Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each major league team.
What can Carlos Quentin do for an encore?
If a player hits 36 homers and drives in 100 despite just 480 at-bats last season, we can probably project some crazy-good numbers over a full season this year, right?
Not so fast.
While Carlos Quentin became the player many expected he would be when he was one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks' system, the encore might not be as nice as the initial performance.
Quentin homered on almost 21 percent of his fly balls last year, a ratio that put him in the top 10 in baseball in that category, ahead of names like Josh Hamilton, Carlos Pena, Mark Teixeira and Prince Fielder, to name a few. We don't have enough of a track record to know if he can sustain that level of performance -- like his teammate Jim Thome can -- although playing in "The Cell" certainly helps. Milton Bradley also had a 21 percent mark last year, but we know that was a one-year aberration compared with the rest of his career. We just don't know that about Quentin yet. It may be, but we can't necessarily count on it.
To dig deeper into his homer numbers we can look to the Hit Tracker Web site, which tracks how far homers really went. You can see the methodologies there, but it incorporates a variety of data to estimate the true distance of a home run. It then further classifies homers into multiple categories. The two categories we are concerned with are the "Just Enough" homers, meaning the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, or landed less than one fence height past the fence (in other words, barely made it over), and the "Lucky" homers, ones that would not have cleared the fence had they been struck on a 70-degree day with calm winds.
Digging into this data, we find some interesting numbers about Quentin. Five of his homers last year were considered of the "Lucky" variety, tied for fifth most in the big leagues. Twelve more of his dingers were in the "Just Enough" category, also fifth among big league hitters. All told, that's almost half of all of his bombs.
Granted, a lot of well-established power hitters have more than their share of those kinds of homers, as that's part of the reason they post healthy homer totals in the first place, but those numbers could still be somewhat meaningful in Quentin's case.
Could we be getting a little too nitpicky with the numbers here? Of course, but if we're trying to figure out if Quentin can sustain a 21 percent home run-per-fly ball rate, it's interesting data to consider. Does recovering from wrist surgery turn some of those "Lucky" and "Just Enough" homers into fly ball outs this season?
It's no secret that wrist injuries can have a negative effect on a player's power going forward, even after the injury has been repaired. By all accounts, Quentin's injury has fully healed. Now it's a question of getting his swing back in order and seeing if there has been any slight loss in raw power.
You may recall that problems finding his swing again after a shoulder injury were part of the reason the White Sox were able to acquire him from the D-backs in the first place. We can't just assume that his power is necessarily going to bounce back unaffected. He's still going to hit for average -- in fact, there is the potential for a little more in that department this season -- and for some power, but are 30 homers really a safe bet again?
Is Quentin still going to be a good fantasy player? Absolutely. However, I'm only going to pay on the expectation of 25 homers. Anything more than that is just a bonus. Paying a 35-homer price is asking to be disappointed.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.