Ben Zobrist, average draft position: 116.
5×5 rank 175
12/60, 10 runs, four HRs, seven RBIs, two SB.
I have never been Zobrist’s biggest fan. However, I did see value in him in walk and OBP leagues. For a middle infielder, a .350 OBP is nothing to laugh it. He also posted that sublime .405 OBP in 2009.
Certainly, Zobrist’s average is torpedoing his value considerably. He has a .231 BABip, compared to .273 last year and .326 the year before. He did post a .252 BABip in 2008 but that only covered 227 plate appearances. I think it is safe to say that he won’t be hitting .200 for the bulk of the season.
Still, how much room for improvement is there? Currently, his line drive rate sits at 11.9% – about six points lower than last year and eight lower than 2009. He has been hitting the ball on the ground more (52.4% of the time). If he can hit a few more line drives, he should be able to push a BABip around .285, which would get him to about a .250-.260 average – not great, eh? If he keeps striking out as much as he is (30% of the time), there is only so much his batted balls can do.
The real concern I see is his 10.4% walk rate. If he doesn’t get on base, he has absolutely no chance of reaching the 24 steals he had last year. I think, with the rosiest of glasses on, Zobrist will steal 20, but probably will end up in the 15-17 range.
Of course, none of this analysis contains the most interesting part of Zobrist’s 2011. Zobrist’s isolated power (slugging – average) is .250, roughly the same it was in 2008 and 2009. Last year, the number plummeted to .115. Not surprisingly, Zobrist is posting a 20% HR/FB rate, completely obliterating last year’s 6% and bettering anything he has done in his career.
Might Zobrist be regaining his 2009 form? Might we see him out-produce Aaron Hill in most categories? I think so. I don’t think he’ll get to 27 HRs like in 2009, but I’m saying it’s possible.
Right now, I think Zobrist will hit .260, post a .360 OBP, hit 20 HRs and steal 18 bases. There is also significant upside to the power and speed numbers. Especially in OBP/walk leagues, Zobrist makes an interesting buy.