Pablo Sandoval: Buy or Sell
Pablo Sandoval finds ways to contribute in the postseason. He did it against Justin Verlander and the Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Two years later, he drove in the Giants first run against James Shields in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series. The “Kung-Fu Panda” is a proven offensive threat in the postseason whose been between 11% and 19% better than league average offensively the past three seasons. Does he have the ability to return to 2009 and 2011 form where he produced at 46-49% above league average with the bat?
Since being placed in the starting spot at third base for the San Francisco Giants, Pablo Sandoval has torn up the Majors to the tune of a .294/.346/.465 slash line with 106 home runs in his career. While still in his prime, the soon to be free agent third baseman has seen a downward trend in his numbers since a stellar beginning to his career. Will he be able to right the sinking ship or will his value continue to diminish?
One thing “Panda” has going for him right now is being on the good side of 32 at the age of 28. While he is rapidly approaching the peak age and has been experiencing a decrease in playing ability since an outstanding 2011 campaign, a sharp decline won’t happen for another few years. Being a “bad body” player won’t help with the projection as the decline phase is likely to be quick and painful for fantasy baseball owners.
His numbers also indicate he will continue to maintain his current rate of production. In his best season to date, 2009, he had a BABIP of .350 and in his second best season, 2011, he had a BABIP of .320. Both of these numbers were much higher than expected considering his speed profile. He now has a lower BABIP and his batting average has followed suit. With his numbers now being sustainable, Sandoval has settled in as a consistent, but unspectacular producer. Between 2012 and 2014, his batting average has ranged from a low of .278 to a high of .283 with a BABIP between .300 and .301. Expect much of the same next season.
For a player who has the look and swing of a power hitter, Sandoval home run production, or path to power is far from prototypical. He limits the strikeouts and makes hard contact — especially in the zone where his z-contact% of 89.9% equates to a 14.8% strikeout rate. Last season, he struck out just 13.3% of the time which – when also looking at his z-contact% correlation number – bodes well for future success.
Predicting future home run output is the most difficult piece of this puzzle. His 37% fly ball rate should allow him to hit about 19-20 home runs every year. Sandoval has averaged 15 the past two seasons. In his prime, Sandoval has the peripherals of a player capable of pushing 20 home runs again.
What Value Does Pablo Sandoval Present Going Forward?
Expect Sandoval to be re-signed by the San Francisco Giants — especially if they win the World Series. Between the current organizational depth chart and expected price tag, resigning “Panda” appears like an easy call. And in a lineup featuring Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, Sandoval can be a productive fantasy baseball piece in relative anonymity. Next season, expect more home runs, runs and runs batted in with a similar batting average to what’s been posted the past three seasons.
Sandoval is still a top-10 third baseman in MLB and should continue to produce for three or four more seasons. Between his age, moderate production and body type, dynasty owners will expect a quick fall from grace. However, peripherals point to a player capable of improving on 2012-2014 production in 5×5 categories. If a Sandoval owner sours on the switch hitter, the ROTOscouting reader will scoop him up on the cheap knowing he’s a strong play at home and/or against right-handed pitching. Pablo Sandoval was terrible against lefties in 2014 (59 wRC+), but has been better against them over the course of his career. It’s an area primed for a quick rebound, or leverage the third baseman as a splits superstar.
28 Oct 2014 / Edward Sutelan /
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