A long time ago (well, like 2 years) for a blog, far, far away (or at least no longer in existence) I wrote out my feelings about Chase Headley. Now, we’re not talking the types of feelings I pen down in my diary, er, um, journal (does that make it that much better?) but rather my strong feelings that Headley was not quite what he could be, ya know, if he played home games in a place other than the power-sapping Petco Park. This was amidst Headley’s torrid finish to 2012, when many were starting to jump right on his bandwagon. I’ll admit I may have got a bit caught up in the hype myself, but the crux of my point was tied more to his prior seasons rather than that really, truly, utterly, fantastic two month stretch in 2012. The basic gist was that yes, Chase Headley was calling a pitcher’s park home and his road slashes were far better than what he produced in said pitcher’s park. Up to speed, now? Good.
The belief that Headley could really provide some fantasy goodness if he was on a different park, may not have been a widely held belief, but I am sure I was not completely alone in this thinking. If Headley was able to post his road slashes over full seasons he had a chance of being a top five fantasy third baseman. Now, we actually have some data, albeit in a small sample size, of Headley with another team. In fact, not only just another team, but another team that plays home games in a hitter friendly park, the New York Yankees. So, why don’t we take a look at what master Chase did as a Yankee in 2014, shall we?
After heading east to the Bronx, Headley had 224 plate appearances, producing a slash line of .262/.371/.398, hitting six home runs and driving in 17 RBIs. By comparison, in 307 plate appearances with the Padres prior to his move east, he had a slash line of .229/.296/.355, hitting seven home runs and knocking in 32 RBIs. Obviously, as you can see, post Padre Headley hit much better, and while I won’t say park factors are the only reason, I do think they are a prominent enough of a reason to extrapolate on. So, to start, let’s be simplistic and stretch out the small sample size from the end of 2014 over a full season.
Over the past six seasons, Headley has averaged around 592 plate appearances, so let’s stretch out the counting stats over that many PAs with the Yankees. With that amount of PAs, based on his 2014 finish with the pinstripes, he would score roughly 74 runs, sock 16 home runs and drive in 45 RBIs. Runs and home runs are decent, but the RBIs leave something to be desired from a corner infielder. Now, of course this is basically in a vacuum and a very, very, very simplistic way to predict Headley’s 2015 numbers, but if you look at Headley’s past six seasons, he has also averaged 14 home runs and 63 RBIs and that includes that monster 2012 where he hit 31 home runs and knocked in 115 runs. Take out that season and the RBI average becomes 53. So, the counting stats did not appear to get a huge boost, despite the bump in the slash numbers. So what gives?
Well, first off, the interesting thing to note is that Headley was hitting far more ground balls after joining the Yanks. While the HR/FB rate increased, Headley was also hitting fewer fly balls. Seems like right there, we have a reason for the counting stats not getting a huge boost. There were a few more fly balls in his second month with the Bombers than in his first. This could be part of adjusting to a new park, new league, new pitchers, etc. but we really can’t know for sure, especially with such a small sample size. What we can do though, is use some old batted ball data to form some more speculations.
Let’s imagine Chase gets his fly ball rate back to his career average of 34.2%. Actually let’s say he just gets to a 32% fly ball rate. In the last month of the season Headley had a HR/FB rate of 21.4%. Now, while Yankee Stadium gave up the most home runs per game in 2014 and is a phenomenal hitter’s park, I don’t know that we can expect a HR/FB rate that high for Headley in 2015, but let’s say it gets to, I dunno 15%. That would give you about 18-19 home runs on the year, with a decent shot at 20 if he stays healthy. That sounds decent enough, however his average HR/FB is in the range of 11% in the past two seasons. Even if we go back to last full season in San Diego, his road HR/FB was only 11.1%. Given this information, maybe 15% is on the high side. Let’s play around with the numbers a bit more.
Okay, I’ll give Headley that 32% fly ball rate, which I am somewhat confident he will obtain, and give him a modest HR/FB boost to 12%. That will land Headley in the 15 home run department. Decent enough, but we’re not exactly looking at his 2012 numbers, here. RBIs and runs are bit more fickle and in some cases harder to predict, as these can be more dependent on who hits around him and such. I think 50-60 RBIs is a reasonable projection, with runs being closer to 70 and homers in the mid-teens with a 20 home run ceiling. So where does that put him value-wise?
Well, you’re not looking at a super sleeper, per se, but doesn’t mean there still isn’t value. Third base is at a bit of a crossroads right now in fantasy land and I think those numbers combined with my projected slash line of .262/.355/.398 has him hovering around the top 150 in my book (based on my other current projections). This also has me putting him right around the top ten for third baseman. Now with the projections I am seeing elsewhere, Headley right around the top 250 overall and at the lower end of the third base rankings, are my predictions bold? Maybe, but what can I say, I am a bold man.