Drew Stubbs was dealt from the Reds to the Indians this offseason in a deal highlighted by Shin-Soo Choo heading to Cincinnati (Trade Breakdown: D’Backs, Indians, Reds). In case you missed it, here is a Stubbs fact from that piece that many may not be aware of: over the past three seasons that Stubbs has averaged 17 homers, 86 runs scored and 33 steals. So let me ask you, how many guys do you think went 17-86-33 in 2012? Let me save you the trouble of looking it up. There weren’t’ ten guys, nor seven, nor four, nor three. The answer is one. Only one man in baseball hit 17 homers with 86 runs scored and 33 steals, numbers that Drew Stubbs has averaged the past three years. The answer is Mike Trout (Stubbs fell short with 14 homers, 75 runs and 30 steals). Should you be paying more attention to Stubbs on draft day than his current ADP in the 250 range suggests?
Stubbs is coming off his worst full season as a big leaguer. Still, he hit the same amount of homers as Alex Gordon, scored the same amount of runs as Giancarlo Stanton and stole the same amount of bases as Ryan Braun. And that was Stubbs worst effort in three years.
Stubbs isn’t a big power hitter, but he hit 22 in 2010 and clearly has show himself to be a 15-20 type of threat. The move from Cincy to Cleveland isn’t likely to help – according to Park Indices the past three years right handed batters in Cleveland have a 72 mark in the homer category (28 percent below league average) while in Cincinnati that mark is 143 (the best in the NL) – so it would be best to set exceptions at the 15 or so level this year.
Are you old enough to remember the Rubik’s Cube?
As for the steals, Stubbs has stolen at least 30 bags in each of his three full seasons (he’s one of only six players over 30 each of the last three years: Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp, Rajai Davis, Jose Reyes and B.J. Upton are the others). He’s a tremendous athlete with speed to burn, so there’s little reason to think he won’t extend his streak to four years, especially since his career success rate is over 80 percent.
The runs scored, now there is an area that he should be productive in yet again, though there is something we need to talk about despite Stubbs’ solid totals in that category (91, 92 and 75 runs the past three years), and it also happens to lead right into the biggest concern with Stubbs.
Stubbs owns a career .241 batting average and .312 OBP. Those are terrible numbers that fall well below the league average during his career as a big leaguer (.261 and .329). Given those marks his ability to steal bases and to score runs is in question. Miscast as a top of the order hitter for long stretches with the Reds, he’s hit leadoff or second in the order in 286 of 486 career games, he’s likely best suited to be a #6 hitter. If he does indeed hit lower in the order in Cleveland remember that each successive spot in the batting order that a player drops he loses 15-20 plate appearances over the course of a season. If Stubbs hits 6th all year, for example, that’s likely to lead to roughly 90 or so fewer plate appearances than if he were to bat leadoff. Fewer plate appearances mean less times to run, and likely fewer chances to cross home plate.
Now to the hulking pink elephant in the room. Stubbs’ batting average.
Who wouldn’t want an outfielder with 17 homers, 86 runs scored and 33 steals on their team? Would you still want that guy if he was a career .241 hitter?
Stubbs is never going to produce in the batting average category. Never. However, it’s not at all a stretch to think that his .213 mark from last season will be a lower water mark for his career. Just look at two simple factors to explain what happened. (1) After 3-years with a BABIP mark of at least .325 the mark fell to .290 in 2012. (2) The owner of a nearly a 19 percent line drive rate heading into last season Stubbs saw that number fall to 14.9 percent. If his BABIP and line drive rates go back up, as they should, his batting average should rebound. Now by “rebound” I’m still talking about a mark that may not reach the league average which was .255 last season. The reason is obvious – Stubbs strikes out more frequently than I do at a bar on Friday night. For his career Stubbs averages a strikeout every 3.05 at-bats. That means he’s pretty much going to average more than a strikeout a game. Last season he struck out 166 times, a three year low, but he also had fewer plate appearances than the previous two years. The truth of the matter is that his 30.5 percent K rate was a career worst (career 29.3 percent). Stubbs will never stop striking out. His average will never be impressive. He has to hope that his manager understands that and doesn’t bench him for it.
Stubbs is an elite athlete who is one year removed from 40 steals and 92 runs scored. There are certain holes in his game, there’s no way to whisk that away, but there is still value to be had here because so many have been scared off his trail. If you draft Stubbs in a mixed league you will have to augment his addition with a couple of big batting average bats, but as a fifth outfielder Stubbs profiles as a player who might just return a tidy profit this season.
By Ray Flowers