Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Derrek Lee A Keeper?

What a difference three years makes. In 2005, Derrek Lee was an MVP candidate, hitting .335 with 46 homers and 107 RBI. He also scored 120 runs and stole 15 bases. He seemed to be coming into his own as a premier player who could anchor fantasy teams for years to come, and was generally a first round draft pick going into 2006.

Unfortunately, that was the last time he's gotten close to any of those season totals. He missed 2/3 of 2006 with a wrist injury, and has averaged 21 HR, 86 RBI, 92 R, 7 SB, and a .303 batting average over his past two seasons. Certainly nobody would be unhappy with those numbers, but out of your keepers, you'd like a little bit more.

Does Lee still have the potential to explode for 35-40 home runs? Of course; Carlos Delgado taught us this year that power can ebb and flow. And could Lee end up as one of the top 96 players in fantasy baseball next year? Definitely; he finished at 66 this past season. And now to the big question: Is Derrek Lee a keeper?

The answer might surprise you: yes, he is. As many fantasy owners will tell you, protecting batting average is one of the hardest things to do. Locking in a guy at first base who you can count on to bat at least .290 is a luxury, when so many of the power-hitting 1Bs are unimpressive in that department (Ryan Howard - .251, Prince Fielder - .276, Delgado - .271, Adam Dunn - .236, Carlos Pena - .247).

With players at all of the infield spots (save catcher) developing as legitimate power sources, it's becoming more and more important to make sure you don't give up too much in batting average at any position. So hold on to Derrek Lee as one of your eight keepers, and feel good about having a solid, run-producing, average-protecting first baseman. Projected 2009 statistics: .305, 25 HR, 90 R, 90 RBI, 10 SB.

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