In a Big Way: Beltre to Boston

Adrian Beltre is Boston bound after reaching an agreement on a one-year deal for $9 million with a 2011 player option for $5 million. Beltre fits Boston’s plan and comes at a bargain price. The Scott Boras camp also makes out well as the player option protects Beltre if the shoulder continues to hamper him and/or he has a disappointing year in Boston. But if things go as planned and he has a good year then he can enter the free agent market again with enhanced value. Now that’s the art of a good deal and a mutually beneficial situation for both parties involved.

Beltre will be entering his 31-year-old season in 2010 and the performance arrow is pointing up. He struggled in 2009 with a disappointing .265/.304/.379 line with only eight homers in 449 at-bats. For the first time in many years Beltre missed significant playing time due to injuries. He appeared in a career low (since he became a starter) 111 games in 2009 as he battled shoulder woes and a very rare yet painful injury to the groin area. The shoulder surgery caused Beltre to miss over a month of time mostly during July and the groin accident forced him to miss nearly three weeks of time in August.

If Beltre’s shoulder cooperates with him in 2010 we can expect him to have a big season in Boston that boosts his prospective value on the free agent market next season. One thing that jumps out about Beltre’s 2009 is his diminished walk rate which sat at 4.1% after this number never seeped below 6% during his prior four seasons in Seattle. This change cannot be precisely explained as his plate discipline statistics varied during his five seasons with the Mariners. Beltre found different ways to be successful at the plate but his Z-Swing percentage (71.2%) was a bit heavier than years past. He swung at more pitches inside the strike zone but the difference is likely minimal or just static but could explain his lighter walk rates.

Beltre’s 2009 BABIP of .302 seems to be in line if not a bit padded than his career BABIP of .293. His best BABIP as a Mariner came in 2009 after the number typically sat in the .290’s save for the aberration (.279) in 2008.

Interestingly enough the Hardball Times BABIP calculator pegs Beltre’s estimated 2009 BABIP at .315 based on his batted ball profile. A .315 BABIP would have given Beltre this triple-slash assuming that all the extra hits were singles:

.278/.317/.392

That looks better but even this rosier picture fails to push Beltre above the .400 slugging percentage marker. I’m not convinced that this adjustment is even proper because Beltre’s 2009 BABIP seems to be in line with his career and Seattle norms. You can use it at your own discretion.

The injuries may have taken the largest toll on Beltre’s power output. Perhaps the shoulder woes sapped some of his bat speed as fastballs uncharacteristically ate up Beltre in 2009. He had a -7.5 run value below average against fastballs in 2009 after always appearing in the black against the pitch dating back to his 2003 season. Beltre’s success against fastballs in 2010 could be a telling tale next season and with a healthy shoulder there’s reason to expect improvement.

On top of a clean bill of health Beltre is moving to the much more friendlier Fenway Park. ESPN.com’s park factors had Safeco Field as the tenth-best run suppressing environment in 2009. On the contrary, Fenway Park ranked as the eighth-best run enhancing park in 2009. That big green wall in Boston also figures to help out Beltre. Leaving Safeco Field may be one of the best things to happen to Beltre. Here are his pronounced home/road splits since he joined Seattle in 2005:

2005 home: .263/.312/.382. OPS=.694
2005 away: .248/.295/.440. OPS=.735

2006 home: .251/.310/.467. OPS=.777
2006 away: .283/.343/.462. OPS=.805

2007 home: .264/.319/.426. OPS=.745
2007 away: .288/.320/.538. OPS=.858

2008 home: .240/.303/.400. OPS=.703
2008 away: .292/.349/.512. OPS=.861

2009 home: .250/.283/.364. OPS=.647
2009 away: .279/.324/.393. OPS=.717

And for good measure here are those home road splits over the past three seasons:

2007-2009 home: .252/.304/.399. OPS=.703
2007-2009 away: .287/.331/.488. OPS=.819

There’s no doubt that Beltre has enjoyed his time away from Safeco field over the past five seasons. He’s slugged the ball with much more authority and his two .500+ slugging rates on the road before his injury-plagued 2009 campaign are downright tantalizing.

A great deal of Beltre’s 2009 success will hinge on his health but Beltre’s still in his prime and he’s going to be in a great environment and line up to do some big damage in 2010. The spotlight won’t be on Beltre unlike the beginning of his last contract in Seattle and he has a lot to play for since he knows a huge season could lead to a big pay day next off season.

Expect Beltre to hit in the .280-.290 range and I believe he’s going to hit 30+ homers next year if he’s on the field. As crazy as it may sound a home run total nearing 40 is not out of the question with the friendly confines of Fenway Park. The Fans (121 ballots cast) project Beltre to hit .274/.327/.470 with 23 homers in 140 games in 2010 and I’d imagine these projections will start moving upward with Beltre now moving to Fenway.

All the ingredients are there for Beltre to explode in 2010 and he’s a good bet to provide great value to your fantasy team in 2010. He will likely be on the board in the early middle rounds and don’t let him get past you.

Adrian Beltre could be your Fantasy Team MVP in 2010.

We hoped you liked reading In a Big Way: Beltre to Boston by Dan Budreika!

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will
Guest
will

Are you kidding me? Aside from his outlier season in 2004, Beltre has never had more than 26 HRs and only once has hit higher than .280. Yet, you really believe it is reasonable to expect that he will top both marks in his age 31 season (is he really only 31)? Players exiting their prime who start getting injuries aren’t exactly great bets to outperform their career numbers.

Also, Beltre is not a dead pull hitter, so he isn’t likely to benefit as much from the short Fenway LF. Besides, it’s not like Beltre is the only player capable of benefitting from the wall. Any right handed batter would be expected to enjoy the same advantage, so it really cancels out in the grand scheme of comparison.

Finally, with Beltre, the Red Sox are now casting aside their $12mn investment in Lowell. Assuming he can mostly recover from his injuries, then it is very reasonable to expect that Lowell will be a better player than Beltre (he probably is a better hitter even if he doesn’t fully recover).

Corky
Guest
Corky

“Assuming he can mostly recover from his injuries, then it is very reasonable to expect that Lowell will be a better player than Beltre (he probably is a better hitter even if he doesn’t fully recover).”

If they were both DHs, this might be true, but if you include defense, Beltre is the better player. Lowell’s hip injury killed his mobility and range. There’s a reason the Sox are desperate to not have him play 3B next season.

will
Guest
will

You are correct to point out that Lowell’s hip injury killed his range, but Lowell will now be over 1 full year removed from the surgery, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that he will improve defensively. Before the hip surgery, Lowell was close to Beltre’s peer on defense, so the assumption is only asking Lowell to restore some of his lost range.

I am sure the Red Sox don’t think he can recover, and that’s fine, but they are essentially spending $22mn in an attempt to get the same season one would expect from a healthy Lowell. Of course, Beltre himself has developed a history of nagging injuries. In 2008 he had both shoulder and thumb surgery and then last year the shoulder had to be operated on again. Surely, there is also some risk here?

Bodhizefa
Guest
Bodhizefa

Dave Cameron just mentioned in his column today that Beltre was a “significant upgrade” over Lowell. So it seems I’m not the only one who would think that your comment about it being reasonable to expect Lowell to be better is just a little out there.