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By the Numbers: Infield, catcher hits and misses

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Last week, we kicked off a four-part review of our 2011 Fantasy baseball player projections. Now that we've pored over the projected and actual stats for outfielders and designated hitters, our tour will make a stop at catcher and the infield positions. We will take a look at how close -- or how far -- my projections came for key players at each of these positions.

The graph below plots the projected and actual 2011 Fantasy point totals for every player who had at least 400 at-bats this year and was projected to accumulate at least 100 Fantasy points. If you’re looking for players, such as Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and David Wright, who failed to meet projections because of missing a large portion of the season, you won't find them here. Also, players are shown only at their primary positions coming into the season (e.g., Kevin Youkilis is among the first basemen, Martin Prado is at second base, etc.)

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let's take a look at the key hits and misses at each of the positions at hand. Though we could learn a lot from looking back at many of the projections, I will focus on one critical hit and one critical miss for each position.

Catchers

Critical hit: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto

Underestimating the prowess of the hitters at the bottom of the Blue Jays' order, I was far short of predicting Arencibia's 78 RBI, but I did see that his power would carry over from the minors to the majors. It was also apparent that his all-or-nothing approach would limit him in the batting average and runs categories. Coming close to nailing those numbers allowed me to predict his Fantasy points per at-bat accurately, though I projected Arencibia for 43 too few at-bats. Even with a low batting average, the 25-year-old proved that he can be trusted as a No. 1 Fantasy catcher in most formats.

Other hits: Victor Martinez, Russell Martin, John Buck.

Critical miss: Kurt Suzuki, Oakland

I thought Suzuki would experience a resurgence in his batting average, which would help him to build on last season's 71 RBI. Neither development panned out, as the A's catcher did not turn around his sky-high popup rate. He matched his 13 percent infield fly rate from 2010, and that helped to keep his batting average under .240, well below the .272 mark I predicted for him. I also didn't see Suzuki hitting .204 with runners in scoring position, so he barely made half of his projected 82 RBI, driving in just 44 runs instead. That rendered him as a low-end No. 1 catcher in standard mixed leagues, rather than as the top six option that I thought he'd be back last spring. Especially with the emergence of young catchers like Arencibia, Carlos Santana, Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, Wilson Ramos and the returning Buster Posey, Suzuki will be a borderline No. 1 option at best in 2012.

Other misses: Alex Avila (increased power, playing time), Brian McCann (decreased walks, runs), Geovany Soto (increased strikeouts, popups).

First Basemen

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Critical hit: Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs

Pena's disappointing 2010 season had its roots in an unusually-high 46 percent ground ball rate. The slugger didn't get all the way back to his extreme flyball-hitting ways, but he got far enough to boost his doubles output by 50 percent. That helped Pena to make the projected improvements in his batting average and run scoring. His days as a 40-homer threat are likely over, but Pena showed that he still has enough pop to be useful as a low-end 1B option in standard mixed leagues.

Other hits: Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Gaby Sanchez, Freddie Freeman, Todd Helton.

Critical miss: Aubrey Huff, San Francisco

Coming into 2011, Huff's production had tumbled in each of the three previous odd-numbered years. As if to prove that the pattern was mere coincidence, I projected that Huff would experience only the slightest of downturns this season. Instead, Huff experienced the single worst year-to-year dropoff in his roller-coaster career. Everything moved in the wrong direction, as Huff hit for less power, launched more popups, struck out more often and walked less. Maybe he has one more even-numbered year turnaround left in him, but after such a miserable offensive display, Fantasy owners should let someone else take that chance in assuming that.

Other misses: Adam Dunn (decreased power, increased strikeouts) was the biggest miss by far, though not many people pegged his horrible disappointment of a season. Also Albert Pujols (decreased power), Lance Berkman (increased power), Kevin Youkilis (increased strikeouts, injury), Derrek Lee (injury), Justin Smoak (injury), Mark Trumbo (increased role).

Second Basemen

Critical hit: Neil Walker, Pittsburgh

Projecting him for 18 home runs, I was too optimistic about Walker's power, as he hit only a dozen. Still, I was able to come close on his overall value (428.5 projected FTPS, 416.0 actual) by being accurate in the other categories. Walker did not have a history of being a great line drive hitter, so I didn't fully trust last year's 23 percent rate. As his rate regressed this year, so did his batting average, and he bested his .267 projection by only six points. It's probably not realistic for Walker to toy with a .300 average like he did in his rookie year, but there is still room for Walker to hit with more power, just as he did in the minor leagues.

Other hits: Brandon Phillips, Howard Kendrick, Omar Infante.

Critical miss: Martin Prado, Atlanta

Gordon Beckham was actually an even bigger miss in terms of the discrepancy between projected and actual Fantasy points, but Prado's disappointment meant more, as he was projected to be the fifth-most productive second baseman. Missed time had something to do with Prado's depressed production, but a lack of gap power played an even bigger role. Normally a decent line drive hitter, Prado had the third-lowest line drive rate (12 percent) in the majors this year, and it translated into a .260 batting average. That was surprising for a player coming off of three straight .300-plus seasons, especially given that struck out less often this year. He had been hitting well prior to going down with a staph infection in June, so there is reason to think that, after an offseason of rest, he could be poised to make a comeback in 2012.

Other misses: Ian Kinsler (increased power), Aaron Hill (decreased power), Rickie Weeks (injury), Gordon Beckham (decreased power).

Third Basemen

Critical hit: Mark Reynolds, Baltimore

I didn't exactly go out on a limb for Reynolds, but I did see some mild improvement in his batting average. He has always been prone to strikeouts and popups, but his 2010 rates were just too far from his norms. Having restored both rates in 2011, Reynolds rediscovered his doubles power, coming just one short of his projected total of 28. Improving his batting average from .198 to .221 may not seem like a big deal, but it was enough to make him relevant in standard mixed leagues again.

Other hits: Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Chipper Jones, Danny Valencia.

Critical miss: Casey McGehee, Milwaukee

After two solid years of good power production, I thought that McGehee would stay the course this season, but the signs of a power decline were there in 2010 for those who looked for them. Despite a sharp drop in his flyball rate, McGehee hit 23 homers last season, but according to ESPN's Hit Tracker, only eight of them were classified as being "no doubters" or having "plenty of distance." A typical 23-homer hitter would have had about twice as many in those categories. McGehee's 2009 flyball rate of 41 percent was the highest he had posted at any level in his career by far, so there is no reason to expect that he will repeat that -- or another 20-plus home run season. In fact, he may have just played himself out of a regular role for good.

Other misses: Evan Longoria (decreased line drive rate, batting average), Aramis Ramirez (increased line drive rate, batting average), Michael Young (increased line drive rate, batting average), Pablo Sandoval (injury), Placido Polanco (injury, decreased power).

Shortstop

Critical hit: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia

I was more accurate in predicting shortstops than players at any other position, and Rollins was among my most accurate hits at the position. The key was guessing that he would not lose as much time to injury as he had in 2010, and banking on rebounds in BABIP and overall batting average, which were foretold by a consistently solid line drive rate. It also helped that I didn't look for a return of his 20-plus home run power. Going forward, we shouldn't expect Rollins to perform like an elite shortstop, but there is still enough skill there to keep him among the top five.

Other hits: Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar, Alcides Escobar.

Critical miss: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs

I actually missed Asdrubal Cabrera's Fantasy point total by a larger margin, but coming off of an injury-hampered season in 2010, there were some legitimate reasons to question his production in 2011. On the other hand, Castro gave us a glimpse of what he could do in his 2010 rookie campaign, but I was entirely too skeptical. I didn't think Castro could hit for .300 again, as I thought that his .350 rookie BABIP was a fluke, and double-digit homers looked like a pipe dream. I was wrong on both counts, as Castro hit .307 with 10 home runs. The 21-year-old continued to utilize his speed to build a high batting average on ground balls, but he increased his flyball rate just enough to improve his power. You won't see me doubting Castro going into 2012.

Other misses: Asdrubal Cabrera (increased power), J.J. Hardy (increased power), Erick Aybar (increased power, steals), Derek Jeter (injury), Orlando Cabrera (decreased power, playing time).

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Player News
Cubs closer Hector Rondon is learning from his mistakes
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:58 pm ET) Cubs closer Hector Rondon blew a save Friday night in Arizona, his third blown save of the season. The right-hander served up a game-tying two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the 10th inning in the eventual 5-3 Diamondbacks win.

But Rondon, who is in the third season of his career, knows where he went wrong.

"I need better location," Rondon said Saturday, per MLB.com. "I know that pitch ran up a little to the middle [to Goldschmidt]. I think that's why we lost the game yesterday, those pitches."

Manager Joe Maddon has expressed faith in his 27-year-old closer, and a change does not seem to be in the cards, at least for now. 

"He knows what he did wrong," said Maddon. "I'll say [to him], 'Hey, listen, everything's cool. I still have a lot of trust and support.' It's one of those things that happens in our game."

Rondon has blown two of his last three save opportunities.


Cubs OF Jorge Soler: I expect more from me
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:57 pm ET) Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler is having a fine debut to the major leagues this season. The rookie is hitting .267 with 14 RBI in 161 at-bats this season, but he his still hoping for more, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"So far, I don't feel good about what I've done," Soler said Saturday. "I expect more from me."

Soler has struck out 59 times so far this season, 15 more than anyone else on the team. He also noted he thinks his hamstrings will hold up this year after missing more than two months in 2014 because of hamstring injuries.


Angels pitcher Mike Morin headed to the disabled list on Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:26 pm ET) Angels pitcher Mike Morin will be placed on the 15-day DL on Sunday after suffering a left oblique injury on Saturday, according to the Orange County Register.

Morin was forced to come out of Saturday's game after facing just one batter against the Red Sox. 

"I've never dealt with anything like this," Morin said. "It's frustrating. It's been frustrating."

Morin has a 6.00 ERA in 15 innings of work this season.


Marlins 3B Martin Prado delivers game-winning RBI in 13th
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:22 pm ET) Marlins third baseman Martin Prado went 1 for 5 at the plate in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings on Saturday.

Prado was hitless when he stepped in the box in the 13th. After Baltimore intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases, Prado delivered on a 1-1 pitch from T.J. McFarland when he cracked a single into center to bring home the winning run.

Prado is now htting .273 with 17 RBI in 176 at-bats this season.


Marlins reliever Carter Capps strikes out six in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:19 pm ET) Marlins relief pitcher Carter Capps tossed three scoreless innings on Saturday in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings of work.

Capps came on in the 11th and allowed just one hit while striking out six. Capps, now 1-0, also did not issue a walk and lowered his ERA to 1.50 in six innings of work this season.


Orioles pitcher Mike Wright strikes out four in no-decision on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:16 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Mike Wright tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday, allowing three hits in Baltimore's 1-0 loss to the Marlins in 13 innings, but did not factor into the decision.

Wright faced the minimum hitters through four innings, but ran into some issues in the fifth. After hitting leadoff man Martin Prado, Wright picked up two quick outs. Then after a walk put two men on, Wright forced a groundout to end the inning.

Wright, who remains 1-0, maintained his perfect 0.00 ERA in 14 1/3 innings of work. He will look to keep things rolling Thursday against the White Sox.


Marlins pitcher Dan Haren strikes out six in no-decision on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:11 pm ET) Marlins pitcher Dan Haren tossed six scoreless innings on Saturday, allowing seven hits in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings, but did not factor into the decision.

Haren struck out six with three walks in his outing. Although Haren put himself into multiple jams, including the first inning when he put runners on first and third with one out, he was able to work out of them without allowing a run.

Haren, who remains 4-2, lowered his ERA to 3.09 in 55 1/3 innings of work. He will look to get his fifth win of the year on Friday against the Mets.


Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli blasts two home runs in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:04 pm ET) Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli went 2 for 4 at the plate in Boston's 8-3 win over the Angels on Saturday.

Napoli ripped a solo home run over the Green Monster in the second inning off of C.J. Wilson. Then in the sixth, Napoli did the same thing when he belted a two-run shot off of Wilson, his seventh of the season.

Napoli is now hitting .193 with 17 RBI in 135 at-bats this season.


Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson tagged for four runs in losing effort
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:02 pm ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings of work in Los Angeles' 8-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday.

Wilson had issues in the second inning when Mike Napoli belted a solo shot over the Green Monster. Then in the third, Wilson put runners on first and third for Mookie Betts, who singled to left center, plating another run. Wilson then surrendered a second home run to Mike Napoli, this time a two-run shot.

Wilson, now 2-3, moved his ERA to 3.36 in 59 innings of work. He will look to get back on track Thursday against the Tigers.


Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright allows two runs in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:57 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright allowed two runs on four hits in  6 1/3 innings of work in Boston's 8-3 win over the Angels on Saturday.

Wright's only blemish came in the first inning when he allowed three of the first four hitters to reach safely, including back-to-back doubles by Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, leading to two runs. Wright settled down and got out of the inning without anymore damage.

Wright, now 2-1, lowered his ERA to 3.68 in 22 innings of work. He will look to keep things rolling Thursday against the Rangers.


 
 
 
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