Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yankees’ Carlos Beltran is healthy and set for 2015 rebound

New York Yankees right-fielder Carlos Beltran had a rough inaugural season in the Bronx, due in large part to a bone spur in his right elbow which forced the veteran to take three separate cortisone shots. He had offseason surgery, has been rehabbing ever since and is said to be on target for full workouts with the team when spring training begins in Tampa next month.

Beltran, who turns 38 in April, was recently profiled by Yankees Magazine and was shown to be working out without holding back. In the spot he says that he’s finally pain free and working hard to put last season behind him. That is certainly welcome news for the Yankees.

When looking at Beltran’s stats in 2014 split by the month, it seems that much of his problems at the plate occurred when he was reporting the most pain in the elbow.

He had a mostly productive first month of the season, and then once the elbow began to bother him he started to slump. He underwent two cortisone shots in May, the first on the 12th and the second on the 17th. He was placed on the disabled list May 15.

He fought through the pain when returning in June, had a rough time adjusting and struggled while doing so. He put up very good and decent numbers in July and August respectively, but the discomfort was too much for him as the summer wore on and he played his last game of the season Sept. 19 which coincided with his wife's miscarriage.

If we’re to assume that the issue is behind him, is Beltran a candidate for a bounce back season?

Looking through his stats, the only glaring issues which are not easily attributed to his elbow are an increase in strikeout rate (17.8 percent) and a decrease in walk rate (8.2 percent) from career norms. It’s possible that Beltran was pressing at the plate thus affecting his rates, though he had an even lower walk rate in this final season in St. Louis (6.3 percent) suggesting there might be something more going on here for someone who had walk rates in double digits from 2006-12.

Steamer, via FanGraphs, projects upticks across the board for Beltran, though they estimate only 105 games played and 460 plate appearances. It is hard to debate that considering Beltran’s injury history. That said he did average 610 plate appearances in his two full seasons with the Cardinals in 2012 and 2013.

Steamer sees Beltran producing a .260/.324/.438 slash line with 22 doubles, 17 homers and 58 RBIs. They see his ISO creeping up to .179, slightly higher than the .169 he produced in 2014. He is pegged for a 112 wRC+ up from 95 in 2014.

The slash seems reasonable, though it's conceivable he could show increases in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage – maybe, in the .335/.450 range – enough to approach an .800 OPS.

By extrapolating the counting stats to 600 plate appearances using Steamer’s estimates Beltran might produce 28 doubles, 22 home runs and 75 RBIs. That would not be too far off his 30/24/84 marks in 2013 and attainable.

The long and short of it is Beltran’s 2015 performance will likely be lockstep with his health. If the elbow is not completely right, he’ll probably continue to struggle at the plate. If he’s given enough breaks by manager Joe Girardi and the rest of his body holds up, Beltran can provide the Yankees with the offense they hoped for when he was signed last year. Based on Beltran's confidence and work ethic, he could do so.

Statistics gathered from FanGraphs.

Photo of Carlos Beltran courtesy of Shinya Suzuki via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.