Admittedly I’m not the biggest fan of Torii Hunter, but it’s hard to argue with results. Over the last three years Hunter has finished the season ranked 70th, 110th, and 33rd. Ignore him if you want, but whoever drafts Hunter is probably going to get a solid value.
Because of his statistical balance, Hunter will likely be immune to the precipitous decline that befalls many of the game’s aging veterans. Even with the modest totals we project for 2013 batting second for the Tigers — 87 R, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 10 SB, .274 BA — Hunter is still a borderline top-100 player (here checking in at 113).
At a Glance
Neutral: HR, RBI, SB, BA, SLG, OPS
Best-case scenario: Melky Cabrera (TOR)
Likely scenario: Andre Ethier (LAD), Derek Jeter (NYY), David Freese (STL)
Worst-case scenario: Cody Ross (ARI)
Torii Hunter 2013 Fantasy Projection
Allow me to direct your attention to Hunter’s 2012 BABIP, .389. Sorry, but that’s not happening again, and neither is a .300+ average. Last year our xBABIP and xBA formulas suggest Hunter should have batted .292 on the strength of a .358 BABIP, so he did still drive the ball well and deserved to hit for a good average, just not that good.
For 2013 I think it’s a good idea to project Hunter’s BABIP around .311, right in line with other marks from recent seasons. With his strikeout rate hitting a career-worst 22.2% last year, we’re probably looking at a .275 season here.
While Hunter has never been a fly ball hitter, last year his fly ball rate plummeted to a career-low of 25.4% with a career-high GB:FB ratio of 2.05. His fly ball rate has been in decline for the last three years, and while I don’t think he’ll be quite that bad at putting the ball in the air this year, the downward trend isn’t good for his homer totals. Hunter could still hit 20-22 homers, but I wouldn’t expect any more than that.
The good news is that Hunter gets lineup protection from the best three-four duo in the league (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder). That should mean a lot of runs if Hunter can get on base, however we project a low-ish .274 average from him paired with a pretty poor walk rate. Honestly, I’d be surprised if Hunter’s OBP topped .335 this year. Last year only Jason Heyward, Corey Hart, Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Jay Bruce, Jimmy Rollins, and Adam Jones topped our projected 87 runs from Hunter, and those seven players displayed a lot more home run power and/or speed than what I expect from Hunter.
In summary, Hunter will again be a great value because it’s hard to get excited about owning him, but that’s to your benefit if he winds up on your roster. Just know his limitations in OBP leagues and don’t expect a repeat of that .300+ average.