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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Undervalued Player Alert - Frank Thomas

Many fantasy baseball sites are saying how unlikely it is for Frank Thomas to repeat his 2006 season, how he is being drafted too high. I disagree completely with these people. Frank Thomas is an amazing baseball player and a darn good fantasy player. While Thomas is 39 years old, we still think he has enough gas left in the tank for him to be one of the best values of the draft in Round 9 or 10 of a 12-team draft.

The first thing we'll talk about is his incredible power. He hit 39 Home Runs and 37 True Home Runs last year. He will probably get fewer At-Bats this year, so we have him down for 29 True Home Runs. Strangely enough he only hit 12 Doubles last year, the only red flag we see for him. These tend to be a subjective stat, but 12 isn't a lot even considering this fact. Despite this, we still think he will be a good power option. He's hitting in the heart of a good lineup, with good hitters in front and behind. His RBI numbers should be good.

Thomas is actually a deceptively good contact hitter. Thomas hit .270 last year despite a .251 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) - nearly .50 points below average. Had he hit the league average .300 BABIP he would have approached a .300 average. Part of his low BABIP could be his lack of speed, but BABIP is luck influenced, even for hitters.

Thomas's Contact Rate seems to fluctuate more than most hitters, but it was 83% last year - rare for someone with his power. We expect it to be around 78% or 79% this year. Thomas is one of the most disciplined hitters in all of baseball and draws a ton of walks (which will also help him to score runs), which is important for those who hit for high average. A 19% Line Drive Percentage doesn't hurt either. His high HR rates also help out too... they're like free hits.

His Ks are a weakness, but if he can keep his K/AB around 21% or 22%, Thomas should hit around .285-.290. I know this sounds absurd... very few people, I imagine, project Frank Thomas to hit that high. I may end up looking like a fool come September, but the numbers add up, and I trust the numbers. I don't take speed into my calculations, as it is difficult to quantify, and Thomas's lack of speed may be the reason for his low BABIP, which means his Batting Average may only be .270 or .280. I'm hoping this isn't the case, and his .285 BABIP in 2004 is a good start to the argument against this theory. I would have no problem reserving a spot on my team for Thomas and pessimistically putting him down for a .275-.280 average.

He won't steal any bases and his lack of speed will keep his Runs Scored somewhat modest, but Thomas is a great ballplayer that should help out in four categories. His lack of first base eligibility in most leagues is a downer, but a man with the skills of Thomas is worth constricting to your UT spot. Take Thomas in the 9th or 10th round and get the production of a third rounder.

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