The World Series champs were dealt a huge blow Thursday in just their third Cactus League game.
Three-time All-Star Hunter Pence was hit on the forearm by a pitch from the Cubs' Corey Black, and tests later confirmed that he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the left ulna. His estimated recovery timetable has been set at 6-to-8 weeks.
His progress over the next several weeks will be telling as to whether Pence may be able to return closer to the front end of that window, but for those (like me) with auctions next week, how do we go about valuing the 31-year-old with the information we have currently?
I also have my revised top-350 due next Wednesday, which will be compiled into an updated RotoWire Roundtable composite ranking. In my initial rankings, I had Pence slotted in at No. 31 overall, ahead of Chris Davis, Albert Pujols, Johnny Cueto and David Price. I was the second-highest on him among the five rankers, with Michael Rusignola, Jeff Erickson, Derek VanRiper, and James Anderson having him 16th, 34th, 36th, and 64th, respectively.
Sure, Pence isn't the sexiest fantasy option, but he's been a very consistent contributor in 5x5 rotisserie leagues throughout his career. Using the RotoWire Inseason Values tool, I looked at Pence's returned value in 15-team mixers over the past four years (14 hitters, nine pitchers). The values assume a 70-30 split in budget for hitters and pitchers.
2014: .277/.332/.445 with 20 homers, 106 runs, 74 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 19 attempts (162 games, 708 PA).
$26 in returned value (27th among hitters).
2013: .283/.339/.483 with 27 homers, 91 runs, 99 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts (162 games, 687 PA).
$32 in returned value (11th among hitters)
2012: .253/.319/.425 with 24 home runs, 87 runs, 104 RBI and five stolen bases in seven attempts (160 games, 688 PA).
$18 in returned value (63rd among hitters)
2011: .314/.370/.502 with 22 home runs, 84 runs, 97 RBI and eight stolen bases in 10 attempts (154 games, 668 PA).
$29 in returned value (20th among hitters)
In each of his prior three seasons (2008-2010), Pence smacked 25 homers with double-digit stolen bases while hitting at least .269. The outlier above was 2012, but his contributions in home runs, runs and RBI were on par with his other seasons. His .290 BABIP that year was nearly 20 points lower than his career mark (.319), and the majority of his at-bats that season (424-of-606) came between the four- and five-holes in the batting order. Those spots in the order are not conducive to stolen bases.
However, while he's been a high-level fantasy contributor, so much of his value has been tied to him staying on the field. Pence has appeared in at least 154 games in each of the past seven seasons. Now, with Pence likely to miss most, if not all, of April following surgery, he could be looking at 135 games as an absolute best-case scenario.
Let's take a conservative approach and say Pence plays 125 games. If we take Pence's three-year averages and multiply them over 125 games – at 3.92 at-bats per game, his average number over the past three seasons – here's what Pence's numbers could look like:
18 homers, 72 RBI, 73 runs and 10 stolen bases in 490 at-bats
Those numbers are comparable to the ones Jeff Erickson has projected for Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer (17 homers, 68 RBI, 67 runs and five stolen bases in 127 games, 476 at-bats). Granted, those projections all fall a little short of the estimates for Pence above, but Cuddyer is projected to hit .286, which negates the minor differences in the counting stats to a large extent. We currently have Pence projected to hit .275.
I had Cuddyer outside of my top-200, as did Derek VanRiper and James Anderson. James had Cuddyer down at 281.
Plus, while those estimates for Pence would still be useful, that's not taking into account the very real possibility he could deal with some lingering effects from the injury upon his return. It's not technically a wrist injury, but the ulna is right above the wrist, and we've seen these type of arm injuries sap power and hinder offensive effectiveness countless times.
I'm not ready to set anything in stone, but I'm thinking Pence will be outside my top-100 in next week's updated Roundtable. A dramatic fall, to be sure, but I don't think it's an overreaction. Pence has never been a player with tremendous upside to begin with, and now you lower the floor significantly, and we have a player that I'm going to be hesitant to draft in the top six or seven rounds (in 15-team leagues) for now.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @claywlink.