I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying – in bits & pieces, perhaps – that Andre Ethier is going to have a big 2012 around here for nearly six months now. I don’t know if I ever put it all together into one coherent thought, so for my debut at FanGraphs today, that’s exactly what I’ve done. A snippet:
Ethier’s reputation has been further damaged by what can kindly be described as a salty attitude, including complaining about his contract status & suggesting that he might be non-tendered just before Opening Day 2010 and getting into a very public spat with the team about whether he was being forced to play through a knee injury late last season. Beyond that, his total inability to hit left-handed pitching and his less-than-impressive defensive performance (despite a laughable Gold Glove in 2011) led FanGraphs’ own Mike Axisa, writing at River Ave Blues this winter, to label him as essentially a platoon designated hitter, a description I couldn’t really find much to argue with.
All of which is to say that the outlook on Ethier heading into 2012 isn’t exactly what it was following 2009, and that’s reflected in fantasy drafts so far this season. His ADP at MockDraftCentral is 135th overall and just 35th among outfielders, behind Nick Markakis and just barely ahead of Peter Bourjos. At both MDC and in CBS’ auction values list, he’s seen as being only slightly more valuable than Melky Cabrera, who A) had a career year (.349 wOBA) last year which was only slightly better than Ethier’s sub-par 2011 and B) seems about as likely to repeat that performance as McCourt is to go into business with Bud Selig on a nice little bed-and-breakfast.
Here’s the thing, though: absolutely everything is falling into place perfectly for Ethier to have a huge comeback season, and that potential along with his lessened public profile makes him a very valuable commodity.
As you can probably guess, I go on to point out that his lessened productivity over the last two seasons can largely be attributed to the broken finger he returned from too quickly in 2010 and the bad knee he tried to play on for most of 2011. Fully healthy and motivated in his walk year, he’s showing early in camp that if the Dodgers go anywhere this year, he’s going to have a lot to do with it. (And as I’m about to hit publish, he drives in two more with yet another double. Go, Andre, go!)
Notes on the other 24 men who will try to join Ethier as we head into the final weekend of spring training…
*** Ted Lilly hasn’t pitched in over a week due to a sore neck, though he reportedly made it through a bullpen session today withonly some stiffness and no pain. That’s a good sign, though the layoff may yet land him on the disabled list to start the season. Due to April off-days, he would likely not be replaced by another starter – sorry, Nathan Eovaldi – but instead by an 8th reliever. Much as I like Josh Lindblom, who would almost certainly be that reliever, I’m not so sure that’s the right way to play it. We’ll wait and see what happens with Lilly before we get too deep into that, though.
*** Speaking of the elderly, Adam Kennedy is recovering from a groin strain and may also start the season on the disabled list… and I’m trying and failing to figure out why that’s a bad thing in any way whatsoever. Keep in mind that the disabled list does not start on Opening Day, but is retroactive to a player’s last appearance, so if Kennedy doesn’t play in another big-league spring game and starts the season on the DL, he’d be eligible return just a few days into the season.
*** Josh Bard and Cory Sullivan were cut yesterday, and that’s only notable for the fact that Luis Cruz was not. (Well, that, and the fact that apparently one of my readers is Cory Sullivan’s biggest fans.) With Jerry Sands gone, we’ve all been expecting the battle for the last spot to come down to Justin Sellers versus Josh Fields, and while I still think that’s what it’ll be (bet on Fields), Cruz keeps on sticking around and is even picking up supporters. I’m not exactly sure why; he’s been awful in the minors (AAA OBP last three years of .274, .309, .301), and it’s not even like he’s a spring sensation, because he’s hitting just .259 with no walks and two extra base hits in spring (entering today’s game, because oddly enough he just did the same thing Ethier did, driving in a run on a double). So he can play shortstop; big deal, so can Sellers. Just say no, okay?