Martin Prado is one heck of a hitter. You may not believe that statement if you look at his middling 2011 numbers, but trust me, when everything is going right for this righty swinger he has the look of a guy who could put up a .300 plus batting average every year. So what happened last year? Let’s look back before we move forward.
Clearly something happened in ’11. After two virtually identical seasons Prado failed to post an OBP in 2011 that matched his batting average from the previous two seasons.
Prado has never been an overly patient batter, but things have taken a turn for the worse of late. In fact, over each of the last three years his walk rate has declined (8.3 percent, 7.2, 6.1 and 5.8). Luckily Prado doesn’t strike out much at all, and his 8.8 percent K-rate last year was a career best. He’s also posted a BB/K mark of least 0.61 in three of the past four years, and even in his “down” 2010 effort his 0.47 mark was right on the big league average. Clearly, this doesn’t explain the batting average dip he experienced last year.
Prado posted a GB/FB rate between 1.15 and 1.19 from 2007 to 2009. Then in 2010 he hit a boatload of grounders leading to a 1.59 GB/FB ratio. Honestly that isn’t the end of the world, it’s not like he’s a home run hitter, but it was a big shift. That number regressed somewhat in 2011 dropping to 1.47, but that’s deceiving since he actually had a career-high GB-rate of 51 percent. How did his GB/FB ratio drop then in 2011? Simply put, he didn’t hit anything on a line last season. Prado, who owns a career line drive rate of 18.9 percent, a mark that he reached each year from 2007-10, saw his LD-rate shrink to 14.6 percent. Given the type of hitter he is, and his track record in this category, it’s extremely odd to see such a low number. In fact, I’d say it’s nearly impossible to explain other than to say that he was pretty an unlucky fella last year, at least at some level.. Just take a look over at the BABIP column for some further detail here. Prado owns a .315 career BABIP and had posted a mark of at least .321 each year from 2007-10 before seeing a massive dip last season down to .266. Just 28 years old, it’s hard to lean on a skills decline to explain any of this so we are likely left with some combination of (a) bad luck and (b) injury induced struggles.
So what I’m saying here should be obvious – Prado should rebound in 2011. He’s simply been too consistent at the dish early in his career to think that at age 28 he’s lost it. The batting average should rebound, and with it his OBP should return to better than the league average (Prado is a career .293 hitter who hit at least .307 each year from 2008-10). If he plays everyday that would mean he’s had a shot to replicate the numbers he posted in 2010. He’s not likely to hit 20 homers, and 10 steals might be a pipe dream, but hitting .300 while scoring a bushel of runs should be well within his reach for the the 2012 season. Prado also is valued for his defensive acumen in the fantasy game that includes his ability to wear multiple hats (he played 100 games in the outfield last season and 41 at third base, a year after he also appeared in 98 games as a second baseman). Given his glove an ability to hit for a high average, he should be someone you’d willingly target on draft day 2012. Don’t draft him expecting him to exceed his 2010 effort but he would seem to be a near lock to better the middling totals he posted for the Braves in 2011.
By Ray Flowers