Arguably the top offensive contributor on the Nationals last season, first baseman Adam LaRoche had a career season. He hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI, both of which were career highs. He earned his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and finished sixth in the NL MVP voting despite never before receiving a vote. Even more noteworthy was the fact that 2011 was his worst career season, as he hit .172 with a .546 OPS in 43 games before being shut down with a shoulder injury. Before the 2012 season, there were cries for the Nationals to trade LaRoche, and they were rumored to have pursued All-Star 1B Prince Fielder heavily. Suffice it to say, LaRoche outperformed expectations, and was rewarded with a two-year, $24M deal this offseason that includes a team option for 2015. As for 2013, it may seem unlikely that LaRoche will maintain his career-best form. While a little regression is always to be expected, LaRoche is fully healthy and should still be a productive 1B. Our projectors agree:
ZiPS: 431 AB, .249/.322/.445, 72 RBI, 53 RS, 1 SB, 19 HR
MLB.com: 550 AB, .269/.339/.476, 90 RBI, 70 RS, 1 SB, 26 HR
CBSSports: 560 AB, .263/.339/.459, 86 RBI, 70 RS, 1 SB, 25 HR
ESPN Fantasy: 547 AB, .280/.350/.503, 97 RBI, 76 RS, 2 SB, 29 HR
Averages: 522 AB, .265/.338/.471, 84 RBI, 67 RS, 1 SB, 25 HR
While overall these numbers are around what you’d expect, the counting stats like RBI, RS, and HR are somewhat low. This can be attributed to the ZiPS projection, which is a program that calculates a projection based solely on previous seasons. ZiPS sees that LaRoche was injured in 2011, and therefore assumes he will miss some time in 2013, which is not necessarily the case. In any event, LaRoche should be solidly among the second tier of first basemen, behind the likes of Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, and Prince Fielder. Despite his good power numbers and strong surrounding lineup, his low average will keep him from being an elite fantasy option. With the Nationals’ acquisition of Denard Span, LaRoche will now be hitting fifth, which should not change his runs scored and RBI numbers much. Additionally, with the departure of Mike Morse, LaRoche will be the primary power bat in the heart of the lineup, and should continue to provide great production.