Monday, February 11, 2008

Little Love for Pena

Over at Yahoo! Sports they're doing a series of articles called "Position Primer" where they show you players on the rise, on the decline, and top prospects for each position. Today, Andy Behrens broke down the first basemen. The players are broken down into tiers with their Average Draft Position(ADP) from MockDraftCentral. The first tier is filled with players who have hit 49+HR in a season recently:

Albert Pujols(6.1)
Prince Fielder(12.3)
Ryan Howard(12.0)
David Ortiz(17.9)

I have no problem with these players being in the first tier of fantasy first basemen. They deserve it. It's the second tier that I have a bit of a problem with. It consists of:

Mark Teixeira(23.1)
Lance Berkman(26.1)
Derrek Lee(40.4)
Travis Hafner(42.9)
Justin Morneau(36.0)
Garret Atkins(51.5)

Where is Carlos Pena you ask? The man of .282/.411/.627 with 46HR, 121 RBI and an OPS+ of 172? He's in the third tier with players like Paul Konerko, James Loney and Nick Swisher. Pena had an ADP of 59.1. That means Pena is being drafted 19 spots after Lee and 23 spots after Morneau!? How can that be?

Last year Pena's OPS+ was 178, while Lee's was 131 and Moreanu's was 121! Pena also plays in the American League East which is tougher than the National League and has better pitching than the American League Central. I know people want to see him sustain his success for more than one season, but being drafted 23 spots behind Morneau is insane. Behrens does put Pena first in the "On the Rise" players stating:

" Pena hit 46 home runs last year. That's only one fewer than Hank Aaron ever hit in a single season. So, yeah, Pena is on the rise. He finished remarkably well last year, belting 21 HR in the season's final two months, but he actually posted an OPS over .960 in every month from May to September. As someone who suffered through the .240 years with Pena before giving up, I'd love to tell you why he can't possibly repeat his 2007 performance. But it's not easy to find a reason. His BABIP was sustainable (.305), and his line drive and fly ball rates were completely in-line with prior years. Pena became much more selective last year, increasing his BB/K ratio to 0.73 and drawing a career-best 103 walks. The 29-year-old might not hit 46 HR in a season again, but he's going to hit plenty."

Then why rank him in the third tier? I'd even argue that he's going to be hitting in a better lineup than Morneau is, with Iwamura, Crawford and Upton hitting in front of him. ESPN's Fantasy Expert Christopher Harris ranks Pena eighth among first basemen stating:

"He had a pretty unsustainably favorable HR/FB ratio last year, so his homer total might not be quite as stratospheric as it was in '07, but the most encouraging thing about his year last year was his average; his contact rate and his eye were much improved, and he actually was a little unlucky in terms of BABIP. I think that means he'll hit .280-ish, and drill 35 homers. That's pretty good."

I'll bet anything that those 35 homers will be more than Morneau or Lee hit all season.