Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hunter signs with Angels

Taking a break from our look at league keepers, we stop to take a look at a free agent who has actually signed with a new team. Torii Hunter signed a five-year contract worth $90 million dollars to play centerfield for the Angels. That seems reasonable for a market where Mike Lowell gets $12 million a year despite being a year older than Hunter and not nearly as consistent, but the truth is that Hunter was overpaid. The Angels did what they had to do to get the number one centerfielder on the market, but I'm sure they'll regret paying making him an $18 million a year player until he's 37. Let's look at some fantasy ramifications.

Torii Hunter has averaged over the past three years 24 homeruns, 87 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and a .279 batting average, despite only playing 98 games in 2005. It seems reasonable to expect those numbers or better next year with the Angels. He'll probably have more than 20 stolen bases next year due to more stolen base attempts; the Angels attempted 52 more stolen bases as a team last year than the Twins. Hunter's RBI chances should go up as well; the Angels scored 104 more runs than the Twins last year, and, while Orlando Cabrera (who has been traded to the White Sox) accounted for 101 runs last year, their offense should be able to replace his .345 on-base percentage at the top of the order. Hunter also benefits from moving to the AL West; against the Angels' division rivals last year, he hit .333 with three homeruns in 80 at bats. The only division team that seems to have his number is Oakland; Hunter hit .182 against them last year. One stat to note: Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN points at that while Hunter is very good at hitting lefthanded pitching (.314 BA, .356 OBP, .550 SLG), there aren't as many southpaws in the AL West as there are in the AL Central. Read more here.

Hunter's defense in centerfield should be a bit of an improvement over the incumbent, Gary Matthews Jr. Matthews' range factor (2.90) was actually a bit better than Hunter's (2.68) last year, but Hunter's zone rating (.894) was far better than Matthew's (.851). Hunter's zone rating ranked 7th among all centerfielders, while Matthews' ranked 17th.

Hunter's signing allows the Angels to move Gary Matthews Jr. over to leftfield, a likely waste of his defensive talents, but one necesitated by the fact that he has no where else to play, with Garrett Anderson probably at DH and Vladimir Guerrero in right. Having another RBI-man in the middle of the order will allow Matthews to focus on getting on base; Matthews hit .281 when leading off last year and only .240 when hit in the 4th and 5th spots in the lineup, which are traditionally power spots. Batting leadoff, Matthews' OBP was .340, nearly equal to Cabrera's last year; it's not impossible to believe that Matthew could come close to equaling Cabrera's run totals from last year. Matthew's could be a bit of a sleeper next year based on his disappointing season last year and depending on where he hits next year.

The player who loses the most value in 2008 because of this signing is Reggie Willits. Willits was third on the team in OBP with .391, and was second on the team with 27 stolen bases in 430 at bats. Willits provided cheap value last year in runs, batting average and stolen bases, but that value should drop next year as the Angels will struggle to find him playing time in the outfield. Personally, I'd rather play Willits than Matthews; Willits gets on base better and he's more patient. Willits was very productive last year, mainly hitting out of the nine-hole or leadoff, but the only way he'll be productive next year is if he or Matthews is traded.

In fact, it does seem like first-year GM Tony Reagins is stockpiling pieces for a trade. With his acquisition of starting pitcher Jon Garland, Reagins now has a few intriguing outfielders and starting pitchers that could be packaged with a prospect or two in order to land a solid position player, such as Miguel Cabrera and/or Miguel Tejada. I'm predicting more moves to come from Anaheim.


Anonymous said...

That was interesting to read about range factors and all that. I'd be interested to see a more complete write up on who has the best range, etc., on OF defense. That's strange to read because I had thought that Torii Hunter was considered just about the best CF out there, but now I'm hearing the opposite all over the place...

Anonymous said...

and I don't believe you've ever actually explained why you hate Matt Berry

Ben Westrup said...

I've talked about zone rating and range factor a bit more in my piece on NL centerfielders.
I also touched on Matt Berry in a previous post as well. Read the previous entries!