Colby Rasmus And Fool’s Gold
As I write this, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus is probably hitting another home run that’s not counting toward my fantasy stats in a pretty important semifinals matchup. (Checking…Yep!)
I was late to activate Rasmus—who had been sidelined since early August with a left oblique strain—over the weekend, and the outfielder with a sick (not in a good way) mustache has welcomed himself back with home runs in three straight contests. All while on my bench. Humph.
On the season, Rasmus is slashing .275/.336/.496 with 21 home runs, 56 runs and 64 RBIs in 450 plate appearances. Despite missing 35 games, Rasmus has been worth 4.4 fWAR in 2013, topping his previous best of 4.0 fWAR in 2010 with the Cardinals. That puts him in the same boat as the Orioles’ Adam Jones (4.4 fWAR) and the Pirates’ Starling Marte (4.4). Daddy Rasmus was right: Toronto saved Colby!
Relax. I know you’re not stupid. Assessing WAR in fantasy is a fool’s errand; Rasmus—currently the No. 51 outfielder on the ESPN Player Rater—is nowhere near as valuable as Jones (No. 5 outfielder) or Marte (No. 15). Even after smacking a career-best 23 home runs with 75 runs and 75 RBIs last season, no one really bought into the somewhat improved Rasmus, who was drafted after one-trick ponies like Emilio Bonifacio and Juan Pierre, according to FantasyPros.com.
Crunching the numbers with the always accurate pace calculator, over a full 162 games, Rasmus’ 2013 stat line would look like this: 30 home runs, 79 runs and 90 RBIs.
And I think those numbers are worth exploring.
For the third straight season, Rasmus, 27, has improved in the power department, going from a .166 ISO in 2011 to a .177 ISO in 2012 to a .221 ISO in 2013. In addition, his batted ball distance has increased considerably—from 273.47 feet in 2012 to 284.86 feet in 2013, according to Baseball Heat Maps. This has coincided with improvements in his fly ball rate (45.3 percent) and line drive rate (21.9 percent), which are both above the league averages of 34.3 percent and 21.2 percent, respectively. And one more goodie: Rasmus’ HR/FB rate has increased in three straight seasons, from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 13.2 percent in 2012 to a career-best 16.7 percent in 2013.
If there’s something you can bank on, it’s that Rasmus will be a consistent 20-25 home run threat, with the upside of 25-30. He’s still young enough to develop more power and I’m willing to bet he does approach 30 home runs in the next year or two. His improvements are real and you can trust that his power is real, too.
But the real question is whether or not Rasmus can sustain a .275 BA going forward. For his career, Rasmus is a career .248-hitter. In 2011 and 2012, his batting average floated around the .220s. In his rookie season, Rasmus hit .251 and followed it up with a .276 BA in 2010 (all with St. Louis). But, like 2010, this year’s production has been aided by a BABIP of .357, which is considerably higher than his career mark of .298. Rasmus doesn’t have great speed, having stolen 24 bases over five major league seasons (including none this season), so this definitely has the looks of a fluky year. His strikeout rate (29.8 percent) has increased for the third straight season and his walk rate (7.8 percent) is simply league average. And while Ramus is swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone, his overall contact rate is 73.9 percent rate, which is below the league average of 79.6 percent—definitely not a good thing.
Another note worth mentioning is that Rasmus has improved against left-handed pitchers in 2013, hitting .260 against southpaws, compared to a career mark of .217. But the only other time he’s hit lefties with any consistency was, again, in a BABIP-filled 2010. There’s not enough here to suggest it’s anything more than a blip.
Rasmus will enter 2014 on a high. But it’s a high that won’t likely last. With hardly any speed to speak of, Rasmus is limited to a ceiling of 25 home runs (give or take a few) with maybe 80 runs and 80 RBIs. That’s not bad, but the most you can realistically expect out of him is a .250 BA (with the proven downside for much, much worse).
Don’t let Rasmus’ career year and hot finish make you think otherwise. The power is real. Everything else, not so much.