So, after going on about how Infante will pick up his BA and continue to get better at the plate - better OBP and even more power... Here's what the Tigers Corresponent on ESPN had to say recently. He dedicated his entire column to Omar this past week...
Brian Abbot - ESPN Tigers Correspondent wrote:Infante good enough for mixed leagues
FEB. 5 -- OMAR INFANTE will go undrafted in most mixed leagues, but by midseason he'll be one of those sleepers helping the owners who were smart enough to either make room for him on the bench or keep a close enough eye on him they could pounce before anyone else. Even based just on last year's numbers, Infante deserves consideration. Among qualifying middle infielders (a minimum of 502 plate appearances), he ranked 13th in the major leagues with a .449 slugging percentage. Among all middle infielders, he also ranked 15th with 16 home runs and 22nd with 13 stolen bases. With 30 middle infielders on active rosters in 10-team leagues, those numbers are pretty good.
Eating his Wheaties
Some will look at the numbers and question whether or not the home-run surge was a fluke or not. Infante entered 2004 with 11 career home runs in 1,875 professional at bats, and he never had posted a slugging percentage higher than .369 at any stop consisting of more than 100 at bats. Infante, though, is an example of why scouting still matters. Having just turned 23 years old in December, he was underdeveloped physically throughout his first five seasons in the Tigers organization, and his ability to drive the ball once he filled out was projected long ago by nearly everyone who saw him play. As he continues to mature, it is not unrealistic to expect him to reach 20 home runs with regularity.
Ratios raise concerns
The biggest concerns with Infante are the mediocre K/BB ratios and high AB/BB ratios he has posted throughout his professional career. His career minor league K/BB ratio was 1.71, which is not bad, but it's not as low as you'd like it to be for a strong hitting prospect. The vast majority of productive hitters at the major league level also had AB/BB ratios lower than 10.00 by the time they graduated from Triple-A, but Infante's ratios have been 12.28, 11.74 and 13.2 at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A respectively. In Detroit last season, he posted a 2.8 K/BB ratio and a 12.57 AB/BB ratio. He's young enough yet that a breakthrough here is not out of the question, so these will be key ratios to watch in 2005.
Better at Comerica Park
Comerica Park appears to be anything but an obstacle for Infante. He batted .272/.327/.455 there last season with seven home runs, compared to .258/.309/.444 on the road with nine home runs. If anything, the ballpark with such a bad rap seems to be a nonfactor. I'd say it even was a benefit to his 27 doubles and nine triples in 2004, but 17 of those doubles and four of those triples came on the road. Anyway, the numbers don't support any argument that Comerica Park will hurt Infante offensively.
Learning to run
Infante's never been a guy who projects to steal a boatload of bases, but he is fast enough to beat most throws, and once he develops some more experience at the art he probably could double last season's total of 13. Manager Alan Trammell likes to run to a fault, but fantasy owners don't mind that since most fantasy leagues don't score stolen-base success rates; they just add up the steals. For this season, 15-20 is a reasonable expectation for Infante.
Expect modest improvement on 2004
At 23, Infante's best years are well ahead of him, but if he can improve on what he did in 2004 even just slightly, he will establish himself as a must-play option at a middle-infield spot, even in mixed leagues. And since he'll come dirt cheap on draft day or likely will be available on the free agent list shortly thereafter, it's tough to go wrong with him.
The point is Im not dillusional.
He finished in the top 15 fantasy SSs last yr, and he is getting better. We are always looking for sleepers in the last couple rds of our drafts - how about a 2B/SS eligible player who can reasonably hit 20 hrs, steal 15+ bases and bat over .275? These estimates are not that optimistic - if you want an optimistic estimate add 3-5 HRs and SBs each and put him at .310.