Player risk profile: Jason Kubel

For more information on the methodology and philosophy behind this article please read my first risk profile article.

Background

Jason Kubel was a 12th round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2000 draft. Kubel was regarded as a decent to solid prospect at the beginning of his pro career. That was until his 2004 season, when Kubel tore up AA and AAA and eventually reached the majors. However, Kubel played that winter in the Arizona Fall League where he suffered a major knee injury, effectively ending his 2005 season. Kubel’s minor league performance was so good, though, that he was rated the Twin’s number two prospect heading into both the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Kubel started playing in 2006 about halfway through the year, eventually playing in 73 games for the Twins. He was clearly rusty as he put up a terrible .241/.279/.386 line. Last year, Kubel started slowly, causing some to wonder if he would ever ever be able to come back from his knee injury. He turned it around, however, in the second half, putting up a .303/.379/.511 line and finishing the year with a .273/.335/.450 line.

Kubel started slow again this year but a hot second half has him sitting with a .273/.335/.472 line with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs in 462 at bats. Going into next year, Kubel is showing some breakout potential. However, let’s take a look at exactly what kind of risk Kubel brings.

Qualitative Risk Assessment

My article linked above on Tulowitzki shows the basics for how I evaluate the following risk factors.

Experience
Probability: Low
Impact: Low
Overall: Low

We’ll have about 2.5 seasons worth of data for Kubel by the end of the year, which is a real good sample size for batters. There is some upside in his projection, as his 2006 stats, when Kubel was just coming back from his injury, could bring down his projection somewhat.

Playing Time
Probability: Medium
Impact: Medium
Overall: Medium

The Twins were somewhat reluctant to give Kubel consistent at-bats versus lefty pitchers earlier in the year; however, having realized that Craig Monroe is not the answer, they have been giving Kubel more playing time lately. There could be some definite playing time risk next year, though, if the Twins decide to keep their outfield of Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Denard Span.

That would leave Kubel and Michael Cuddyer for the DH spot, though fortunately for him, Kubel is on the good side of the platoon. It remains to be seen if the Twins will try and trade Cuddyer or move him back to third base. Right now I’m putting Kubel’s playing time risk at medium, but that could change as we get closer to the 2009 season.

Age
Probability: Very Low
Impact: Very Low
Risk: Very Low

Kubel will be in his age 27 season next year, the ideal age for hitters. While at first glance Kubel might seem like a guy with old player type skills, a closer look at his skill set shows that this is not really true. While he does lack speed, he doesn’t strike out excessively and has shown solid batting average skills.

Burnout
Probability: Low
Impact: High
Overall: Medium

Kubel doesn’t have much of a injury history besides his freak knee injury. Considering that Kubel doesn’t play the field all too often any more, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about his injury chances. However, it did take him awhile to come back to form the last time he was hurt. Kubel’s value also lies entirely in his bat so he doesn’t really have anything to fall back on if he suffers an injury that affects his hitting.

Skill Risk
Probability: Very Low
Impact: Medium
Overall: Low

Kubel has a very solid skill set, one that also shows upside for next year. The only major risk in his skill set is his strikeout rate; if it increases by a few percentage points, there could be some batting average downside. However, Kubel’s walk rate is solid and he has shown an increasing fly ball rate. With his improving power skills, Kubel has a legitimate shot at hitting 25-30 home runs next year.

Overall Risk Level
High green to low yellow or somewhere between low and medium.

Quantitative Risk Assessment

Breakout: 33 percent
Collapse: 17 percent
Beta: 1.11

Keep in mind these numbers were from projections coming into the 2008 season. PECOTA viewed Kubel as having a volatile forecast but one with a lot of upside. With his stats from this year, Kubel will likely not have as volatile a forecast for next season. His breakout score could also see a slight dip next year, but qualitatively I still see Kubel as someone with major upside. He should also have a high reliability score (the Marcels stat, not the Baseball HQ metric) for next year.

Overall Risk Assessment

Kubel is a guy who you should definitely consider targeting for next year. He isn’t overly risky but still provides breakout potential. Also consider that if Kubel keeps getting consistent playing time, he will likely hit behind Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, which will provide plenty of RBI opportunities.

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