Yesterday (January 7) was Alfonso Soriano‘s 37th birthday, so happy birthday to him! Fantasy owners who had the pleasure of drafting or adding Soriano off free agency last year should probably get him a gift. After all, Soriano only turned in his best season since 2008, halting what had been a three-year stretch of low batting averages and modest-to-underwhelming run and RBI totals.
It’s not like Soriano’s .262 average was a boon to your roster, but it’s far better than the .244 mark he posted the year before. And for the first time since 2007, Soriano hit 30+ homers. Oh, and those 108 RBI were a new career best.
How did he do all of this? It all began with his eye as Soriano showed more discipline at the plate than ever (or at least since 2002 when Fangraphs started tracking these stats). Last year Soriano swung at just 50.9% of the pitches he saw, lower than both the 56.8% he swung at last year and his previous career-best (51.5% in 2010). This improved discipline did result in more strikeouts (24.9%, worst of any full season) but ensured he was getting good pitches to hit, which resulted in a 20.4% line-drive rate and just a 6.7% infield fly rate (both best since 2008).
While we always talk about HR/FB being a stat that, all things equal, should remain fairly consistent from year to year, if a batter is swinging at better pitches and not hitting as many lazy fly balls off bat parts of the bat, then it would make sense if his HR/FB rate improved like Soriano’s did last year.
At a Glance
Strengths: HR, RBI, TB, SLG
Neutral: R, BA, OPS
Weaknesses: SB, OBP
Best-case scenario: Josh Willingham (MIN)
Likely scenario: Garrett Jones (PIT), Dayan Viciedo (CHW), Kendrys Morales (SEA)
Worst-case scenario: Carlos Quentin (SD)
Alfonso Soriano 2013 Fantasy Projection
Soriano’s value all comes down to his homers and RBI, and while it’s certainly possible that Soriano can display the same improved batting approach we saw last year, I have a hard time projecting a 14-year veteran to reproduce career numbers from his age-36 season, especially when those numbers are counting stats that require said player to stay healthy. Soriano had 615 plate appearances over 151 games last year; in the four years prior he’d only once topped 522 plate appearances and 137 games played.
Still, the popular consensus regarding Soriano is that he’s washed up and over the hill, and while it’s certainly true that he isn’t the player he used to be, there’s still a lot of life — and fantasy value — stored in his bat. The Cubs have an average lineup, but that’s an improvement over what we’ve seen in recent seasons. Batting between Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro can’t hurt either.