When you lose 81 games on your season, you tend to be forgotten by a large group of the fantasy baseball population. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a bona fide superstar like Carlos Beltran either. He made the 2009 All-Star team, but he won’t show up near the top of any 2009 leaderboards and though he played 19 games in September, those were meaningless ones for the out-of-contention Mets so he was absent from the public eye virtually all summer. It would be a BIG mistake to forget about Carlos Beltran for 2010. (And by forget, I don’t mean he’ll go in the 12th round. He’s a 2nd round guy in most leagues and his 81 games missed could drop him as many as two rounds. Injury bounce backs make championship seasons. Just ask Aaron Hill and Chris Carpenter owners.)
Barring injury-shortened seasons, Beltran has had 100+ RBIs in all but one season, 100+ runs scored in all but two, 23+ stolen bases in all two and 22+ home runs in all but one. His 2000 and 2009 seasons were cut to 98 and 81 games, respectively while 2005, his first in New York, is the only real “bust” season on his record. He played 151 games, so you can’t classify it as injury-shortened, but he battled nagging injuries throughout that year because he didn’t want to sit out for extended periods of time as he wanted to justify his new fat contract in the spotlight of New York.
Since that debut season, he has posted a .286/.379/.531 line with 111 home runs, 386 runs scored, 388 RBIs, 77 stolen bases and a 136 OPS+ in 1978 at-bats. He will turn 33 shortly after the 2010 season starts which is an automatic red flag for some, but if you get caught up in age too much without any context for the individual player then you will do yourself a huge disservice. A-Rod turns 34 in 2010 and you’d better believe that he is still a first round pick. The age factor would be viable if Beltran was showing any signs of slowing down, but he had seasons of 150, 126, 129 OPS+ leading into 2009. And he was on a killer pace with a 141 OPS+ before getting hurt this year. He may run less, but no one should be looking for much more than 20 these days anyway. The last four years prior to 2009 have yielded two low 20s and two high teens outputs (17, 18, 23, 25 since 2005).
So what should we expect from a 2010 Beltran? Based on where he has been since 2004, it would be unwise to bet on the .325 average we saw in a half season of 2009 or even anything close to that. Had he held that pace, it would have been a career high and 51 points than the .274 he has established since 2004. He will earn a high OBP with his eye and there is never a shortage of extra base hits pumping his SLG up. I expect something along the lines of: .280/.375/.510 with 100 runs, 24 home runs, 115 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. That is an elite season worthy of at least a 2nd round pick, if not a late 1st depending on your league size.
Don’t believe it’s anything special? Since 2005 there have only been 10 seasons where a player scored 100 runs, drove in 100 runs, hit 20+ home runs and stole 20+ bases. One of them belongs to Beltran (2008) while Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu are the only two players to repeat the feat. The other five players are among the elite, too: Jason Bay (2005), Ryan Braun (2009), Hanley Ramirez (2009), Alfonso Soriano (2005) and David Wright (2007).
In the last 10 years, there have only 15 instances of that season and Beltran owns five of them. Even loosening the criteria to R>=90, HR>=20, SB>=15 and RBI>=90 shows how amazing Beltran has been. There have been 45 of those seasons since 2000 and he is second to A-Rod (eight) with seven. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Beltran is discounted in drafts because of his age and injury, don’t chance it by letting him hang out there too long. I’d rather lock him up on my terms than keep waiting and hoping he falls. For auction leagues, Beltran is the perfect kind of player to target. His cost is front and center so you will know if there is a discount to be had or not.
Beltran in 2009: .325-50-10-48-11
Beltran in 2010: .280-100-24-115-23