Friday, July 09, 2010

The Return of Carlos Beltran

posted by Jon Williams
Less than a week from today Carlos Beltran is expected to be on the field for the New York Mets. That is something that has been impossible to say with any conviction for most of the last two seasons. Beltran missed a large part of the 2009 season and the entire first half of the 2010 season basically preparing and then recovering from surgery on his right knee. On July 15th he is expected to return as center fielder of the New York Mets. But how much can he contribute?

Before the 2009 season, Beltran was considered one of the best players in baseball and one of the more consistent fantasy options. In NL-only leagues Beltran is probably already on someone's roster. In the shallower mixed leagues he may still be available. Beltran contributed in every batting category. I still expect Beltran to hit for average. He is one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball. He rarely swings at balls out of the strikezone and has an extremely good contact rate. He has a career .302 BABIP and a .283 career batting average.

Beltran has been one of the better base-stealers in the game. His success rate has always been one of the best in baseball. Although he has not stolen 40 bases (nor more than 25) in several years, he has been a consistent threat to steal 20 or so bases a season. This was true even last season before the injury when he had 11 stolen bases (1 cs) in 308 at-bats. I expect we will see Beltran attempt fewer stolen bases. Even if the knee is healthy I think the Mets will do everything in their power to keep him healthy which unfortunately includes taking away the green light.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has suggested installing Beltran directly into the third spot in the lineup. He told ESPN.com that it depended on Beltran's energy level and also a bit on David Wright's production.
"I've thought about it a couple of different ways," the manager said. "If he appears fresh, I was thinking of having him probably third. If not, I'll probably bat him around fifth or sixth."
And asked about keeping NL RBI Leader, David Wright in the third spot.
"As long as he keeps doing that, we could bat Carlos right after him [at cleanup] and give David that switch hitter with experience behind him to make sure he stays hot," Manuel said. "Not that [incumbent No. 4 hitter] Ike Davis doesn't hit, but [Beltran] is an All-Star player -- a switch hitter, power both sides."
Before he succumbed to the knee injury, Beltran was enjoying a fairly good season marred only by a disturbing lack of power. In retrospect, it is not difficult to surmise that the knee was bothering him all along and playing with the injury was sapping his power. However, the 33-year old Beltran has also experienced a three-year decline in HR/FB (21.1, 17.1, 15.7, 10.8) one of the leading indicators of a player's power. It is very possible that with the knee finally fixed, there is a rebound in Beltran's power numbers. That seems likely to me. Beltran's batted ball ratios have remained steady. My guess is he bats at a 20-30 homer pace which should make most owners happy.

In Conclusion
Fantasy owners should scoop up Carlos Beltran if he is still available. If he is truly healthy he should hit for both average and power in the middle of a productive lineup. The Mets will protect him at first but within a few weeks I expect the kid gloves to be off.
For the balance of the season look for a line like this:

300 at-bats .290/.375/530 with 12-15 homers, 60 runs, 50 RBI, 3-5 stolen bases

What Beltran's Return Means for Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur
Manager Jerry Manuel has stated that Beltran will play two games and receive at least one day and perhaps two days off before starting again. This should ensure that both Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur receive plenty of at-bats. There has been a lot of debate on who will start when Beltran plays and who should start between Pagan and Francoeur.

When Beltran and Bay are both in the lineup, the most likely scenario is that Pagan plays against right-handers and Francoeur will start against left-handers. Obviously when Beltran is out of the lineup, they should both start. Francouer will probably pinch-hit and play late inning defense quite a bit when he is on the bench.

Chime In - Join the Conversation By Adding to the Comments Section
Are you targeting Beltran? Is my projection for the balance of the season too optimistic? Will he make the Mets better or disturb the chemistry of a team playing fairly well? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Big Mike said...

Jon, I appreciate the piece on Beltran. As you know, I bought low on him a couple of weeks ago. .375OBP, 13HR, 60runs, and 50 RBI's would be very sweet. Thanks for this great site!

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 8:30:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jon Williams said...

At your service, Mike. Anyone with a question should feel free to give me a shout or just post their question in the comments.

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 9:42:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Greg said...

*Is my projection for the balance of the season too optimistic?*

Yeah, I think it's too optimistic. Where do you get 300 ABs for Beltran? Looking at his ABs/game over the past 2 seasons for the Mets, he's averaging about 3.8. When Beltran gets back in the lineup, the Mets will only have 74 games left. So 74 x 3.8 is about 281 ABs. And we already know that Manuel has said he's going to give Beltran extra rest "like spring training," so there's basically no chance for Beltran to even get 280 ABs.

As for Beltran scoring 60 runs this season... also highly unlikely. Let's say that he plays 71 games in the 2nd half (a generous guess) and scores at the incredible clip that he did with the 2006 Mets with 0.907 runs per game. So 0.907 * 71 = 64 runs. That's if Beltran scores at his best pace in 4 years and only rests 3 games in the 2nd half.... If he instead scores at the pace he did 2 seasons ago (0.72 runs per game) and perhaps rests 6 games, we'd be looking at 49 runs.

I do have Beltran in one of my leagues and hope that he can be a big-time contributor come September. But coming back from a knee injury can be tough, especially for an outfielder.

Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 11:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

You're right Greg. I didn't do the math and in my calculation used 5 at-bats per game and 60 games played. That makes a huge difference, a 24 percent difference actually.

So, it's actually more like 45 runs, 40 RBI, 8-12 homers

Good catch, Greg.

Monday, July 12, 2010 at 1:32:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Greg said...

Okay, I get your numbers now.

Although, I don't know if I should be rooting for Beltran or not. He could help me in one league, but work against me in the other. This is why I shouldn't play in more than one league. ;-)

Monday, July 12, 2010 at 9:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

Nice article Jon. I hope I'm wrong, since I'm a Mets fan, but I agree with Greg. With that bum knee, I see Beltran sitting at least once or twice a week - at least for his first few weeks back. It may take him some time to get it going against major league pitching as well. The Mets fortunately play 24 of their next 74 games against the D-Backs, Pirates, Brewers and Astros so they have a lot of lousy pitching ahead of them to get fat on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 1:47:00 AM EDT  

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