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2013 Predictions: Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnacion enters 2013 coming off his best season to-date and guaranteed of a full-time job for the first time in his tenure with the Blue Jays. Having proven himself a capable first baseman, he’ll continue primarily in that role, with some ABs coming as the DH. It wasn’t always so rosy for EE. His previous well-documented defensive shortcomings earned him the nickname “E5″ and the scorn of both fans and media. These troubles with the leather spilled over to the lumber, leading to demotion to the minors, exposure to waivers, and for a month or so during the 2010-2011 offseason, being a member of the Oakland Athletics. All of which seems like a distant memory following his breakout 42 HR, 110 RBI season of 2012, which was good enough for 11th place in MVP voting and earned him a 3-year, $27M contract extension.
Batting Stats (Past Three Seasons):
Because he shattered previous career bests in almost every category as a 29-year-old, it is natural to question whether Encarnacion’s performance is repeatable. However, in looking at the rate stats there are not a lot of red flags. His BABIP was actually below his career average and when reviewing his fly ball, ground ball, and line drive percentages for the last three years, it’s 2011 that stands out as an anomaly, not 2012. In 2011 Encarnacion’s fly ball percentage took a noticeable dip and, not surprisingly, his home run totals followed suit. The only two numbers that catch the eye in 2012 are his home run percentage (at 6.5%, well above his career average of 4.3%) and his infield hit percentage (a gaudy 13.3% vs. career average of 7.5%). Although he hit more home runs, Encarnacion’s extra base hit percentage was consistent with his recent performance. As such, if his home run totals regress I would also expect him to hit more doubles. The infield hit percentage does seem unsustainable, so I’m also predicting a bit of a drop in his average and OBP.
I’m always a little disappointed with predictions that are effectively mid-points between previous outlier seasons. It’s the safe bet, and there’s nothing exciting in expecting regression to the mean. And while I didn’t set out to follow this path-of-least-resistance, my outlook for Encarnacion follows this formula. I expect him to remain healthy and likely trade some 2012 home runs for 2013 doubles. He’ll have plenty of RBI opportunities hitting clean-up behind the trio of Reyes, Cabrera and Bautista.
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