By Seth Klein
Since coming onto the scene with Houston Astros in 2007, Hunter Pence has been a model of consistency in the majors. In his rookie season he hit 17 HRs with 69 RBIs, placing 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, behind only Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki. He had 147 hits in only 456 ABs and accumulated an .899 OPS, which would have been good enough for 12th in the league this past season. He is a career .285 hitter and since that rookie year he has not had a single season where he has failed to hit at least 22 HRs and has not played less than 154 games once. A midseason acquisition each of the past two seasons, he was a crucial part of the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies team that won the NL East and a key cog in the San Francisco Giants World Series run this past season.
When it comes to this season’s fantasy drafts his ADP (123.9) has been lower than in recent years, which in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. I am a big fan of two things when I draft: going after guys in free-agency years and avoiding guys with a history of injuries, and Pence qualifies in BOTH of these categories. Focusing on drafting someone who can almost guarantee you 580-600 ABs as well as someone who is potentially playing for a big payday is not a bad place to start. What seems to be the knock on him is that once coming over to the Giants his numbers dropped substantially, but I think those numbers may be a fluke. While his BA was non-existent, during his final 99 ABs he hit 5 HRs and had 23 RBIs, with every at bat coming against interdivision opponents. Those numbers aren’t amazing, yet they are serviceable, and I can attest his 2nd half decline to a few things. First and foremost, any player leaving the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Ballpark is bound to have a dip in their power numbers, so that is a knock against him right off that bat (pun intended). He has never been a poster child for plate vision, but his eye seemed to be noticeably poor in the final two months, which was evidenced by his 2.58 K/BB ratio. Another terrible stat was his abysmal 1.11 groundball/fly ball ratio. His GB/FB ratio ranked as the 20th worst in the league and he had 8 more HRs than any of the players lower than him on that list, which shows that the power is still there. He often places in the bottom of the league in that category, so that is not unusual, but with the previous knowledge of his career .285 BA, there’s reason to believe that he simply wasn’t finding the holes in 2012. What helps to nullify the obvious stigma that comes with those stats, is that all three of those deficiencies are all related. The switch to a new home ballpark can easily mess with a player as it can take some time to get used to the backdrop behind the pitcher as well as where the shadows are. If this takes longer than usual the strikeouts will start to pile up and frustration will ensue. When that happens a hitter can tend to get anxious, which could result in him pulling off the ball, thus causing many weakly hit groundballs. After an entire offseason to get acquainted with his somewhat new team and their digs, I fully expect him to return to his usual career averages.
Another thing to note when deciding whether or not to draft Pence is that he hits both righties and lefties equally well. Over the past three seasons he’s batting .284 vs. RHP and .279 vs. LHP with a slight upgrade in his power vs. LHP. This is an important stat to know for owners because it makes him an everyday player and won’t put him in a platoon with someone else. All this negative talk about plummeting stats and a low ADP and one can quickly forget that he set a career-high in RBIs (104) and was only 1 HR shy of his career-high of 25 dingers. According to current ADPs, if given the right scenario, I’d draft him ahead of fellow outfielders Michael Bourn (73.8), Mark Trumbo (84), Melky Cabrera (98.5) and Nelson Cruz (111.4).
2013 Prediction for Hunter Pence: .299 BA, 89 R, 22 HR, 93 RBI, 10 SB
By Seth Klein
Seth was born and raised in Los Angeles, but is a lifelong Knicks, Giants and Yankees fan. He hates any team from Boston and the Dallas Cowboys, and attended the University of Arizona. Seth now spends his days as a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist.