February 28, 2011
No matter if its baseball or badminton, athletes are constantly employing psychological tactics to calm nerves and maximize potential. Positive self-talk, for example, is a form of internal coaching used to motivate and boost confidence, a Stuart Smalley-esque affirmation.
Before the gates unlatched at the Tigers spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla., the underused super-utility player was already making big claims. Transitioning from a part-time job as a fourth outfielder/second baseman, Raburn is expected to be Jim Leyland’s everyday left-fielder, a role the cocksure veteran believes he will be “great” in.
Since breaking into the majors seven years ago, the 30-year-old has regularly made the one-hour drive up I-75 from Toledo to Detroit. Scouts have always raved about his raw power, but deficiencies with the mitt have cost him significant playing time. Still, he’s excelled in spurts. Last year from August 1 on, he posted a .333-13-39-39 line, the ninth-best contribution regardless of position according to Baseball Monster. Equally as impressive, he’s reached the cheap seats once every 20.4 at-bats over the past two seasons, a clip identical to Dan Uggla’s(notes) from a season ago. Extrapolate that output over 550 at-bats, and Raburn would’ve finished fourth among 2Bs and ninth among OFs in homers in 2010.
Because he’s rather undisciplined (career 25.4 K%) and susceptible to sliders, strikeouts will accumulate. Leyland has toyed with the idea of slotting Raburn into the two-hole until Carlos Guillen(notes) fully recovers from offseason knee surgery, not an ideal position given his free-swinging ways. However, once Mr. Brittle is activated, look for the left-fielder to slide back into his customary six-spot, just behind mashers Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Victor Martinez(notes).
Similar to Ryan Ludwick(notes) and Andres Torres(notes), Raburn has the profile of a classic late-bloomer. And a draft day bargain. In Yahoo! leagues, he’s going on average around pick No. 235. Owners in shallow formats would probably express as much interest in Raburn as James Franco did hosting the Oscars, but given his dual eligibility and substantial pop upside, he’s worth reaching for in the later rounds. Above average returns in homers, RBI and runs are a strong possibility.
Arrogance, like ignorance, may indeed be bliss, but in the case of Raburn, it may be a predictor of fantasy success.
Fearless Forecast: 577 at-bats, .276 BA, 29 HR, 92 RBI, 84 R, 5 SB
Image courtesy of US Presswire