Injuries limited Michael Cuddyer‘s overall production last year after three straight years of top-100 caliber performances. His batting average on the year was just .260, the lowest average in a semi-full season over his career, but oddly enough that average came despite a 20.4% line drive rate, his highest since posting a 20.6% rate back in 2006 when he batted .284.
In both 2010 and 2011, Cuddyer’s batting averages and expected batting averages (xBA) were nearly identical. Last year his xBA was .315, so we can safely conclude that Lady Luck wasn’t on Cuddyer’s side. It’s true that his K:BB ratio (0.41) was a career worst and had been trending down for the last two years, but remember how good his line drive rate was, and his infield fly rate was also his best since 2004 (8.0%).
Cuddyer is a career .271 hitter, and that’s probably around where he’ll bat this year (we have him pegged at .279). His value in fantasy comes from the balance he brings, posting average or better numbers in all five categories. He’s in a good spot in Colorado, batting fifth in Coors Field, so a 30-homer season is a possibility if he can correct the recent three-year trend of low fly ball rates.
At a Glance
Neutral: R, HR, RBI, SB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Best-case scenario: Yoenis Cespedes (OAK)
Likely scenario: Torii Hunter (DET), Chase Utley (PHI), Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
Worst-case scenario: David Murphy (TEX)
Michael Cuddyer 2013 Fantasy Projection
Eric Young Jr. aside, a switch hitter who’s never really going to work his way into the lineup because of his hitting, Cuddyer is Colorado’s only right-handed outfield bat. That means he’ll definitely be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, but he’ll probably get some time off against right-handers to give Tyler Colvin‘s power a chance to shine. And while Todd Helton is old and can’t handle the rigors of playing every day, super-utility man Jordan Pacheco will steal at-bats at first base.
Cuddyer has hit 20+ homers three times in his career, and last year he was well on his way to making it four. The problem is that from 2010-2012, Cuddyer posted fly ball rates below his career average, and fewer fly balls means fewer homers. His 18.2% HR/FB rate last year was a new career high, something we’d expect in his first year in Colorado, so if he can get back to the 35-38% HR/FB rate and stay on the field for 145 games, a 27-30 homer season is in play. That would probably come with a 90-RBI season and a nice .280+ average as well.
Because of his ballpark Cuddyer is someone to take a chance on, and I deem him one of the safer, balanced options you’ll be able to find.