Over the last decade plus, there are very few players in fantasy baseball who have been as consistently good as the Houston Astros’ Carlos Lee. Always seemingly under the radar, Lee would habitually out up a .300 average along with 25 or more home runs accompanied by steals in the 10-20 range. Throw in the fact he was extremely durable and what you had here was one of the more dependable stocks in the game. Fast forward however to 2010 and what we saw out of Lee was truly disturbing. That always solid batting average dipped all the way down to .246 and his home runs dropped once again for the fourth straight season. As we enter 2011, Lee is facing his cliff season if he hadn’t already last year and at the age of 35, this could be the end of him as we know it as a fantasy baseball commodity. With that in mind, lets see if Lee has another season left in him as a useful piece in leagues this season and what kind of numbers we can expect here.
There is an old adage that players who don’t have a good body type (i.e. they are fat) fade much more quickly than someone who is in shape. This makes obvious sense and the fact that Lee pretty much fell off the map last season would suggest this is what is occurring in this case. There is no debating the drop in power as I noted earlier. Here are Lee’s home run outputs the last five seasons:
What must be mentioned about the above numbers is that Lee missed a big chunk of the second half of the 2008 season with a broken hand bone and he was on pace to hit 35 homers that season which would have thrown a monkey wrench into the trend. Another issue to note is the fact that since that season, Lee has had virtually no protection in the Astros lineup as Lance Berkman faded badly and no one else really stepped up to fill the void. Opposing pitchers thus avoided Lee when they could and he didn’t get as many good pitches to hit.
Another issue that has to be examined is the batting average from last season as Lee had an extremely low BABIP that was one of the lowest of his entire career as well. He got not luck on the batted ball and that would make anyone’s average fall with no bias to age. Lets take a look at the last five seasons of batting average for Lee to see how fluky this number is:
You can plainly see the one number that stands out and that clearly was last season. The low BABIP was the prime cause of this and so we can give Lee a mulligan somewhat there. Now of course when a player gets older the bat speed slows down and so don’t look for Lee to get back to the .300 level but somewhere in the .280 range is possible which radically changes the whole look here of his game.
The Astros lineup once again is very weak heading into 2011 as Hunter Pence is really the only protection Lee has at this juncture. Still Lee has the ability to hit around 25 homers this season with the 90 RBI almost got to in 2010. The steals are a thing of the past however so don’t look for any help there and the runs have leveled off with a stop in the 60-ish range. When you put it altogether Lee’s 2011 looks like a sure bet OF 3 line in all fantasy baseball leagues and when you throw in the fact he remains very durable, this wouldn’t be the worst place to revisit for a cheap, proven commodity to round out your outfield or to keep your bench strength high.
2011 PROJECTION: .280 66 R 25 HR 91 RBI 2 SB