Will Carlos Pena Bounce Back?

Carlos Pena followed up his monster 2007 season with a disappointing year. Last year’s highlights for Pena were hitting 31 HR and driving in 102, which led to a $10 season according to Last Player Picked. The mock draft crowd is expecting a bounce back season in 2009 for the Tampa Bay slugger, as they have given him an ADP of 65 according to the latest rankings at Mock Draft Central.

Pena has great power, but it was unlikely that he was going to match his 2007 HR output. That year, he had a 29.1 percent HR/FB ratio, the fourth-highest mark in the majors. His career mark in the category is 19.7 percent. As expected, Pena fell off in 2008, dropping to an 18.8 percent mark last year, although he got a boost by hitting a career-best 50.3 percent of his batted balls in the air.

Another area where Pena was likely to regress last year was in his AVG. In 2007, he posted a career-high with a .282 mark. A lifetime .251 hitter, Pena produced a .247 average last season. Looking forward, none of the five projection systems show Pena coming anywhere close to his 2007 AVG. Marcel, which uses a weighted-average of the past three seasons, has the highest mark at .261 while the rest have him in the .250s.

It is likely that Pena will be below average in both AVG and SB so he really has to make hay in the other three categories. But there is no reason to expect the 31-year old to come close to duplicating the power numbers from his career-year of 2007. Plus he has never scored a ton of runs, with a career high of 99.

Add it all together and we have an overvalued player. Last year Pena was the 17th-best player with 1B eligibility, according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. He has the 10th-best ADP for a first-base eligible player this year. The Bill James projection, usually the most optimistic, has Pena with a .254-31-90-77-2 line.

I would expect Chris Davis, Carlos Delgado and Joey Votto to all beat that line. Garrett Atkins, Aubrey Huff and Derrek Lee could post better numbers, and it would not surprise me. The bottom line is not to reach for Pena if you get shut out from the top first basemen.

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What are we to think now that he has hit 13 home runs by May 8th?