You likely know that not only do I write about the Rays, I also write about fantasy baseball. I have been a fantasy baseball writer since 2001 when I started covering minor leaguers for RotoJunkie and have been part of the Fanball.com staff since September of 2008. I wrote an article for Fanball’s OwnersEdge.com site earlier today about my latest man-crush, Edwin Encarnacion, that I think would be insightful for you all to read as Rays fans and why I think he would be an ideal fit for the 2011 roster.
We all have that one player on another team that we covet for our own personal favorite team. For many years, that short list for me has involved two players – Wilson Betemit and Edwin Encarnacion. I long thought Betemit could have been what Willy Aybar was and it took him until this past season to break out. Encarnacion was someone I only wanted for his bat and 2011 looks to be a season where that could finally become possible. I first wrote about Encarnacion back in 2005 and have followed his career closely since that time. Now that he is available via free agency, my desire to have him in a Rays uniform is even stronger.
Did you know that Edwin Encarnacion:
- .Had a .236 Isolated Power in 2010 that was the second highest amongst all third baseman in baseball with at least 300 plate appearances trailing only Jose Bautista?
- Had a .787 OPS that was better than the OPS’s put up by Ian Stewart, Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, and Aramis Ramirez last season.
- Has a career .280 BABIP but was at just .235 last season in a season in which he hit .244
- Over the past five seasons, he has a higher Isolated Power score and OPS than fellow free agent Adrian Beltre (non-park adjusted).
Now, Encarnacion certainly has a lot of faults as well that affect his playing time in fantasy baseball. For one he has only played 181 games in the past two seasons combined as he had battled injuries. Secondly, he has a nickname of E5 for his horrendous defensive work at third base. It is that awful glove work that hurts him most and why he will likely spend most of 2011 playing positions other than third base. His OBP is in a five-year decline from .359 in 2006 down to just .305 last season in Toronto where the team tried to one-up each other with home runs under Cito Gaston’s “grip it and rip it,” approach. Still, Encarnacion will be just 28 years old when the 2011 season begins coming off two injury-plagued seasons that followed a breakout season at age 25.
He was traded by the Blue Jays to Oakland so the Jays could avoid offering him arbitration and the A’s ended up deciding not to offer arbitration to him either. He made $5.2m in 2010 and those home runs would have helped bump him up close to $7m in 2011. For his career, he has a 162 game average line of .258/.336/.453 with 25 home runs, 77 runs, and 84 RBI. Overall, that’s a 103 OPS+ putting him above league average for that timeframe.
He has only had as many as 500 at bats in two of his five full seasons at the big league level since being traded from the Rangers to the Reds. Bill James has his projections out for the season and has Encarnacion at .258/.335/.477 with 22 home runs, 61 runs, 67 RBI in just 474 plate appearances. The OwnersEdge projections are close with a .255/.307/.456 line and 23 home runs with 59 runs and 61 RBI in 474 at bats.
Until Adrian Beltre moved into Fenway Park for his free agent year, he and Encarnacion were pretty much neck and neck as offensive players. The change in scenery for Beltre allowed him to surge past Encarnacion last season after the two had produced rather similar numbers albeit in different types of environments.
Encarnacion made $5.2m in 2010 and despite his horrendous defense and time lost to injury, he was worth 1.8 WAR according to FanGraphs. If the Rays can bring him in for $5.0m on a one year deal and allow him to audition for his next deal or take the risk and offer a multi-year deal to a player that has shown some ability to hit with power that is entering his prime statistical years, I believe they should go for it and utilize Encarnacion at first base as well as DH as the club sorely needs the kind of right-handed power he can provide when healthy.