Players To Target
Logan Morrison, OF, MIA – Last year was a rollercoaster for Morrison, who fought both injuries and the Marlins’ management during the season. He still managed to hit 23 home runs and 72 RBI by the end of the season despite playing only 123 games. Last year’s .265 BABIP was low considering there was little change in his batted ball types. With continued development at the plate he could see a 30-homer, 90-RBI campaign as soon as this season with the Marlins’ loaded lineup. Two minor red flags do pop up here. First, he’s coming off December knee surgery that could impact the start of the season for him. Second, no one knows how the new stadium in Miami will play, although the consensus seems to be that it will favor pitchers with the given dimensions. Still, Morrison is only going to turn 25 this season and with a current ADP of 150, I think he’ll fetch a nice return on investment.
Jason Heyward, OF, ATL – Wasn’t it only a season ago when Heyward was a fourth or fifth round pick in some leagues? Heyward battled a shoulder injury last season that cost him a handful of games and was the likely culprit in his .227 batting average. As a result he lost playing time in August but has addressed the shoulder issue during the offseason. He’s only 22 and still has a solid enough pedigree that he should rebound provided he’s healthy. Heyward still managed 14 home runs in 396 at-bats and his .261 BABIP (again, likely correlated to the shoulder) indicates luck wasn’t on his side. I’ve seen him go as last as 141 which is a great place to snag him if you need an outfielder at that point.
Colby Rasmus, OF, TOR – Despite it seeming like he’s been around awhile, Rasmus will only be 25 at the start of the season and is another player with a ton of solid pedigree behind him. He’s only two seasons removed from a 23-homer, 12-stolen base campaign and that likely won’t be his career season. While I’m not overly optimistic about the steals returning (he only had seven attempts last year), there are a few bright spots beyond his pedigree. First, he won’t have to deal with Tony La Russa anymore, which is rumored to have precipitated his trade away from St. Louis. Rasmus resides in Ontario, meaning his home and family is right there with him. His BABIP (.267) was low (although his LD rate was down 3%) and he reduced his strikeout rate by 5%. Hitting in Toronto should be easier than Busch Stadium and provided the Jays play him everyday, a 25-home run, 5-10-stolen base, 90-RBI season could be on the horizon.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, WAS – The immediate comparison that pops in my head for Espinosa is Ian Kinsler. At first I thought that might be a bit off but take a look at the two in their first seasons with full-time duty at age 24:
Espinosa – 573 ABs, .236 BA, 21 HRs, 17 SBs
Kinsler (2006) – 423 ABs, .286 BA, 14 HRs, 11 SBs
Obviously the difference (besides the glaring BA) is that Espinosa got more ABs between the two. So by prorating the home runs and stolen bases we can see what Kinsler was on pace for if he got 573 ABs that season:
Kinsler (prorated, 573 ABs) – 19 HRs, 15 SBs
Granted, Espinosa had a cup of coffee in Washington at the end of 2010 but overall showed as much power and speed as Kinsler initially did. Espinosa probably is never going to hit for a high average given his propensity to strike out so much. He’s likely going to bat around .250 year in and year out but he could approach a 30/30 season even with the poor average. If you can stomach the batting average on your team, his speed/power combo is valuable once the first 10-12 second basemen are off the board.
Matt Wieters, C, BAL – I know Wieters makes sleeper lists every year but I really think this is the season he breaks out. Just an interesting note on him, he had a pretty drastic split last season at the plate:
LHB – 375 ABs, 51:28 K:BB ratio, .235 BA, 11 HRs
RHB – 125 ABs, 33:20 K:BB ratio, .344 BA, 11 HRs
Oddly, this was the complete opposite of the 2010 season. Anyway, back to why I like Wieters for 2012. I put a lot of stock into how a young player improvew over the course of the season and Wieters did most of his damage over the last two months. After a good start in April, he went on to post below average months in May (.677 OPS), June (.665 OPS) and July (.685 OPS). However, over the last two months he finished with a .951 OPS in August and a .867 OPS in September. Over those two months he held a 27:20 K:BB ratio and hit 12 home runs. The Baltimore lineup has a few solid pieces – Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy – so they should be able to score runs, especially in Camden Yards. Look for Wieters to finish as a top-3 catcher this season.
Brandon Morrow, P, TOR – I participated in a mock draft for a points league Tuesday that was conducted during our Sirius/XM show and was happy to grab Morrow at the end of the eighth round. Given the league parameters which values strikeouts over runs given up, it made sense to take him this early. The truth is I’ll be happy to grab him around this point in 5X5 Roto leagues but he’s likely going to be available much later. I discussed on the air Wednesday why I liked Morrow: his 10.19 K/9IP last year was second among starters only to Zack Greinke, his strand rate of 65.5% was extremely low and his 3.64 FIP and 3.53 xFIP indicates he was a much better pitcher than his 4.72 ERA would suggest. A quick note on Greinke, another pitcher I’m high on. Keep in mind he was hurt to start the season last year and wasn’t just dominant over the second half, he was *consistently* dominant. After getting over an early rib injury, Greinke went on to have a 2.27 ERA in July, a 3.02 ERA in August and a 3.00 ERA in September. Even when he had a 5.29 ERA in May and a 6.04 ERA in June he had a 80:12 K:BB rate over 62.1 innings for those two months! Back to Morrow. Pitching in the AL East is no picnic but Morrow should approach 200 innings (and 200+ Ks) this season and eclipse the 11 wins he posted last season while keeping his ERA under 4.00. Not bad numbers when considering he’s going around pick 180 according to MockDraftCentral.com.
Jordan Zimmermann, P, WAS – It seems to me that Zimmermann gets lost in all the Stephen Strasburg hype and a lot more would be made of him if he were on another team. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery Zimmermann was able to post a 3.18 ERA with a 1.147 WHIP, numbers that seem to correlate. His FIP (3.16) and xFIP (3.78) both show that his stats were not a fluke and he should see a big increase in innings after being shut down at the end of August. It’s hard to imagine he won’t have double-digit wins and when he was first brought up in 2009 he averaged around a strikeout per inning (something he did in the minors as well). Zimmermann could very well pitch 190+ innings this season, especially if the Nats are in the playoff hunt, and is a good SP target in the mid-to-late rounds of most drafts with a current ADP of 120.
Rafael Betancourt, P, COL – The Rockies made a telling move by shipping Huston Street to San Diego and Matt Lindstrom to Baltimore, leaving Betancourt the newly anointed closer. What’s intriguing about Betancourt is the peripheral numbers he’s posted since coming to Colorado. In three seasons he’s had an ERA of 1.78 (a half season), 3.61 and 2.89. His WHIP has never been above 1.00 and he’s struck out over a batter per inning in each season. Right now he’s going off the board around 20th among relievers which to me is a huge mistake. Given his peripheral numbers and the opportunity to save 35-40 games, grab him if you miss out on the upper tier closers.
Players in deep leagues I’d take a flier on include: Bryan Petersen, Trevor Plouffe, Charlie Blackmon, Mike Aviles, Bryan LaHair, Alex Presley, John Mayberry, Nolan Reimold, Edinson Volquez, Mike Carp and Sean Rodriguez.