Concerns over Ichiro Suzuki‘s decline are a little overblown. Here are the facts:
His walk rate was never good, but it’s been on the decline from 6.1% in 2010 to just 3.3% last year.
He has a career 9.3% strikeout rate, and last year was no different at 9.2%.
Two of his three highest infield fly rates have come in the last two years (14.2% and 13.8% in ’11 and ’12, respectively).
With the Yankees he stole 14 bases in 67 games, good for a rate of 33 steals per 161 games.
He’s played at least 161 games in eight of the last nine years.
Suzuki certainly is not the player he was five years ago, but he’s still a fantasy force. He almost never misses a game, and in 2013 he gets a full season as the Yankees’ lead-off hitter. His power played well a Yankee Stadium last year as he hit five homers in just 67 games with an 11.1% HR/FB rate, so it’ll be interesting to see if a full season in New York’s left-handed hitting haven significantly boosts Suzuki’s power numbers.
At a Glance
Strengths: R, SB, BA
Neutral: OBP, net SB
Weaknesses: HR, RBI, SLG, OPS
Best-case scenario: Michael Bourn (FA)
Likely scenario: Jose Altuve (HOU), Alcides Escobar (KC), Angel Pagan (SF)
Worst-case scenario: Denard Span (WAS)
Ichiro Suzuki 2013 Fantasy Projection
Because of his decreasing batting average (he’s no longer guaranteed to bat .320+) and walk rate (3.3% is putrid), he’ll post some terrible OBPs, but the runs and steals will be there along with a not-quite-Ichiro-but-better-than-most .285-.300 average.
It’s been five years since Suzuki scored over 100 runs, but he’s been a part of some atrocious Mariners lineups. Back in those days he was posting OBPs of .360-.380 on a yearly basis due in large part to some very impressive batting averages, but in the last two years he’s only posted OBPs of .310 and .307. The strength of the middle of New York’s lineup will help boost Suzuki’s run total, but he just doesn’t get on base enough and doesn’t drive himself in enough (via the long ball) to be a 100-run scorer.
Speaking of the long ball, we’ve decided to amend our home run projection in our upcoming 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide. I’m not convinced he can maintain the 11.1% HR/FB rate he showed as a member of the Yankees last year, but I’m confident it will be higher than the 4-7% rates we were seeing with Seattle. Also with the Yankees last year, Suzuki stole 14 bases in 67 games, good for 33 steals over a full season. We project a similar rate at 30 steals overall this year.
Because of his age and the public’s general concern about his decline in skill, Suzuki will probably be a huge draft day bargain. When it’s all said and done you’re looking at a player who will contribute nice totals in runs, steals, and batting average even if those totals are less than what we used to see during his heyday. With Yankee Stadium factored in, we could see around 10 homers if we’re lucky, and that helps separate Suzuki from the rest of the one- or two-category speed outfielders who contribute almost zero power. While 10 homers aren’t a ton, especially for an optimistic projection, that still breaks down to one homer every two or three weeks in H2H formats.
Just know that if things break south for Suzuki, he could be looking at an OBP bordering on .300, and at best it’ll probably be in the .320s.