Player Profile: Chase Headley
Since we all know I'm full of myself, let me do what just such a person is want to do and quote myself (from the article Fanball & Sirius Show League). “My boy Chase Headley, taken in the 20th round, was fantabulistic (.286-31-115-95-17). Given his draft day cost, he was one of the 10 best players in fantasy baseball this year.” How do you like them apples? The problem with Headley is that what he accomplished in 2012 was so far out of the norm for him that it's exceedingly difficult to think that he as any chance of fully repeating that effort in 2013.
Headley's most obvious step forward was in the homer category. Headley had never hit more than 12 homers in a season, and from 2009-11 he hit a total of 27 home runs. How in the world did he go deep 31 times last season? Great question. The first thing I do when witnessing such a massive step is to check a guys HR/F ratio. It's damn telling in this situation. Headley posted a 21.4 percent mark, the 10th best mark in baseball. Tenth. Remember, the guy hit more homers in 2012 than he hit the previous three years – combined. As you hopefully get without me having to tell you, something is fishy here. Traditionally, analysts look at rolling three years periods to help get a feel for something like a players HR/F ratio. Let's look at his marks from 2009-11: 7.6, 6.4 and 4.3 percent. Add those three numbers together and you get 18.3 percent. That's lower than his 2012 mark. The fact is that there is no way anyone could have predicted his HR/F explosion last year. There is also no way that any rational person can think he will repeat that total in 2013. This situation brings back memories of Joe Mauer. You remember when Mauer hit 28 homers in 2009 after hitting 29 homers the previous three years? Do you remember how I predicted that his homer total would fall back to single digits (I was mercifully called an idiot for that claim)? What happened the following season for Mauer? He regressed to nine homers. Just take a look at the HR/F ratios of Mauer from 2006-10: 10.8, 7.2, 6.5, 20.4, 6.7 percent. I'm going to predict that Headley follows a similar path with his his HR/F ratio, that it will likely be cut in half in 2013 from his 2012 level. If that happens Headley will have a hard time hitting 20 homers. Why? Lost amidst all the homers is the fact that he was about to more than double his previous career best homer total despite a career low fly ball rate of 32.1 percent. In fact, his fly ball rate has gone down each of the past three years (38.3, 36.0, 32.3 and 32.1 percent). Doom is in the forecast here.
Let's look at his GB/FB ratio. Here are his yearly totals: 0.83, 1.04, 1.18, 1.28, 1.42 and 1.51. You don't have to be a math major to understand that trend. Every year of his career his percentage of ground balls has risen. That's not, as already mentioned, going to allow him to hit 30 homers again though it might help him to hit .285 again (a number he has reached each of the past two seasons). Headley also posted a 12.3 percent walk rate in 2012, and that should help him limit the walks a bit, though he also had a four year high with his K-rate so his 0.55 BB/K ratio wasn't a very strong mark. Headley still has a posted an OBP in the .370's the past two years, and that's a strong number in today's game.
It's also pretty darn difficult to think that Headley will knock in 115 runs again while scoring 95 runs of his own. Looking at the RBIs, how did he get to such a huge number when he hit only .274 with RISP and .203 with RISP and 2 outs? The Padres, after all, were 23rd in runs scored in 2012. Can you say opportunistic hitting? The data simply doesn't support a repeat of either number (and moving the fences in at Petco a few feet doesn't figure to have a huge effect).
The steals? I'll give Headley kudos there. His ability to swipe a base – he's been in double-digits the past four years and has swiped 17 in two of the past three years – has always propped up the value of Headley in the fantasy game.
After years of being undervalued the pendulum has swung with Chase. He'll now be taken too early on draft day after what was very likely to be his career best effort. Here's a definitive statement: Headley will not replicate his homer, RBI or runs scored marks in 2013. The average and steals are repeatable, but if he gives you 75% of his last seasons production in the other categories we'd be talking 23 homers, 86 RBIs and 71 RBIs. All of those numbers were still be career best efforts prior to last season. Headley could end the year as a top-10 third baseman but your setting yourself up for major disappointment if you are thinking a top-5 finish is in the cards.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own 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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