Spin Doctors: Corey Hart vs. Hunter Pence

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Hunter Pence hit .314 during the worst full month of his rookie season with the Houston Astros in 2007. Corey Hart’s first full campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers saw him establish himself as a legitimate 30-30 threat. Both are borderline top 15 outfielders for 2008, but which would you draft first? Yahoo! Sports fantasy experts Brad Evans and Andy Behrens take sides, arguing (in 250 words or less) for their favorite:

 

Evans says Behrens says
Never surrender, Hart owners. You can never surrender!!!

Fawned over by fantasy owners more than his 80’s pop namesake was by teased-haired prepubescent girls in 1985, the Brewers’ Corey Hart was a productive boon last year. Despite being sapped with a wrist injury for much of May, the versatile outfielder compiled a mouth-watering .295 BA with 24 HRs, 81 RBIs, 86 runs and 23 stolen bases in 505 at-bats.

Hart was one of eight sticks to club 20 homers and swipe 20 bases, brushing shoulders with the likes of perennial stat gods Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore. More importantly, Hart will enter the ’08 season at age 26, one year shy of what many pundits accept as the beginning of a player’s peak production years.

When a reinvigorated Rickie Weeks returned to the lineup in August, Hart was used almost exclusively in the RBI-friendly fifth spot. Manager Ned Yost has already hinted at keeping the lanky outfielder in that spot this season. If that happens, he could benefit from grapefruit-sized pitches hitting behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. As long as Hart’s growth in fly-ball percentage can continue, a 30 long-ball, 100 RBIs upswing isn’t inconceivable.

Sure, Pence will likely best Hart by some 10-20 points in batting average, but the Milwaukee heartthrob will post more valuable homer (4-7 more) and, especially, stolen base totals (10-12 more).

Oh, and the odds of Hart being attacked by a rogue sliding-glass door are smaller than Pence’s.

Hunter Pence and Corey Hart are currently separated by 15.8 picks in an average Yahoo! draft, and that’s too wide a gap. They’re extremely close in projected value.

Pence goes more than a full round earlier, usually at the end of the fifth round or the beginning of the sixth. So if we’re trying to decide which player is the better value pick, I’d have to concede. Over in the adjacent column, Brad is probably making a point about draft value and linking to stuff like this. Here in this column, we’re left to focus on who can deliver better numbers in 2008.

And this is where the argument for Pence gains traction.

He hit .322 with an OPS of .899 for Houston last season, and he hit .326 with a .945 OPS in Triple-A. Pence also hit 27 HRs and stole 17 bases at Double-A in 2006. His line drive and groundball rates were higher than Hart’s last season, and their K-rates were similar. It’s not unreasonable to expect Pence to hit for a higher average again in 2008.

Both Pence and Hart will be power/speed contributors, and over the course of a full season they’ll both deliver useful totals in runs and RBIs. They’ll each be well-positioned in potent lineups.

Basically, these are two excellent players who could be five-category contributors in 2008, and neither has turned 26. There’s not much to spin here, actually. Based on their current ADPs, you can draft them both. Try doing that.

Updated Tuesday, Mar 4, 2008