Dissenting Opinions, Part 2: Reynolds, K-Rod, Rollins, Beckett

Scott Pianowski
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This week's special double-issue Dissenting Opinions began with optimism, but it takes a harsh turn today. Below you'll find six players who've ignited partisan rancor. As always, when an analyst breaks from the pack in the Yahoo! player ranks, they're called upon to defend their position(s). Sometimes the discussion spills into the comments section. We can only hope that continues here…

Mark Reynolds(notes) – Pianowski's 3B rank 9, Yahoo! composite 4

If you want to pay the freight on the Reynolds breakthrough year, be my guest. I see far too much red ink to get invested.

Batting average is always going to be a major risk with Reynolds, given that he strikes out over a third of the time (38.6 percent last year). And while he's cushioned the blow somewhat with a career .348 average on balls in play, that's a little surprising given that his line-drive rate is below the league average (and was just 17.4 percent last year). From where I'm sitting, it's just as likely that Reynolds dip below .240 as it is he'll keep the average in the .260 range.

Last year's jump in power (44 homers, from 28) has to be taken with a pinch of suspicion too, given that Reynolds saw 26 percent of his fly balls leave the yard (the best rate in the majors). The two prior years he was at 18.2 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively. We want to bid on likely things in our game, not outliers. The steals from 2009 are nice, not that Reynolds has enough of a track record or a success rate that we should chase those. The quicker we wash our hands of this miracle season and get both feet back on the ground, the better. -Pianow

Francisco Rodriguez(notes) – Evans' RP rank 15, Yahoo! composite 7

Getting behind the wheel of a faulty Toyota Prius is the only thing more frightening than drafting K-Rod. Once one of the most dominant relievers in the game, his transition from Left to Right Coast a season ago was incredibly rocky. Though he blew the same number of saves in ’09 as he did the year before, his ERA defied conventional league-switching wisdom, vaulting from 2.24 to 3.71. More disturbing, his K/9 decreased for the third consecutive year, and his BB/9 spiked to a career worst 5.03. Based on his fortunate .270 BABIP, his numbers could’ve been significantly worse.

K-Rod has plenty of job security – right now only Kelvim Escobar(notes), still trying to regain his form after a torn labrum, poses a threat – but his declining peripherals, slider abandonment and occasional velocity dips are concerns. Bullpen turnover happens. There are 14 safer options. -Noise

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Jimmy Rollins(notes) – Behrens' overall rank 37, Yahoo! composite 23

To be clear, I don't feel like I'm necessarily down on Rollins. I've still rated him as a top-40 overall player, which ain't too shabby. He plays a talent-scarce position, he's a top-of-the-order hitter in an outstanding lineup, and he still has speed (though it's slipping) and respectable power (also slipping). But the multi-year decline in batting average and slugging percentage can't be ignored. It's overwhelmingly likely that we've already seen his best season. Rollins is too good to hit .250 again, but he's never hit .300 over a full year, so the batting average can really only climb so high. Again: I like him…just not in Round 2. -AB

Alex Gordon(notes) – Funston's 3B rank 26, Yahoo! composite 19

Gordon has had 1,200 major league at bats to show us his special, No. 2 overall pick, minor league player of the year talent. Instead, he's shown us that he's injury prone and can't hit lefties (.653 OPS in 359 ABs). He reminds me of Jeremy Hermida(notes) in that way. And like Hermida, the allure of Gordon's pedigree is proving hard to let go of for some. Even when he's not even guaranteed a starting role out of spring training – he'll have to beat out Josh Fields(notes), another former first-round pick who can't hit righties (platoon?). Even the most optimistic projections from statistical monoliths like Bill James see Gordon as no better than a .275, 20 HR hitter in 2010, and that's in a lineup where he's likely to be surrounded by the likes of Rick Ankiel(notes), Jose Guillen(notes), Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) and Chris Getz(notes), so you can imagine how ugly the accompanying run production will look like even with rose-colored glasses on. I don't have anything personal against Gordon, it's just that if he was a truly special talent, we would have seen it by now. It's time to let go of the dream. -BFun

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Josh Beckett(notes) – Pianowski's SP rank 22, Yahoo! composite 14

Beckett has turned into one of those peripheral poster boys, screwed by luck year after year. Sure, Beckett's secondary stats suggested a better ERA than what he recorded in 2009, but that's a yearly occurrence here – in seven of the last eight years Beckett's peripheral-suggested ERA has been lower than what he's actually posted (and in 2006, the one season he wasn't "cheated," the numbers were so poor no one cared). Let's accept the reality, he's a solid No. 2 pitcher for our purposes, but not exactly an ace.

And then there's the matter of location, specifically, all those tricky parks Beckett has to negotiate. Fenway Park is the scoring Disneyland of the American League (Beckett's career ERA at Fenway is 4.47), and everyone knows about the homer-friendly tendencies in New York and Baltimore. I'm not saying you can't beat these parks with outstanding pitching, but why swim against the current when you don't have to? I see plenty of guys from the National League I'd rather spend my money on. (If you want to cut-and-paste this entire section and switch Beckett to Javier Vazquez(notes), be my guest.) -Pianow

Alfonso Soriano(notes) – Evans' OF rank 42, Yahoo! composite 33

Cubs fans could list 18 million reasons why the overpriced Soriano isn’t worth a fraction of his 2010 salary. Auction leaguers would express the same. From his clownish fielding hops to his tree-uprooting whiffs, the former 40-40 stud has quickly transformed into a burdensome dud over the past two years. Hampered by myriad injuries, he’s failed to log 480 at-bats in consecutive seasons. Rudy Jaramillo’s presence could revive the multi-time All-Star’s fading career. But his downward-trending production in homers, OPS and steals combined with his rising strikeout and weaker contact rates are major deterrents.

After three baffling years as a leadoff man, Fonzy is finally moving down to the sixth spot, which should bolster his RBI production, but at a steals and runs cost. Unless he makes a dramatic turnaround in his approach, upstarts like Carlos Gonzalez(notes), Jay Bruce(notes) and Nolan Reimold(notes) are definitely more attractive. Another disappointing, possible injury-laden season could be on the horizon. -Noise


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