Player profile: Cody Ross

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Ross generating lots of power on this home run swing. (Icon/SMI)

Let’s talk about cheap sources of power. No, I am not talking about finding alternative fuel sources to solve the world’s energy problems, but rather about finding legitimate home run threats to solve your fantasy baseball team’s power crisis. It is clear which is the more pressing issue, right?

Anyway, Cody Ross is one such player who can provide power cheaply, with past seasons that look like this:

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R  | SB |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| 2006 |  25 | Marlins | 250 | 0.212 | 11 |  37 | 30 |  0 |
| 2007 |  26 | Marlins | 173 | 0.335 | 12 |  39 | 35 |  2 |
| 2008 |  27 | Marlins | 461 | 0.260 | 22 |  73 | 59 |  6 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+

Ross flew under most people’s radar probably because he has never played in a full season, making his season totals appear less impressive. On a per-plate-appearance basis, however, Ross has hit home runs at rates similar to those of perennial sluggers Lance Berkman and Aramis Ramirez. As impressive as that sounds, Ross’ skills are largely unproven, so it is important to evaluate his underlying ability before making any unwarranted assumptions. We will start with his power.

Power

Ross will be 28 years old all throughout the 2009 season, so he is now playing in his prime power years. Keeping that in mind, let’s now take a look at his True Home Run (tHR) numbers:

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | OF FB% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| 2006 |  25 | Marlins | 250 | 11 |  14 |    14 |     18 |     18 |     40 |
| 2007 |  26 | Marlins | 173 | 12 |  11 |    27 |     24 |     24 |     33 |
| 2008 |  27 | Marlins | 461 | 22 |  21 |    16 |     15 |     15 |     40 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+

For the most part, tHRs agrees with Ross’ power output, making it safe to assume he will continue to hit home runs on about 15 to 18 percent of his fly balls. Given a full season of at-bats, if Ross hits fly balls at a 38 percent rate he would hit 24 home runs.

So about 25 home runs is the standard projection for Ross’ home runs, but when taking the higher end of the rate projections, (40 percent outfield fly balls, 18 percent HR/FB) it becomes plausible that Ross reaches close to 30 home runs in 2009. The low-end projection, which is important as well, is 19 home runs.

Mid-20s home run production from a player who is available on plenty of waiver wires is valuable, but not so much if he cannot hit for a decent average.

Contact

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | xBABIP | LD% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+
| 2006 |  25 | Marlins | 250 | 0.212 | 0.254 |  76 | 0.236 |  0.278 |  21 |
| 2007 |  26 | Marlins | 173 | 0.335 | 0.285 |  78 | 0.374 |  0.312 |  21 |
| 2008 |  27 | Marlins | 461 | 0.260 | 0.270 |  75 | 0.303 |  0.320 |  21 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+

Ross has below-average contact skills, which puts a strict ceiling on his batting average. By maintaining a high BABIP (not as high as the outlier 2007 rate though) Ross is able to keep his batting average in the respectable mid-.260s to .270s range.

Final thoughts

Similar to Adam Lind, Ross should be mainly a home run and RBI contributor. Unlike Lind, however, Ross did not kick off the 2009 season with a similar hot start. Ross therefore is still unowned in many leagues and is mostly on the benches of the teams of which he is owned.

Outfield is relatively deep this year, so I understand that Ross’ .270 average and 25 home run production is not needed on many teams. However, let’s say you need middle infield help, what you can do is flip an outfielder for a middle infielder—Curtis Granderson for Robinson Cano, for example—and then add Ross from free agency. Middle infield problem solved and without too much of a hit taken by your outfield.

Just make the sure the difference in expected production between Ross and the outfielder you are giving up is less than the difference in production between the player you are getting and the player whose spot the newly acquired player is taking.

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