The defending American League champions bolstered their offense this off-season, signing Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million contract. The plan is for him to play first, hit cleanup and hopefully prevent them from blowing another 3-1 World Series lead. What does the move from Toronto to Cleveland mean for the fantasy baseball prospects of the man known as E5?
First, if you’re drafting Edwin Encarnacion, you’re going after a consistent power bat. He is the only player to hit 30+ home runs in each of the last five years and is #2 overall in that same span to Chris Davis. Davis has 197 home runs in the last five seasons, and Encarnacion 193. He’s a full 15 home runs over the #3 player, Nelson Cruz. Over the same timeframe, he’s also #2 in RBI and #8 in runs scored. He’s a beast at three of the five offensive fantasy baseball categories. While his average is… average (.272 is tied for #72 since 2012) and his stolen bases are non-existent, he’s been amazing at the other three fantasy baseball categories.
E5 has seemingly been around forever, so a fear of regression is justifiable. He’s just past his 34th birthday, so he is post-peak. However, that which he promised in years past still holds true in 2017. There has been much consternation regarding an Encarnacion home run dip off his career-high 42 home runs last year. Of course, there will be that sort of regression, as power doesn’t increase after someone’s 34th birthday. However, his home run numbers should not decrease dramatically. He has remained steady with one of the highest home run rates in baseball, buoyed by his hard hit rate that hasn’t dipped below 35% since 2011. He brings the lumber and does so on a consistent basis.
While Encarnacion leaves the bandboxes of the AL East, he does not necessarily need them to succeed. He led the league hittrackeronline.com’s “No Doubt” home runs with 20 last year. Also, only a wall scraper he hit in Houston would not be a home run in his new digs. Also per Hit Tracker Online, 27 of his home runs were dingers in all 30 ballparks. All but three were home runs in at least 22 parks. His power plays anywhere, so the concerns that his move to the AL Central will have an adverse effect on his home run total will be moot.
There will be a natural regression for Encarnacion, coming off his career season, but it is not as sky-is-falling as the detractors think. He is going from one powerful lineup to another (the Blue Jays had 4.7 runs per game in 2016 and Cleveland had 4.8), so his runs and RBI should remain consistent. Natural career-year regression and aging should nick him down to about 35 home runs. Encarnacion will take a step back, but should remain mostly the same player he was in 2016.
The only issue with E5 is his draft value. Encarnacion currently sits with a fantasy baseball ADP of #24, sandwiched between teammates Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor. That’s a bit of a steep price to pay for Encarnacion, whose production should be within spitting distance of Jose Abreu, who is going 36 picks later. Encarnacion will be just fine in Cleveland, but the end of the second round could be overpaying for him.