By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise & Regression Alert: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson was a revelation in an otherwise poor season for the Astros; Houston scored the third-fewest runs in baseball in 2010. His .308/.337/.481 rookie batting line is in the books, but can he make a repeat performance in 2011? It’s not likely. His minor league isolated power (ISO) was only about average (.152, major league average is .150), so the power he showed last year (.173 ISO) was a little high – not impossible to replicate, but don’t bet on it either. The bigger issues: Johnson’s plate discipline (4.2% career BB%, 26.7% career K%) and elevated 2010 batting average on balls in play (.387 BABIP last year, a number that trends towards .300 across baseball), point to a big potential drop in batting average next year.
Biggest Bust: Lance Berkman
Tommy Manzanella was terrible, but he was mostly known for his defense anyway. Carlos Lee also had a poor season, but turned it on late to get to 24 home runs and some respectability – at least from a fantasy perspective. Michael Bourn didn’t have a great batting average, but still stole 52 bases. That leaves Lance Berkman. He was injured much of the season, and didn’t crack 500 plate appearances for the first time since his sophomore season in 2000. His knee condition may be degenerative, and he’s seen a three-year decline in slugging and on-base percentages now. He’s best left for the deepest of leagues until he shows life again.
2011 Keeper Alert: Brett Wallace
Hunter Pence is the only no-doubt keeper on this offense, but Brett Wallace is the only interesting player who has yet to establish himself in the major leagues. Coming off his minor league record, in which he put up a .304/.375/.487 batting line, more was expected of him than his rookie-year stats (.222/.296/.319). Then again, many of his better power years in the minor leagues came in high-run environments, so his power might be suspect. In his 159-plate appearance major league debut, he didn’t show the ability to take a walk (5%), struck out too much (34.7%) and didn’t show any power. He’s a deep-league sleeper and an NL-only dynasty keeper at most, but he’s also a name worth remembering, if only for potential help in the batting average category if and when he gets going.