Andre Ethier, Comeback Player of the Year

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 Eovaldibut 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?

41 comments
JohnM
JohnM

When's the official launch date for the new site?

Ny Blues
Ny Blues

I bought His Jersey a few years back for my Daughter (she was very upset to learn that he was married) and still regret that purchase, Andre can mash no doubt but forget left hand pitching. I saw he had a two run dinger yesterday vs. Perez but I believe that will remain a very rare thing. It's Andre's aversion to getting his uniform dirty that will continue to hold him back. I think the Dodgers would serve themselves well to trade him to and American league team at some point for a very high ransom. Wonder what you guys think and who we could hold out for?

Real Tom
Real Tom

So I just read Kasten's recent comment, from the Dodgers website: "I want to put more attention and resources to two things -- scouting and player development, and starting pitching," said Kasten. "With both, anything is possible. Without both, nothing is possible. Job 1 will be scouting and player development." Seriously? What team does he think was just purchased? He won't call out Colletti, but he'll point out these two things as areas of improvement? It's probably not a big deal, but it's almost as though he doesn't realize those are the ONLY strengths this team already has. We can probably improve both, of course, but Logan White and starting pitching depth are the only things that keep this organization respectable.

The Count
The Count

As quick as I have been at times to jump on the "Andre has a bad attitude" bandwagon, I often wonder if the Dodgers molded him that way. I remember stories about Larry Bowa getting on Ethier for little things that amount to crap. I'll never forget the Simers story with a dialog roughly like this: Bowa: "Hey Andre, what are you going to do for the team today?" Ethier: "I'm going to hit a home run." Bowa: "That's bullshit, you're gonna whatever you have to do to help the team win." it's stupid on many levels. Hitting a home run, for example, DOES help the team win. Some guys can shake that stuff off, but Ethier is emotional, and perhaps that kind of stuff was enough to make a young, emotional guy turn cynical. I don't know, but I like the guy and hope that he turns it around even if he doesn't stay a Dodger after the season.

Bip
Bip

Lol, seeing your article on fangraphs explains a couple things that had me confused. First, the organizational ranking article for the Dodgers contained this: In the offseason, the Dodgers hired Alex Tamin as Director of Baseball Contracts, Research and Operations. Some hailed the move as a sure signal that the Dodgers had seen the sabermetric light. Others, like RotoGraphs’ Mike Petriello who writes about the Dodgers at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, were not so convinced. which prompted me to look for you on the writer list and search the site for an article you'd written, but I found nothing. Secondly, I bashed fangraphs' comment system, a comment I stand behind, and you said that was about to be awkward.

Real Tom
Real Tom

And congrats on the Fangraphs article. Well written.

Real Tom
Real Tom

And on that note: Isn't there a difference between getting excited about Spring numbers and getting excited about a new approach (though, yes, that can be terribly overrated, too)? I'm excited that Ethier and Gordon are working on their flaws. Ethier is working on improving against lefties, and Gordon is trying to walk more. Yes, it's nice that those numbers look great. But I'm pleased just to know that they realize they have HUGE holes in their game.

Real Tom
Real Tom

Ethier's Spring makes me feel good, but there's one other player who has me pumped. I know it's Spring Training... but man am I excited about Dee Gordon. Remember when Nyjer Morgan said that leadoff men need to be "exciting" and "get things going" by putting the ball in play? He got mad when people said he should walk more. I just figured Dee would have the same approach. But I heard that he wanted to work on his walks, and now he has more walks than strikeouts this Spring. I love it. Yes, it's Spring. But I really think this is big news. He's actually working on it. If he picks up that walk rate... we could be getting Bourne type numbers from our shortstop. For years.

badger3
badger3

Trade him to Boston and be done with him. The Red Sox have a couple of prospects that we could use right away. Start the rebuild by dumping this sourpuss.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy

Ehhhhh i thought it was spring training and we're supposed to take these results with a grain of salt?.............

MFYG
MFYG

I was reading that piece this morning thinking some dude at fangraphs was ripping off the MSTI style.

David Milstead
David Milstead

I run a Colorado-based roto league, so Cory Sullivan was actually owned a few years ago. When his owner tried to trade him to me, I laughed; he said, "He's really good at hitting triples." I said, "That's not one of the categories."

Shane
Shane

He should have a huge year. The problem is it might parlay into a big contract extension in which we'll overpay to keep him around. I could see him getting a contract in the 5/80 range like Jason Bay. He's certainly IMO not worth that but if he has a huge year, he'll get it. I'd rather trade the guy when he's at his peak than to hold onto him but I have a feeling with a new owner, they will want to keep him and $80 million over 5 years will be no problem for us to pay.

format
format

Mike, Nice to see you saying nice things about Dre. Told you he will mash this year. He just hit another homer as I write this!

zach
zach

Mike, your blend of sarcasm is simply glorious.

Mike
Mike

Would have been up by now if no one used IE. Shooting for Tuesday!

Ny Blues
Ny Blues

Is Logan White with the Astros now?

Real Tom
Real Tom

I'm not trying to say that these two areas don't need improvement. I just find his comment really odd. SP depth is the only reason why respected writers won't rank this organization 29th. And Logan White is generally well-regarded, right?

Bill Grabarkewitz
Bill Grabarkewitz

It's the Joe Morgan mentality that homer runs are rally killers. Bowa was a dick as a player, and jackass as a coach, and a moron as a commentator.

Mike
Mike

Ha, yeah. The timing was all a bit odd. I got a private message or two from people who were all, "you wrote for BP & FG in the same week? Do they each know that!?". No love lost for that comment system, by the way.

Bip
Bip

The thing I don't get is how that was a fantasy article. It could definitely have appeared on the main fangraphs site, as it related solely to player performance. Maybe because it was about a particular player and not about investigating a general topic?

Mike
Mike

Thank you. Now let's see how I do next Friday when I need to write about something that isn't the Dodgers.

Bip
Bip

I also really noticed a change in Billingsley's mechanics. He was consistently driving directly towards the plate. He had one pitch where he lost his balance and fell towards first base during his follow through, and I could totally see his old delivery there for a second. It hasn't translated into results in spring training but still, it's a real noticeable change, and so there's some hope there.

Bip
Bip

Yeah the main thing I was worried about regarding Gordon was his K's. If he's going to be a successful hitter, he's going to be a contact hitter with an above average BABIP, so any strikeout is a PA wasted. I wasn't too worried because we know he's raw, so he'll need time. But increasing BB's and decreasing K's is more than I could have hoped for. Does anyone know how his defense is coming along? I haven't been able to watch any games. Because if Gordon can play above average defense with above average contact skills to go with his speed, he's in 4-win territory easily.

Bip
Bip

But would they give us those prospects for Ethier? I think not.

Mike
Mike

For sure. But when a guy is coming off injury, I do think it can be helpful to see if he's healthy or still hurting.

Paul
Paul

I pretty much agree 100%.

Bip
Bip

ooooh looks like fun

Mike
Mike

Did he really? He is making me look GOOOOOD.

Mike
Mike

No, still with LA.

Mike
Mike

Yeah. To be honest, I'm not really a hardcore fantasy nerd, and I don't like to make it completely inaccessible to the wider audience. But at least for this article, I mention his auction and draft rankings and how I find his potential bounceback to make him a very valuable fantasy pick.

Real Tom
Real Tom

Are you writing articles only concerning fantasy baseball matters, on Rotographs? I actually like it when people with non-fantasy sites write on fantasy baseball... just as Razzball asks all the team blogs to do each year (yourself included). The dudes at Razzball are awesome, but it's refreshing to have non-fantasy blog writers discuss the subject.

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides

You can write about things good GMs do around the league, and use Ned as a contrary example ;-)

Joseph
Joseph

They might. Boston seems to be somewhat coveting Ethier and the Yankees might be interested as well. If those two get into a bidding war it can only mean good things for the team with the coveted player.

badger3
badger3

I would think because it's a contract year, at his age this would be the year he focuses on that next deal, which would likely be the biggest one he will ever get. That alone would make him a good fantasy choice. . I am betting he has a monster first half, the Dodgers won't start fast and there will be interest o'plenty for him at the deadline. Will the Dodgers offer the deal he is looking for? or will they just go ahead and look to the future with multiple prospects? Everyone knows the Dodgers could use a few blue chippers in their organization. It just might be worth it to let him go.

Mike
Mike

Every Friday on a floating fantasy topic, and likely to pop up at other times as availability allows on topics both fantasy and not. For example, the Dodgers org ranking that just went up might be something id do next time around. That flexibility is largely why I went there.

Shane
Shane

We'll pay to keep Ethier if he ups his game and returns to form. I think he's vastly overrated and would love to trade him but it could be seen as a bad PR move to dump a valuable asset for prospects when the new ownership group wants to win. It's a catch 22.

Joseph
Joseph

As long as we get really good prospects in return I won't mind seeing Ethier go. At a minimum the Dodgers would need to get a great third base prospect and possibly a first baseman as well. Or another outfield prospect to help fill Etheir's void.

Real Tom
Real Tom

I wouldn't mind seeing Ethier go, if the Dodgers are completely out of it and Colletti gets nice pieces. Not that we're contenders, but I don't see the trade happening. This team is designed to be somewhat okay all season. Not good, not bad. Somewhat okay. I don't see Colletti selling Ethier at the deadline.

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