Coming into the year, Erick Aybar was a bit of a deep-league sleeper at a tough position. His first two years in the league had shown small signs of progress towards the ability to be a speedy, albeit underpowered, option at shortstop. Then he struggled his way to a .253/.307/.331 year that has taken most of the bloom off of the rose. Should deep league owners consider him in drafts next year?
Of course, he’s had mediocre BABIP luck this year. His .289 BABIP is both below his career number (.309) and his xBABIP (.328), so he could have had some balls bounce better for him this year. If you add his missing hits back in as singles, his new slash line is .275/.328/.353. Though that’s much closer to his .275/.318/.366 career line, it’s still a step back from offensive production that was borderline at best.
What happened to his power? Before you laugh about putting that adjective anywhere near the 5’10” 170-pound middle infielder, his ISO in 2008 and 2009 was over .100, and much closer to the .126 ISO that batting-average qualifying shortstops averaged this year. His .078 ISO this year was a definitive step back. It’s not his flyball profile – his 36.3% in that category is a career-high. But it may just be in his batted ball profile anyway, since his 14.8% line drive percentage was eighth-worst among qualifiers this year.
There were some positives in this lost year. Aybar did up his walk rate for the third-straight years (though it’s now up to a below-average 6%), and he did steal 21 bases this year. Err.. that’s about it.
So if Aybar can return to a 17/18% line drive percentage, show average batted-ball luck, and therefore find himself back in the .100ish ISO range, he’s a sleeper again in 2011? First, that’s a lot of ifs. Second, we pretty much know what that upside looks like – his .312/.353/.423 2009 season would describe most of that upside, and there’s little reason to think he can push that envelope much further. Maybe he walks a little more, and maybe he adds in his 20-25 steals that he showed he was capable of this year, but we’re talking about a shortstop that could hit near .300 (though that’s no lock if he strikes out 15% of the time next year again) and steal 25 bases, with little home run power. And we know what the downside look likes now.
He’s a sleeper, barely. But the ceiling is low so the cost should be even lower if you’re going to draft him in 2011.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.