Welcome to the first installment in our faces in new places series. Starting with Carlos Beltran and leading into the season, we’ll break down all of Major League Baseball’s most significant free agent signings and trade results in an effort to explain the impact of new team context on a player’s fantasy production.
Carlos Beltran played some of his best baseball in New York, as a member of the Mets. Now, the soon to be 37 year old outfielder looks to wind down his days with the Subway Series rival New York Yankees. Beltran received a commitment of $15,000,000 per year over the next three seasons to play for the Bronx Bombers, taking him through his age 40 season.
We’ve referenced his age twice in the above paragraph, and may as well get the discussion of it out of the way in the early going. While Beltran played in 145 games last season (in the NL without the benefit of rest at DH, no less) and has topped 600 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons. He’s projected to share defensive duty in Right Field with Alfonso Soriano and will see time at DH as part of a rotation of veteran players with tired legs. I think you’d be wrong to assume that he has no shot at 600 plate appearances again, but I wouldn’t expect too much more than that from him, even if he is able to stay healthy all season.
Still, Beltran was productive in 2013 and he’s had 57+ extra base hits in each of the last two seasons. Maybe the Yankees over paid to get their man (they’ll be thinking so in 2016 to be sure) but that’s always been their team building style and it has little to do with his fantasy value. You’re drafting numbers, and Beltran still has the opportunity to give them to you.
Carlos Beltran: 2013 Results
As mentioned above, Beltran stepped to the dish exactly 600 times last year and his production in those games did nothing to hurt any of his fantasy owners. While Beltran doesn’t run any more, his numbers across four of the five standard roto categories impressed relative to his peers. With 24 homeruns, he ranked 18th at the position, while finishing 27th, 11th, and 10th among outfielders respectively in runs scored, RBIs and average. Overall, Beltran slashed .296/.339/.491 which aren’t top tier numbers by any stretch and represent a significant down year compared to 2011 but were still very serviceable.
Perhaps most encouraging regarding his continued production as he continues to age, Beltran hit the ball hard last year. His 23.9% line drive percentage is the best of his career, and couple that with a strike out percentage that was down significantly from 2012-2013 (20%-15%) it’s clear that the veteran is still seeing the ball well.
The switch hitting Right Fielder slugged 51 points better as a LHB, while posting a .315 average from the left side relative to .252 from the right, while taking 71.5% of his at bats from his more effective side.
Carlos Beltran: 2014 Oultook
As of January 21, in ranks that are admittedly too early and will be undertaking frequent updates as the season approaches, Beltran ranks as our consensus #26 Outfielder, and he comes off the board at 105 overall/OF28 according to stats.com. He’s being picked as a mid range OF3, representing a slight anticipated regression on his 2013 numbers.
The value is just about right, truthfully, but we may be undervaluing him slightly. Consider first, his impressive numbers as a left handed batter. Yankee Stadium ranks as an above average ballpark in terms of average for left handed batters – but then again, so did Beltran’s home park in St. Louis, so there is no real benefit there. In 2013 however, the park where Beltran will now see 50% of his at bats was the second most generous in terms of home runs allowed to LHB. His previous home field was eighth worst. By virtue of the short porch in right in his home park alone, I think we’re looking at greater power potential this year. I won’t go projecting a 30 HR season from the 17 year pro, but 2-3 more homers with 6-8 more RBI seem like a fair bet providing his playing time stays consistent.
Beyond that, we acknowledged that Beltran is still hitting the ball hard and while his .314 BABIP may come down a peg or two, if Beltran keeps hitting line drives he should still hit in the .280-.300 range. He’ll be asked to produce as part of a lineup that scored 133 fewer runs than St. Louis last year, mind you, but arguments could be made that they are stronger as an offense this year despite the loss of Robinson Cano. With Jacoby Ellsbury setting the table and Beltran presumably batting in the three hole (ahead of reasonable protection offered by Brian McCann assuming he claims the cleanup spot ahead of question-mark-Mark-Teixiera) he’ll have his opportunities to make up a fair portion of New York’s offense this year.
Until we know precisely how frequently he’ll play – and maybe we never will – it is hard to make a finite projection, but a .285, 26 HR, 88 RBI season is well within reach which is probably more than you’ll get at his stage of the draft. If you’re looking for depth in the outfield, take the plunge and hope that Beltran fits in in pinstripes.