Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/18/13
Hunter Pence has only played six major league seasons and won’t turn 30 until two weeks into the 2013 season. Still, his stat profile reads more like a player in his mid-30s.While he’s consistently hit about 22-25 homers (he’s actually landed in that range in the last five season), that’s about the only consistent part of Pence’s game. After stealing 11+ bases in his first four season, including 18 bases in 2010, Pence has swiped just 13 bags in the last two years. In the last three years he’s batted .282, .314, and .253, one of the more erratic batting lines in the league. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising as Pence’s strikeout rates have risen over the last three years from 16.0% in 2010 to 18.6% in 2011 to a career-high 21.1% in 2012.With declining steal totals and rising strikeout totals we’d expect Pence to display more of a power profile, and indeed he has as his RBI total has risen every year since 2009. (Of course, his .172 ISO last year was a career-worst, which seems to directly contradict his career-best 104 RBI).At a GlanceStrengths: RBINeutral: R, HR, SB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPSWeaknesses: nonePlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Matt Holliday (STL)Likely scenario: Nelson Cruz (TEX), Andre Ethier (LAD), Matt Wieters (BAL)Worst-case scenario: Colby Rasmus (TOR)Hunter Pence 2013 Fantasy ProjectionI don’t know what Pence will bat this year, but .281 seems like a safe bet considering where he’s been for the majority of his career. Unfortunately, given his recent batting trends, there’s also the chance that Pence repeats with an average around .260 or worse. I would not draft him simply expecting the batting average to rebound. Rising strikeout rates with consistently below average line drive rates could spell doom for his BA.The good news is the rest of Pence’s line is pretty consistent. Expect 80-95 runs, 20-25 homers, and 90+ RBI, and anything you get in the steals column should be viewed as a bonus. Pence isn’t the balanced, five-category contributor I thought he’d develop into, but he can still contribute at least a little across the board.
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