Saturday, December 27, 2008

Willy Taveras to the Reds: Fantasy Impact

The Cincinnati Reds and center fielder Willy Taveras agreed to a two-year contract on Saturday. Taveras is coming off of a mediocre 2008 season where he only managed to hit a paltry .251 with a .308 on-base percentage, making him expendable for his former team, the Colorado Rockies. Despite the rather down season Taveras still managed to lead all of baseball with 68 stolen bases in 75 attempts.

FANTASY IMPACT

Taveras needs to stay healthy and show he can play everyday. The move away from Coors Field could actually help Taveras' numbers this season. Coors Field has quite an expansive outfield, that combined with the thin air and Taveras' thin frame probably made it difficult for his body to recuperate properly and added to the wear and tare his body went through. Moving to a smaller outfield that is actually located at sea level should help Taveras stay healthier than he has over the last few seasons.

The 2008 season was a bit of an anomaly as he had his career worst season with the bat, yet had a career year using his speed, doubling his previous single season stolen base total. This could be seen as a fluke or it could be looked at as a player finally developing what he does best as a baseball player and playing to his strength, like we have seen Juan Pierre do for years.

The young Reds team that will surround him in the line up could also be a detriment. No one will doubt the talent of the players that will surround him. Guys like Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are some of the finest rising stars in the game. However, they are still young and will be prone to some ups and downs and inconsistencies throughout a long baseball season.

Taveras, despite being a speedster and lead off man for the majority of his career, has never scored 100 runs in a season or collected more than 180 hits. Before 2008 he had never stolen more than 34 bases in a season and has yet to drive in more than 30RBIs in a season. Granted in the NL it's tougher for a lead off man to drive in runs with the pitcher hitting in front of him, but still at some point you'd expect to see better production in at least one season.

Taveras is strictly a stolen base threat at this point and should be looked at as nothing else. He could, at best, steal 60 bases again and score close to 100 runs and finish with a .300AVG. At worst he gets nicked up again, misses time and winds up with around 70runs scored and 35SB.

Come draft day I would avoid taking him out of necessity. That meaning, don't draft a line up full of strictly sluggers and then bank on Taveras to go out there and make up the difference. His numbers have been rather inconsistent and you don't know how much time he'll spend on the ball field. If you can grab him as a guy to bolster your stolen base numbers and to compliment other stolen base threats you have, you'll be in a much more stable position.

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