As Melky Cabrera has reminded us, we can’t believe that everything we see on the baseball diamond is legit. As a fan of the game, it’s extremely frustrating, I know. If you’re a fan of the American League team that wins the pennant, I wouldn’t blame you if your anger doesn’t come out until October, as the All-Star Game MVP had a lot to do with the National League’s victory, even if Melky wasn’t doing any of the pitching.
But, this is a fantasy site. If you want my opinions on this stuff, feel free to contact me in any way you know how and I promise you, you’ll get them. Right here, right now, we have to view this kind of thing from a fantasy perspective. No, not potential replacements for Cabrera, not again anyway. But five games into the 2013 season (or even less if the Giants make the playoffs), Melky will be back in uniform for some team. PED’s or not, he was leading the league in hits and batting .346, so I’m guessing he’ll not only begin the year as a starter, but also batting high in some lineup.
Now, I often say that fantasy baseball is not a morality play. Here are a few examples of people looking ridiculous making it such.
- I often see owners make terrible trades or draft selections to avoid having Yankees on their teams. That’s just stupid and it can really actually hurt the integrity of the league, or end up making one team a complete juggernaut.
- We had a reader comment on a piece that Clave wrote telling us that a Giants’ fan in his league put Hanley Ramirez on the waiver wire as soon as he was traded to the Dodgers. While I have some pride in a fellow Giants’ fan taking such a stance, that is an idiotic move.
Basically, you have to look past your own biases as a fan to put the best fantasy team out there. It’s one thing if you think a player is vastly overrated (like myself with Kevin Youkilis), it’s quite another to acknowledge how good a player is, only to turn around and act like you’re making some moral stance by trading giving up Robinson Cano for J.P. Arencibia because you inherited a team in a keeper league with a Yankee on it.
But when it comes to players who have had PED issues, the situation isn’t as clear. If the person’s going to be putting up massive numbers, you want him on your team, no matter how those numbers were accomplished. Believe me, if he’s not on your team, he’ll be on someone else’s. But how much were those numbers aided? Theoretically, you have to believe that a player once caught will spend some time keeping it clean. So what kind of numbers can you bank on?
First, let’s look at Cabrera. We’ll round up and call him a career .267 hitter before 2011. The 2011 and 2012 seasons added 17 points to his batting average. He hit .305 in 2011 and was at .346 in 2012 before being suspended. In 2011, Cabrera had 201 hits and he was well on his way to eclipsing 200 again in 2012.
While he never tested for anything in 2011, you have to wonder what created the spike. How does a guy who was nothing more than a poor man’s Shane Victorino turn into one of the best hitters in the league? I mean, Cabrera’s not old, but it wasn’t like he was a youngster in 2011 just finding his groove. I certainly can’t be the only one wondering this. That’s a tremendous spike in production.
Logically, you would have to think that Cabrera will no longer be using PEDs when he gets back in 2013. While I know that PEDs aren’t the only reason Melky has been so effective, his fantasy stock in 2013 has dropped a ton in my eyes. If he’s rated as a Top-25 outfielder in our rankings next year, it will be done over my protest.
Even in 2011 and 2012, Cabrera’s power numbers weren’t great. He hit 18 homers in 2011, which was his career high and would likely not have been reached in 2012, even had the suspension not hit. In terms of stolen bases, his career high was 20. While the Melk Man’s never been a bad player, he was anything more than a fourth outfielder in a deep league before 2011. When he returns to the field in 2013, I wouldn’t look for anything more than that.
But depending on your faith in the appeals process, the argument isn’t exactly closed.
Now, let’s focus our attention on 2011 NL MVP, Ryan Braun. In my eyes, this is a completely different situation. First of all, I would be irresponsible (along with other things) if I didn’t say that his positive test and suspension were overturned. It’s also worth noting that that had never happened before with someone who tested positive for a banned substance. So for me personally, I have no reason to disbelieve Braun’s innocence. Still, I understand that many of you may not believe that he’s truly innocent. So, let’s have a look at his value.
While his 2012 batting average is a little low compared to his career mark, Braun is still hitting a respectable .299 and leads the league in home runs. Mind you, this is his first season without Prince Fielder as a bashing mate. If you don’t want to believe Braun’s innocence and plan to continue a moral stance by keeping him off of your fantasy team, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot. This guy is one of the best pure hitters of this generation. He also won’t be 30 until after the 2013 World Series, so there’s no real reason to believe he’s slowing down.
In a nutshell, if he was on Performance Enhancing Drugs, they weren’t enhancing his performance a heck of a lot.
Other players are a little more tricky. In 2009, we learned that Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez both had PEDs in their past, and neither has been the same player since. Then again, Ramirez turned 37 during that season, while Rodriguez turned 34. It’s not exactly uncommon for players of that age to start declining. Also, Rodriguez never tested positive in his career. His revelation came from an admission that he used PEDs before his career ever began. If they actually stopped there, who knows how much influence they had on him in the first place?
Obviously, Ramirez is out of the game. Braun will continue to put up MVP-caliber numbers. A-Rod was once a great player, but age has caught up with him. He still has some fantasy value, but don’t look for anything more than his 2011 and 2012 production. In other words, don’t draft him without a backup option, because Rodriguez will spend time on the DL.
But what about Mr. Cabrera?
In a lot of ways, Melky will really be the first of his kind. A player who’s had two fairly different careers. From 2006-2010, he was a nice player, but let’s mix and match those seasons to see what his best fantasy numbers were.
75 runs (2006), 13 homers (2009), 73 RBI (2007), 13 steals (2007), .280 average (2006).
That’s more or less what I am expecting out of Melky in 2013. During August of 2013, he’ll turn 29.
Putting this into perspective, taking a look at one outfielder from the 2011 season, I see fairly comparable numbers.
72 runs, 15 homers, 73 RBI, 12 steals, .284 average.
Would anyone care to venture a guess as to what outfielder put those numbers up in 2011?
Take a minute.
Are you ready?
Cool, let’s do it.
Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles.
As I sit and think about this Nick Markakis is about right. Much like Cabrera before 2011, Markakis is not a bad player, but if your fantasy team is counting on him as a catalyst, you are in rough shape. As I look back at our 2012 Draft Kit, we had Markakis ranked as our 32nd best outfielder. Depending on where free agency takes him, that’s pretty much where the Melk Man will likely be ranked in 2013.
So, if you’re stuck in a bad season and already planning for next year’s draft and wondering what to expect from Cabrera, think about Nick Markakis. Of course, he could do better than expected, so could Markakis. But if you’re expecting a guy who’ll step in and contend for a batting title while being a borderline MVP candidate, you’re leaving yourself open for some serious disappointment.