Michael Cuddyer is a solid major league player, both on the offensive side of things as well as with the glove. What will the team that signs him to a contract be getting, and what should you expect from him if you roster him in 2012 in the fantasy game?
One of the biggest strengths of Cuddyer is his ability to play, and thereby qualify, at multiple positions on the diamond. In 2012, given a 20 games played minimum in 2011, Cuddyer will qualify at first base (46 games) and the oufield (77 games). Unfortuantely, those are the two worst positions to qualify for considering that's where so many offensive weapons patrol the landscape. If only he had appeared in a few more games at second base (17). He'll still qualify at two spots in '12, but with second and third base out of the mix in most leagues, Cuddyer's value is diminshed somewhat heading into next season.
In terms of his offensive production, I feel like people often overestimate his impact.
Cuddyer has no real speed. Sure he stole 11 bases in 2011, but it was a career-high. Given that he had never before stolen more than seven bases, it's a fair bet that we'll see some regression in 2012, particularly since it's not often that we see 33 year olds set a career best in the steals category.
Cuddyer is also barely better than your league average type in the batting average category. We are talking about a guy coming off a career best effort of .284, the same mark he also posted in 2006, and .012 points clear of his career batting average of .272. Could he repeat that mark in 2012? Certianly he could. But it bares repeating that he has never hit .285 in a season. He's also coming off a season with a 0.51 BB/K mark, a direct match for his career rate. He also posted a slightly low 17.8 percent line drive rate. Not only is that line drive rate below the big league average of 19-20 percent, it's also below Cuddyer's personal mark of 18.5 percent and it is the third straight season he has failed to post a mark of even 18 percent. Add in a BABIP of .312, a 4-year high and slightly above his career .306 mark, and you can hopefully begin to understand why my picture of Cuddyer doesn't include an impressive batting average in 2012.
Cuddyer also doesn't have the power that some might think. There is no dispiuting that that Target Field hasn't helped as the Park Indices mark for homers at Target Field is 10th in the American League the last two years. Still, Cuddyer has only hit more than 25 homers once in his career, 32 in 2009, and per 550 at-bats in his career we're talking about a man with a 19 homer rate. It should also be pointed out that three times in the last five years his HR/F ratio has been in the single digits, and that his 12.3 percent career mark is barely better than average.
Adding everything up, Cuddyer is what he is, and that is a very solid, across the board contributor that can help any team. However, just because he has value doesn't mean he should be someone you should target at the draft table in fantasy baseball. Cuddyer isn't going to provide much of a boost to your team's batting average, and he also isn't likely to steal more than a handful of bases. As I've also touched on, his power is solid but far from the elite levels that one hopes for when you're looking to add a player to handle first base or outfield duties. Obviously if he ends up in a better offensive ball yard surrounded by talented players that will not hurt his fantasy value, but the only way he would have truly been someone to target on draft day 2012 is if he had played three more lousy games at second base.
NOTE: Cuddyer signed a 3-year deal for more than $31 million to join the Rockies. While this might be a best possible scenario for Cuddyer, it doesn't change the main thrust of this report, especially now that the humidor has sapped some of the offensive potential of hitters. Cuddyer is likely to hit a handful more home runs than initially expected, and his average could push .290 given his new home, but don't let the ball yard lead you to think that Cuddyer is something that he isn't.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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