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December 8, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Outfield

by Rob McQuown

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Before Jayson Werth's big 2010 7-WARP season, his next seven seasons projected to 21.3 WARP and $100 million in MORP.  With the big season, it seems reasonable that his next seven will project just as well, despite the added age deterioration.  And the biggest factor determining whether Washington gets 80% value on their investment or not is the same factor which is of paramount concern to fantasy owners with regard to Werth, as well: playing time. With 1328 plate appearances the past two seasons, it's easy to forget that he's been on the 15-day DL six times and on the 60-day DL once.

Well, that's one fantasy worry, then there's the matter of leaving Citizen's Bank Park, which inflated righty homers by about 20%, compared to Washington's neutrality for right-handed homers. His hip is fine, but it's unlikely he'll rebound to his 20-SB levels, though there's every reason to expect something akin to his 13 steals from 2010 again. All-in-all, the Phillies outscored the Nats 4.77 to 4.04 (runs per game) in 2010. Washington's offense should improve slightly, but their best on-base guy from 2010 will be in Chicago, so Werth may have difficulty finding ponds with ducks. Other than the steals, expect an across-the-board decline from 2010, as his .352 BABIP is unlikely to occur again.

Can an old Puma learn new tricks? In one of the strangest free agent signings of recent memory, the Cardinals added Lance Berkman to Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay in their outfield. It's odd because St. Louis was 26-28 against left-handed starters in 2010, hitting just .258/.326/.393 against lefty pitching as a team. Meanwhile, the switch-hitting Berkman has famously failed to hit lefties, going just .260/.364/.412 vsL, compared to his massive .307/.423/.588 line against right-handed pitching in his career. Berkman was last primarily an outfielder in 2004, but surprisingly stole 18 bases in 2008, so he may adapt. Busch Stadium will curtail his power, compared to Minute Maid Park, and his career was already trending downward, but he racked up almost 10 WARP in 2008, so he should be a bargain for the Cardinals at $8 million. Fantasy owners could worry about bench time, with LaRussa's tendency to play platoons, but his awful stats as a Yankee should suppress his price at auction, making him a value even with missing time.

Thin Gwynn” (Tony Gwynn, Jr.) moves north within SoCal, with rumors that he was already covering all that territory with his great fielding range being only slight exaggerations. Matt Kemp may have a Gold Glove Award on his mantel, but his uninspired play in 2010 lowered his already low range down to awful levels, and his strong arm didn't result in as many assists as in 2009. Unless he recovers, Gwynn bumping Kemp to a side field should improve the Dodgers defense substantially, as Gwynn is something like 10 runs better than an average centerfielder defensively, and Kemp should be above average in a side field. At present, Jay Gibbons is the biggest obstacle to Gwynn's playing time, and Gibbons has hit .259/.319/.464 against right-handed pitching in his career. Gibbons will be 34 in 2011, and as long as Gwynn hits at his mediocre career levels (.250 TAv). The payoff for Gwynn's fantasy owners is the potential for 20 or more steals, though the cost in other categories will be too high to risk in mixed leagues, even if everything breaks right for him.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
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Inside The Park: Cardi... (12/08)

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