Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/27/13
Every time I look at Edwin Encarnacion‘s career stats, I’m shocked at how not out of the ordinary his 2012 season was. Obviously the 42 homers and 110 RBI trounced his previous career highs of 26 (2008) and 76 (2007) — his 13 steals were a career-best as well — but his 14.6% strikeout rate was near his career average (16.8%), his 49.3% fly ball rate was around his career rate (45.3%) and actually lower than his 2010 rate (50.5%), and his 18.5% HR/FB rate wasn’t unsustainably high given he’s twice been north of 15%.Put all those slight improvements together and mix in a career-high 644 plate appearances, and you get Encarnacion’s 2012 season. If he stays healthy for the entire season, it’s not crazy to think that we could see a similar season from Encarnacion. The issue is that he’s never been able to stay healthy, so even the 595 plate appearances we project in 2013 would be his second highest career total. You can’t necessarily project injuries, but you can draft a cumulative amount of injury risk for your team. If you’re drafting Encarnacion, you’d better pair him with some safe players, too.At a GlanceStrengths: R, HR, RBI, SLG, OPSNeutral: SB, BA, OBPWeaknesses: healthPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Jose Bautista (TOR)Likely scenario: Jay Bruce (CIN), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), Mark Teixeira (NYY)Worst-case scenario: Josh Willingham (MIN)Edwin Encarnacion 2013 Fantasy ProjectionOne of the more overlooked aspects of Encarnacion’s 2012 season is what the homers did for his batting average. Despite struggling to just a .266 BABIP, his 42 homers contributed greatly to his .280 average. A quick look at the table above shows Encarnacion has never really been able to maintain good line drive rates, and he has a very strong fly ball tendency. Both of those work against his BABIP. Last year the league’s BABIP on fly balls was just .126 (BABIP doesn’t include home runs, only balls that are in play).With a small correction in his HR/FB rate (remember, I don’t like projecting repeats of breakout seasons from established veterans), we will probably see some of those borderline homers turn into long fly outs. That should mean a decrease in batting average, even with the small rise in BABIP we project.It hurts that Encarnacion loses third base eligibility this year as his contributions will only count at the game’s deepest offensive position. I’m a little surprised Yahoo! has him ranked ahead of Billy Butler and Adrian Gonzalez. I’m not surprised they have him ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, though I would rather Goldy Knocks.
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