For the first time since the Clinton administration, owning Alex Rodriguez on your fantasy baseball team will not necessitate a lofty draft pick or hefty bid.
The reasons are twofold: Rodriguez is in decline and Rodriguez is hurt (again). The three-time American League MVP underwent hip surgery on January 16 to repair a torn labrum and is expected to be out until the All-Star break, if he comes back at all. Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis will fill in for the sidelined slugger, manning the hot corner while Rodriguez is on the mend.
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When A-Rod had surgery on his other hip four years ago, he came back strong. He launched a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw, kicking off a season in which he went yard 30 times, drove in 100 runs and maintained a .933 OPS. Then, he topped it all off with a monster postseason that carried the franchise to its 27th World Series championship. That Fall Classic marked the last time Rodriguez was a truly dominant offensive force.
Anyone expecting a repeat of ’09 is going to be sorely disappointed. Too much time has passed. Too much has changed. Alex Rodriguez is not the same player he was back then. Not even close. Father Time and myriad injuries have taken their toll, turning A-Rod into a shell of his former self. His skills have eroded and his body is breaking down. His bat is slower, he’s striking out more, and his power has evaporated.
Alex Rodriguez is not useless, however. He’s still a solid third baseman and above-average hitter as he prepares for his 20th big league season. BR and FanGraphs both agree that he was worth around two wins above replacement last year, and in the AL East, every win counts. But the days of Alex Rodriguez as a middle-of-the-order threat in New York’s loaded lineup are long gone. The former superstar is a complementary piece to Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. He’ll be 38 this summer, an age when many players (minus Derek Jeter) have already retired or are about to hang it up.
Not Alex Rodriguez. He’s still under contract for five more years (including this one) and will bank at least $114 million as he guns for Barry Bonds‘ career home-run record. I used to think he’d blow past it and make a run at 800 long balls. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls short of 700 (he’s at 647 right now, just 13 shy of Willie Mays).
Assuming Alex Rodriguez is fully healthy when he returns and can play everyday, I’ll project him for 10 home runs, around 35 RBI/runs scored, and a .260/.340/.420 batting line. I wouldn’t waste a draft pick on him unless you’re in a deep AL-only league and can spare the DL spot. He stole 13 bases in 14 tries last year, but given his age and condition it doesn’t make much sense for Joe Girardi to give him the green light on the basepaths. Rodriguez has never had a season where he failed to steal a base, but 2013 could be his first.
All Yankees fans care about is whether Alex Rodriguez will hit in the postseason, assuming there is one for New York. Since leading the Bronx Bombers to the ’09 title, A-Rod has reverted into the postseason goat everyone loves to hate. He’s disappeared, failing to go deep or bat .200 in each of last four playoff series. In fact, over his last 21 playoff games he’s hit .160/.261/.187 with no home runs and a whopping 25 strikeouts. He was so bad last October that Girardi resorted to benching him in favor of Eric Chavez, though we now know his hip condition was responsible for his offensive woes.
That’s all behind him now. Alex Rodriguez wants to redeem himself. He needs to be the hero. But at this stage in his career, playing on two bum hips that sap his power and diminish his speed, I don’t think he can.