Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mike Lowell Optimism Despite Looming Pessimism

After his excellent 2007 season, Mike Lowell was the 125th player drafted before the start of the 2008 baseball season. He was the 11th third baseman drafted.

In 2009, he’s been the 24th third baseman drafted. His Average Draft Position (ADP) is 207.

In a year when things get pretty thin at the 3B position after the first ten rounds or so, it’d be nice to have a late-round 3B who could perform as a top 12-to-15 third baseman. Is the 35-year-old Mike Lowell that guy?

Well, he’s probably not going to duplicate his 2007 stats:
79 R, 21 HR, 120 RBI, 3 SB, .324 AVG in 589 at bats

For 2009, Bill James projects:
59 R, 16 HR, 75 RBI, 2 SB, .277 AVG in 462 at bats

But let’s say that Lowell manages to get in 589 at bats again. This is not completely improbable, as he averaged 551 at bats in the eight-season stretch that ran from 2000 to 2007. I know, I know, but for the sake of argument, let’s just pretend he can get in 589 at bats in 2009. How would this change Bill James’ 2009 projection? Like so:
75 R, 20 HR, 96 RBI, 3 SB, .277 AVG

That’s not too bad, is it? Granted, Bill James is the most optimistic man on the human planet, but still. I wonder, how would this manipulated projection compare with the top 15 3B from the 2008 season?
Well, Troy Glaus was the 15th-best 3B (and 121st player overall) last year with these stats:
69 R, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 0 SB, .270 AVG in 544 at bats.

Not convinced? Kevin Kouzmanoff was the 18th-best 3B (and 198th overall) last year with these stats:
71 R, 23 HR, 84 RBI, 0 SB, .260 AVG in 624 at bats.

My point is this: Lowell was unable to live up to his high ADP in 2008, but he is a very good bet to outperform his ADP in 2009. And I’ll add this tidbit: he might be a better late-round 3B to add then 29 HR hitting, 11 SB stealing (possibly redundant) Mark Reynolds.

Mark Reynolds has a contact rate of 62.3%, one of the worst rates in the league. This doesn’t mean that he’s going to suck, of course, but I think it is safe to say that his inability to make contact will give his owners intermittent headaches throughout the season. For example, Reynolds batted .293 in June of last year, and then batted .217 for the next two months. Yikes.

Look, I’m still interested in Reynolds, mostly because of the 30 HR / 10 SB potential so late in the draft (although I'm less interested in him in H2H leagues), but if you want a safer, more consistent option to slide into your 3B slot (especially in H2H leagues), why not try Lowell? Lowell’s career contact rate is 88.8%. He’s recovering well from his October hip surgery (he went 2-for-2 with a HR against the Yanks in his first game back at 3B) and is on track to be ready for Opening Day.

I encourage you to blame Lowell’s 2008 struggles on his hip. Assume the Red Sox will play Lowell at 3B nearly every day despite his fragility. Oh, so you bring up how Kevin Youkilis has been taking more grounders at third this spring just in case Lowell has a setback? Stop trying to scare me. It won't work. Pencil in 20 HR and nearly 100 RBI. And as for his projected .277 average? Bah. Pencil in .285+. I mean, why not be optimistic? Unlike last year, 2009 Mike Lowell optimism isn’t going to cost you very much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Y! ranks Lowell 22nd in their preseason ranks: