Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Sleepers - A First Baseman for the Rays

posted by Jon Williams

For Yankee fans, we are pretty far into the off-season. We're used to out team striking quickly and grabbing the best guys available. Or at the very least we're exhausted by rumors that we're going to get this guy or that guy. Instead the Yankees are patiently waiting out the market and could go into the 2012 season with pretty much the same team they played with in 2011. For fans of the Yankees this is unusual. For fans of the Tampa Bay Rays this is par for the course.

The Rays having one of the smaller payroll budgets in the game, rarely jump early on free agents. They exercise patience and wait until potential bargains develop. This year they might be interested in an outfielder, a designated hitter, middle infielder and first baseman. They could very well re-sign Carlos Pena. But for now they wait and have inexperienced names penciled in at the top of the depth chart at several positions. The most interesting one in my opinion is Russ Canzler.

Canzler is interesting for several reasons. I like that he fits the developing trend of allowing older minor leaguers - sometimes barely considered prospects - to have a chance to make major league rosters. A lot of organizations will dismiss a certain player because he doesn't fit their perception of what a player at his position should look like. We've seen it a hundred times, look at short, slight players like Billy Wagner and Pedro Martinez, who were not always appreciated for their skills as prospects. Canzler does not have an odd body type, he's six feet and two inches tall and weighs over 200 pounds, so he looks like a DH or first baseman. The problem with this guys is that despite being a pretty good hitter, he doesn't hit like the prototypical first baseman.

Some numbers:

Season Team BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
2006 Cubs (A-) 7.10% 22.50% 0.264 0.319 0.543 0.279 0.291 0.382 137
2007 Cubs (A) 7.00% 17.50% 0.270 0.321 0.376 0.107 0.316 0.318 97
2008 Cubs (A+) 7.50% 19.40% 0.273 0.327 0.463 0.190 0.31 0.356 120
2009 Cubs (A+) 6.50% 22.20% 0.270 0.315 0.430 0.160 0.333 0.345 116
2009 Cubs (AA) 11.60% 15.40% 0.258 0.346 0.399 0.142 0.289 0.337 105
2010 Cubs (AA) 11.20% 23.10% 0.287 0.372 0.566 0.279 0.332 0.412 151
2011 Rays (AAA) 12.20% 23.50% 0.314 0.401 0.530 0.215 0.396 0.410 157
2011 Rays 20.00% 20.00% 0.333 0.400 0.333 0.000 0.333 0.316 101

You can see that Canzler has a history of hitting for decent batting averages (much better than decent the last two seasons) with solid power numbers. Looking at these numbers for a still relatively young first baseman, you would probably give him a shot on your fantasy team and as a Rays fan you'd probably be pretty happy to have a .275/.350/.500 line from your rookie first baseman. But that enthusiasm dies off a bit when you learn he has not hit more than 21 homers at any level or in any season. But should it?

For fantasy owners, you might not want him as your primary first baseman, but with third base a weakness in MLB at the moment and first base not quite as deep as it once was, Canzler would be an excellent corner on a lot of teams, especially in AL-Only Leagues. For the Rays it seems like a slam dunk cinch, they would risk almost nothing and he might fill a need for them inexpensively. How long have the Rays been looking for a long-term solution at first base? So if they fail to move one of they pitchers or prospects for a first baseman (they're rumored t be looking at Anthony Rizzo of the Padres) they could decide to give Canzler a try. It just might be to the benefit of fantasy owners.

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