The Indians did a lot of work renovating their everyday lineup this offseason, most notably through the trade of Shin-Soo Choo for Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs and the free agent signings of Mark Reynolds and Michael Bourn. However, the move that set the tone for the new-look Indians was the signing of free agent first baseman and outfielder Nick Swisher for four years and $56 million. Ever since the day Swisher signed on the dotted line there has been a new, more positive vibe surrounding this team.
With that in mind, today we’ll continue the fantasy forecasts by examining the Tribe’s new everyday first baseman.
Player: Nick Swisher
Eligible Position(s): Outfield, First Base
Average Position Rank: Outfield #43, First Base #23
Projected Draft Position: 12th round or later
Projected Auction Value: $8
Nick Swisher has been a model of consistency over the course of his nine year career. Ever since his first full big league season in 2005, Swisher has averaged 84 runs scored, 26 home runs, 83 RBI with a .256 batting average and an .828 OPS. This level of consistency is made even more impressive when you consider that he spent the first three years playing in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum.
Swisher’s consistency has made him a valuable fantasy commodity despite the fact that he is often overlooked and cast aside by fantasy enthusiasts during the drafting process. I know from personal experience that I’ve been able to snatch Swisher off of the waiver wire in mid-July two years in a row now. That should not happen for a player of his caliber.
Naturally, one could argue that Swisher’s production over his past four seasons in New York has been inflated thanks in part to playing in the bandbox that is the new Yankee Stadium. Also, being surrounded by big bats such as Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and even Derek Jeter has made his job easier. It’s also a lot easier to put up huge stats for a team like the Yankees who often scores a lot of runs on a yearly basis than it is on say the Royals or Astros. But again, history proves that these arguments are false. Swisher is a consistent hitter and a consistent fantasy performer. We have eight full seasons worth of data to back this up.
Now in 2013 Swisher finds himself as a member of the Cleveland Indians. Gone is the security of the Yankee lineup around him and gone is the short home run porch out in right field. Does that mean we can expect Swisher to struggle? Should we shy away from Swisher at all costs? In a word: No.
Swisher has proven throughout the course of his career that it does not matter where he is playing and who is around him. It’s not as if he has spent the past eight years playing for the same team or with the same teammates. He has called three different ballparks home and has played with any number of teammates at various stages of their careers. And to anyone who thinks that the new Yankee Stadium has played a part in Swisher’s continued run of success, just take a look at his home and away splits from the past four seasons:
From Swisher’s splits we can see that he has performed just as well—if not better—on the road as he has at home. If that’s the case, why should fantasy owners be worried about a drop in production from playing away from Yankee Stadium when he was not all that much more productive playing there in the first place? They shouldn’t. It’s all speculation that isn’t based on anything other than a preconceived notion that most players perform better at home.
Swisher should also experience a boost in his value given his new role within the Indians’ offense. While in New York, Swisher was viewed as a role player who regularly found himself shuffled around the lineup in order to fill a need. With the Tribe, Swisher will find a home within the middle of the order where he should benefit from increased opportunities to drive in runs. The recent acquisition of Michael Bourn combined with the on base abilities of Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and even possibly Carlos Santana ahead of him should provide ample opportunity.
That said, Swisher’s level of consistency does not mean he should jump up your draft board or that you should be willing to break the bank in an auction for his services. He’s not a super-star level player who can single handedly win you a title. He is, however, a nice piece who can be had in later rounds if you play your cards right. Getting a player who is almost a lock to hit 20-plus homers and drive in 80 runs anywhere past the 10th round is a steal. His added flexibility from being both first base- and outfield-eligible can also help you retain some flexibility.
When you are drafting, consider Swisher’s value in terms of who is left on the board. If you get into a situation in the later rounds where you are simply looking to select the best available player and not necessarily on need, that’s when he should be considered. From that standpoint, I would consider drafting Swisher no earlier than the 10th round of any draft and would probably only be willing to pay a max of $14 in an auction. And also, be sure to pay close attention to the midseason waiver wire and be ready to snag Swisher should he become available.
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