How much of Edwin Encarnacion's 2012 season was a fluke?
With the aid of Toronto's coaching staff, much like Jose Bautista did a few years ago, Encarnacion improved his selectivity and increased the frequency with which he drove the ball to center. If the Jays' regular first baseman were to continue on a path like Bautista's, one might project a much loftier walk rate and a huge increase in batting average in the follow-up to what was a staggering breakthrough in power production.
Such an outcome seems less likely, however, than, say, a line along the lines of Bautista's rate of production two years removed from his 54-homer campaign, which occurred last year. The more senior slugger became a more feared hitter than Encarnacion is likely to be, for one. Perhaps that's in part because there are fewer weak spots in this club's remade lineup, but also because the younger thumper has never been quite as prolific in controlling the strike zone.
A large proportion of the fly balls each hits - and they each hit a lot of fly balls - do not leave the infield. Bautista hits the ball on the ground more frequently than does Encarnacion, too, so the latter doesn't figure to have quite the downside in batting average that Bautista displayed in 2012.
Of course, Encarnacion may not have hit his peak in terms of round-tripper proficiency. The likelihood that 2012 won't turn out to be E5's career-best season probably isn't great, but the shift in his approach has altered his baseline substantially, and predicting what's next is no simple task.
Pitchers will adjust to the former Cincinnati Red much like they did to the former Pittsburgh Pirate. Encarnacion still hasn't entirely put his mediocre health record behind him, either. But he's still a talented hitter with a new performance threshold, and his poor defense is no longer quite a threat to his playing time. He won't be eligible at third base anymore, so the question becomes where a fantasy owner's tolerance for his balance of risk and reward fits among 2013's crop of first basemen, some of which have lost points for dwindling reliability.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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