Draft Day Dilemmas: Is Miguel Cabrera too risky for Round 1?
Miguel Cabrera has been a fixture in the first round over the years. Scott White wonders if that's still true coming off an injury-plagued season.
Of all the players you might consider selecting in the first round of your Fantasy draft, Miguel Cabrera is the only one 30 or older.
This says something about the evolution of baseball since the crackdown on everything that resembles a performance-enhancing substance. It really has become a young man's game. Some players can still perform into their mid-to-late-30s, but their peaks tend to be earlier and shorter.
It also explains why Cabrera is the most likely of the first-rounders to slide to the second round. He's the old guy, and with the old guy comes inherent risk. These days when a player turns 33, as Cabrera will do in mid-April, we're all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That's not as true at first base, though, where six of the top 11 players at the position last year (lumping in DH-first types like David Ortiz and Prince Fielder) were 30 or older, with Adam Lind and Mark Teixeira not too far behind. In fact, the last elite-level first baseman to fall from that perch was 37-year-old Paul Konerko in 2013. That we've been evaluating more or less the same cast of characters ever since is a testament to the position's longevity.
So why, then, single out Cabrera?
To be fair, he started it. He wasn't one of the six who ranked among the top 11 at the position last year, having missed six weeks with a calf strain. Of course, on a per-game basis, he was one of the five best first basemen, regardless of age, but health is a reflection of age and, well, there it was: the first shoe.
But again, why single him out?
There's some recency bias at play here because even though Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols have all served multiple DL stints in their careers, theirs evidently don't count for as much in the mind of the typical Fantasy owner because they didn't happen last year. But meanwhile, Cabrera's one and only over a 13-year career is supposed to signal the beginning of the end. It doesn't add up.
You could argue that since Cabrera will be the first of that group drafted, the threat for him is greater even if it's not as probable. But he's not just another first base slugger either. He's the best of a generation, the winner of a fourth batting title in five years just last year. And while it's true his power numbers did slip last year, it didn't happen until those 42 games after the calf injury -- a small sample likely impacted by his hasty return.
Before then, he hit .350 with 15 homers and a 1.034 OPS in 77 games. If he had maintained that pace over a full season, he would have had about as many Head-to-Head points per game as Paul Goldschmidt, the consensus 1C at the start of every draft.
How many of the other first-rounders are even capable of that kind of production? We can certainly say Josh Donaldson is because he showed it last year. Giancarlo Stanton presumably is, too, though his injury history is more alarming than Cabrera's. Not Andrew McCutchen, though, since he no longer steals bases, and asking for a Hall of Fame-caliber season from Carlos Correa with only 387 career at-bats to his name seems reckless.
The most logical point to draft Cabrera, then, is seventh overall, behind the big three as well as Donaldson, Stanton and Clayton Kershaw. Whatever modest injury and age risk he presents at that point is nullified by his considerable upside.
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