Yesterday I took a look at Jose Bautista and whether his 2010 season was a fluke. Now, let’s move over to the NL and take a look at a guy that many are hoping regains his 2009 form, and forgets about his pathetic 2010 campaign (especially myself considering that I drafted him last year). He set a career low in batting average. He nearly tied his career high in strikeouts. He hit 50% fewer HR’s than he did in 2009. He is incredibly likable. He has an awesome nickname. He is the Kung-Fu Panda. He is Pablo Sandoval. So let’s take a look at things and ask, which year was the fluke, 2009 or 2010?
Quick editor’s disclaimer here: because Pablo’s career is only two and a quarter seasons old, I will try to take into account what he did in the minor leagues as well, when possible.
Normally reliable in batting average, it was very disturbing for Sandoval owners to witness him hit for a paltry .268 last season. Throughout his minor league and big league career, Pablo has been a .305 hitter. Was it bad luck? Not as much as one would think. He has a career BABIP (MiLB & MLB) of .325. Last year it was a .291. This is definitely not a big enough shift to cause a -.70 point shift in batting average. This aspect of Sandoval’s game was definitely a fluke in 2010.
What about the sever power outage for the Panda? Including his minor league seasons, he has never hit more than 12 homeruns. He turns 25 in August so we can still expect him to gain some man strength over the next few years before he reaches his prime. In ’09 Kung-Fu Panda had an ISO power of .226, and in ’10 it dipped all the way to the mark of .140. I see a rebound coming next year considering that his career ISO sits right around .180. With reports that Sandoval is losing weight and entering the spring in the best shape of his life, there is reason to believe that another rebound is in store.
There is one last set of numbers that are encouraging for the resurrection of Pablo Sandoval. Take a look at his BB% and K%. In 2009 he had a BB rate of 8.2%. In 2010 it dropped to 7.6%. In 2009 his K rate was 14.5% and in 2010 it was a nearly identical 14.4%. What this tells me is that because he is not striking out any more than usual, he stands to return somewhere near his 2009 numbers. The only concerning numbers for me are the increase in his swing% at pitches outside the strike zone and his decrease in swing% of pitches in the strike zone. I wouldn’t worry too much though as the changes are about 5% in each category and can simply be the byproduct of trying to do too much in the midst of a struggling season.
So, what do we make of Pablo Sandoval in 2011? I expect a rebound from his 2010 season. Yes, this seems like an obvious conclusion, but I don’t think that he returns to his 2009 form for another couple years. I see Pablo being a great late round pick as a handcuff, or if you miss out on some higher caliber third basemen. You shouldn’t have to pay too high a price to get him and can expect a line somewhere near .308/.365/.493 with 20 HR, 80 RBI, and 77 R.