Ian Kinsler posted his highest home run total in four years last season for the Tigers. Can fantasy owners believe in the power resurgence heading into 2017?
Where did that power come from?
After not homering more than 19 times in one season since 2011, Ian Kinsler managed to bash 28 bombs in 2016 for the Tigers. Entering his 12th MLB season, can fantasy owners trust the power resurgence moving forward?
Kinsler has been a fantasy mainstay for years now, but it seemed as though he was winding down after an unspectacular 2015. He still served as one of the more dependable fantasy second baseman, but it was easy to look elsewhere for upside. But then out of nowhere, he goes on to post a .288/28 HR/83 RBI/14 SB/117 R/.831 OPS line.
It was a disappointing year for the Tigers, but no fault of Kinsler’s as his performance was above and beyond what anyone could ask for. Let’s first make it clear that heading into next season Kinsler is already a top-10 fantasy second baseman, his floor is just too dependable. He can supply solid AVG numbers still, and the Tigers lineup has the pieces to be as potent as ever, so the counting stats will be there.
There was a time where he was a yearly 20+ SB threat, but those days are gone as age has slowed Kinlser down. He should still be counted on for 15 SB though, yet owners have to approach that total as though it his ceiling potential.
The real conundrum here is the power. Coming off a 2015 which saw him hit 11 HR, seeing the 17 HR increase forces owners to examine him closer. It is not as though he was not capable, he has two 30+ HR under his belt, but to see the power surge at the tail end of his career is interesting.
Kinsler has enough of a track record that looking at his batted ball data can speak to certain possible outliers. Last season he posted 24% LD ,32% GB, 45% FB, 47% Med. and 34% Hard contact rates. His LD rate did drop from 2015, but he was able to drop his GB rate by 2% while raising his FB rate to its highest point since 2011. His Med contact was down nearly 6% from his career norm, but that 6% dip was offset by his 34% Hard contact rate which was the highest of his career.
It is no surprise to see him hit more fly balls as he gets older, but it hard to pinpoint why the power was up so much. The 34% Hard contact certainly had an effect, but if we look at his HR tracker. the AVG distance totals are not drastically improved. In 2016, his AVG HR distance was 385 ft., in 2015 it was 385 ft., and in 2014 it was 386 ft.
These distances are remarkably similar, but was does not belong. His HR totals over that same span were 28 in 2016, 11 in 2015, and 17 HR in 2014. SO. if the AVG distances are not changing, and there are no clear differences in his batted ball data that point to a power surge, can owners really believe that 20+ HR could be in store in 2017?
Kinsler is quietly putting together quite the career resume, and he certainly is not going to be a fantasy liability next season. But, owners will see 28 HR and immediately reach. Astute owners should not fall head over heels for him though. It is hard to believe that at this point of his career that he can sustain those certain batted ball spikes moving forward.
He is one of the hardest players to predict year to year. but an annual 20+ HR he is not anymore. Owners should expect a stat line around .270/15 HR/70 RBI/15 SB/100 R/.780 OPS. A solid line, but not the top-20 fantasy performer we saw last season.