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

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.

Alex Kantecki also writes for Fake Teams and Vigilante Baseball. You can poke him on Twitter at @rotodealer

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Alex Kantecki

Alex Kantecki


  1. Chris Hill
    September 18, 2013 at 7:57 am

    As a Blue Jay fan, who sees Rasmus play regularly. I tend to agree that he’s unlikely to keep hitting as well as this year (average-wise), but his approach at the plate has dramatically improved.

    He’s been willing to hit the other way and I think that’s the biggest reason for the average improvement, especially against lefties. The patience is better, yet he still strikes out way too often and in doing so looks completely baffled by the pitcher in doing so.

    25 HR 80 RBI 80 R with .250 average is pretty solid estimate. On the positive side of that estimate, I don’t see the floor being much lower (assuming health) and it wouldn’t shock me to see the HRs climb closer to 30, thus dragging runs and RBIs with them.

    So for me, it depends how deep a league you’re in. Because I think he’s a pretty solid bet for those numbers, In a 14+ team league I’d feel pretty good having him in my OF, especially if I had SBs and needed HRs. Definitely no Adam Jones though.

    • September 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

      Thanks for the reply! I always love insights from a local fan. I do think 25/80/80 is a very solid estimate, but I doubt he reaches those numbers if he’s not batting .250 or greater. But as a No. 4 or No. 5 outfielder, you can do much worse. I just think it’s important to prepare yourself for the downside of a bum BA, too. Is there any reason he’s not stealing bases that you know of? He had decent SB numbers in the minors, but he’s hardly run at the major league level. That would boost his fantasy value tremendously.

      • Chris Hill
        September 18, 2013 at 8:16 am

        As for why he doesn’t steal… the Jays seem to like SB guys (Davis, Reyes, Gose, Bonifaco (fail here)…etc.) and let them steal. So it’s not the team philosophy holding him back.

        From what I see, (and probably what the Jays brass sees) Rasmus isn’t great (likely poor) at reading pitcher moves (consistently poor jumps) and he also doesn’t seem to be able to accelerate quickly. (ie he’s reaching top speed after 4 or 5 strides instead of the 2 or 3 you need) He’s clearly not slow, he glides around CF nicely. It is strange, he’s always looked like a guy who should steal more bases.

        The average risk is valid. I guess for me the big thing that makes him look a lot more tolerable is that after last year I would have said his average would be in the .220-.250 range, whereas I think he’s improved more into the .240-.270 range. Still likely to hurt you in average, but not as much.

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