Many felt that when Drew Stubbs was acquired in the trade of Shin-Soo Choo that he was destined to be the Tribe’s Opening Day leadoff hitter. It made sense in theory—Stubbs has the kind of speed that can be a real difference maker at the top of a batting order. Much like Kenny Lofton before him, the consensus belief was that Stubbs would wreak havoc on the base paths and make life difficult for the opposition.
And then the Indians surprised everyone by signing the best leadoff hitter available on the open market and quite possibly in the game today in Michael Bourn. The move meant relegating Stubbs to either part time duty off the bench or as a starter in a new position with a decreased level of importance in the lineup. Terry Francona appears to be going for the latter, but just how will the move effect Stubbs’ fantasy value headed into the 2013 season?
Player: Drew Stubbs
Eligible Position(s): Outfield
Average Position Rank: Outfield #71
Projected Draft Position: 19th round or later
Projected Auction Value: $4
Drew Stubbs’ primary talent is running. To be more specific, his talent is running really, really fast. Rumor has it that his first words were, “I WANNA GO FAST!” And boy, did he ever. (Or maybe that was Ricky Bobby. Whatever.)
Over the past three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Stubbs has stolen 100 bases, roughly 33.33333 stolen bases on average. In a world that continues to diminish the value of the stolen base, Stubbs is one of the few players (along with Bourn) who can be relied upon to get you them in mass quantities. For his career, Stubbs has an 80% success rate which is respectable but it does mean he’s not a for sure thing when he takes off.
Of course, anyone who has paid attention to Stubbs’ career knows that his primary downfall is the strikeout. Stubbs is a whiff machine who owns the fourth-highest single-season strikeout total in MLB history. As a result, his on base percentage tends to suffer significantly. In 2012, Stubbs struck out 166 times, 10th worst in baseball, and only mustered up an OBP of .277. How many more stolen bases could Stubbs get if he could get on base at even a respectable rate?his career high his 40 for a single season, but he has the potential to be a 50-plus guy. If only he could do a better job of getting on base.
And that’s the thing—strikeouts hurt in the fantasy realm. With a player like Stubbs its almost a guarantee you will be digging yourself out of the strikeout hole. In a head-to-head league this may not be much of a disadvantage since you can focus your attention towards other stats, but in a roto league it can grow frustrating and rob you of valuable points that you may not be in any position to be giving away.
So what’s a person to do? Should you role the dice with Stubbs and hope for the best or should you avoid him like the black plague? That’s a complicated question. One without a real definitive answer.
The Indians feel as if they can make adjustments to Stubbs’ approach at the plate and limit the amount of times he strikes out. There may actually be something to this though logic. As a team they were one of the hardest to clubs strike out in 2012 so there’s reason to believe them when they say they can plug the holes in Stubbs’ swing. If they’re successful, Stubbs’ value immediately jumps up a notch. His speed combined with his raw power potential makes him a legitimate fantasy option.
Stubbs should also be aided by his role within the lineup. Rather than hitting at the top of the order where he would be expected to get on base and make things happen, Stubbs will more than likely find himself in the bottom third of the order where he will be charged with driving in runs. Hopefully this change alleviates some of the pressure thus allowing Stubbs to reach into some of his untapped potential. Could this result in increased power numbers? It’s definitely possible. It could also help solve his on-base issues and provide him with more opportunities to steal bases.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if any of this will come to fruition until they start playing games that count. For that reason it’s to imagine a scenario in which a fantasy owner should be investing in Stubbs to be anything other than a backup option. At $4 in a fantasy auction, Stubbs value seems appropriate. In a standard snake draft it seems likely that Stubbs won’t be drafted in most leagues until well into the 19th or 20th rounds, if at all.
Should Stubbs fall into the free agent market be prepared to pick him up if and when he hits a hot streak. For all his faults, Stubbs has shown over the course of his career that when he gets hot he can be one of the most versatile and electrifying players in fantasy baseball. But, once that hot streak turns cold be prepared to cut bait. The frustration of owning Stubbs during a cold streak isn’t worth it.