improvement in Rodriguez’s supporting cast. Mark Teixeira had a horrible start to his 2010 season, even by Tex’s standards. Derek Jeter is making adjustments to his swing to improve on his below average 2010. If for some reason Jeter doesn’t improve, Yankee manager Joe Girardi may actually face pressure to drop him in the order this season — ownership has already signaled a willingness to call Jeter out when they think it’s necessary. Either way, a major hole will be removed from the top of the Yankees lineup.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #3 3B & #16 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #4 3B; Tristan Cockroft of ESPN.com: #20 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #22 Overall; RotoChamp: #29 Overall; Fantasy Newsman: #3 3B.
Projection: Rodriguez is getting older, and, even if fully recovered from his hip injury, he’s more susceptible to aches and pains than when he was younger. Girardi won’t hesitate to rest him to keep him fresh throughout the year.
A-Rod’s not a safe bet for anything, which is why he’s ranked below his peers. He could be really good or fall off a cliff. If you’re willing to risk the latter, draft him over his peers. The most likely scenario is more above-average production:
89 R, 32 HR, 119 RBI, 6 SB, .291 AVG, .881 OPS
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