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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nick Swisher: 2009's Carlos Quentin?

Well... not quite Carlos Quentin (Swisher will not hit 40 bombs this year), but in Fantasy terms, Nick Swisher's initial value (nothing) and long-term value (high-end #2 outfielder) match-up well to Quentin's 2008 Fantasy Baseball Odyssey.  

What makes Swish so valuable this early in the season was the severe lack of respectable first basemen in last month's draft.  His dual eligibility (1B and OF)  makes him particularly attractive in leagues that have little to no room on a team's bench.

All prep aside, let's take a look at what makes Swisher's 2009 "Quentin Worthy:"

Above, we see Nick Swisher's major league numbers.  It's hard to believe, but this guys only been in the Majors for just over 4 years.  Looking over his career, Swisher obviously had his "career-year" in his sophomore 2006, when he almost slugged at a .500 clip.  Since then, his SLG% has fallen dramatically, resulting in last year's .410 result with the Chicago White Sox.

Now, we all know Swisher's bread-and-butter is his on-base percentage... but even that was down in 2008, which begs the question:  "What the hell happened in '08?"

Well, to start, Swisher's BABIP fell over 50 points last year, pointing to shitty luck as an immediate culprit in his horrendous 2008.  As Yahoo! Sports' Matt Buser notes in a February 2007 article, "One of the most interesting things about [BABIP] is that it's widely acknowledged that luck plays a part in each player's BABIP. For hitters, there are three things that play a large part: skill, speed, and luck."

Furthermore, Buser's ambiguous notion that "skill" plays a role in BABIP eliminates any subsequent discussion about Swisher's apparent skill, so I'm not going to even go there.  But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that Nick Swisher is a slow guy.  Again, assuming Swisher has "decent" skill, we have a 1-1 split coming down to luck as the deciding factor.

So me... Swisher was just "unlucky" in 2008.  Much like Quentin's 2007, Swisher was viewed as a 4th outfielder and a back-up first baseman on a team that already featured two (Jim Thome and Paul Konerko).  Essentially, Nick Swisher had nowhere to play.

His fate seemed similar with his new team, the New York Yankees, as the team vowed to use Brett Gardner in CF rather than the defensively inept Swisher.  This made Swish the number one back-up for Johnny Damon in left, Xavier Nady in right, and Mark Teixeira at first.

That is... until about 2 hours ago when news broke that Xavier Nady will likely miss the remainder of 2009 with a torn elbow ligament.

Now it's Swisher's turn to prove that he's worthy of a full-season of at-bats.  Let's not forget... it was Carlos Quentin's white-hot start that placed Nick Swisher in a "back-up" role as a member of the White Sox.  Now, in a ironic twist, Swisher finds himself in a similar position.

During the off-season, I compiled an average "projected points" list using Bill James' Handbook, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster, MARCEL, ZiPS, and ESPN.  This conglomerate projects Nick Swisher's 488.9 points to outscore fellow outfielders Shane Victorino (484), Vernon Wells (475), Jayson Werth (451) and Rick Ankiel (453).  He also places above first basemen Paul Konerko (471), Connor Jackson (481), and Carlos Guillen (451). 

To say the least, Swisher is a must-add bat right now... ESPECIALLY batting in the middle of the Yankees' potent line-up.  Feel free to confidently add him to your starting line-up for the next scoring period.