Tagged: Justin Morneau

What To Watch In Spring Training

By Eriq Gardner //

This is an exciting time for baseball nuts. In just a few days, players will be arriving at spring training to begin preparing for a new season.
The arrivals will be greeted by a lot of cliches. Beat writers for newspapers need something to write about from spring training camps, and so we’ll begin to see headlines touting a player is in the “best shape of his life” with weight loss or muscle gains or off-season laser-eye surgery or a new off-season conditioning routines like yoga, ballet, or swimming. The evidence is little that any of these things will make much of a difference.
Nor do the actual spring training games matter very much either. There’s been some studies to suggest there’s some carryover effect on players who increase their slugging percentage by a significant amount in the early going, but for the most part, don’t expect to see breakouts or busts in the making.
That’s not to say, however, that spring training can’t influence the valuation on players. We’d classify three major categories as having an effect on where players go in fantasy baseball drafts.
(1) Injuries


Obviously, any player who gets injured during spring training necessitates caution. Injuries also open up the door for other players to get playing time (see below).
Then, there are the players who are coming off of injury who we’re all eager to see return to action. They need to prove something to us.
For example, Justin Morneau suffered a serious concussion in July that knocked him out of the season. Reportedly, he’s only just started to swing a batter. Worrisome quote from Twins GM Bill Smith on Morneau’s return: “We have pledged patience, and we only want him to go when he’s ready…If that’s March 1, April 1 or July 1, that’s what it will be.”
Seeing Morneau in action will go a long way towards soothing owners and would-be owners in fantasy leagues. He’s was in the midst of his finest season when he got hurt, which would make him a steal in the fourth or fifth round, but also makes him a huge risk too, if he’s going to miss significant time.
(2) Trades, Cuts, Signings

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For the most part, we won’t see many major roster shakeups over the next month. Most general managers had all off-season to contemplate their rosters. However, there’s always some situations to keep a watchful eye upon.
For example, will the Texas Rangers trade Michael Young? Reportedly, that’s what they were privately exploring, and when word leaked out, Young himself demanded a trade. Of course, that will only happen if the team finds a partner willing to pick up his big contract.
Where Young ends up will sharply influence his value. He’s coming off a nice season of 21 HRs, 99 Runs, and 91 RBIs, and still holds eligibility at 3B — which isn’t very deep this season. But Young’s ISO% at .160 is barely above Martin Prado‘s, meaning if Young leaves the cozy confines of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the 34-year-old could find his power totals dipping quickly. For now, Bloomberg Sports projects 17 HRs and will make an update if a trade happens.
(3) Playing Time

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This may be the most important aspect of spring training. Which young players are going to show enough to push themselves into regular starting spots? Which older players will struggle and find themselves on the bench?
One situation that bears watching, for example, is in Boston at the shortstop position. Marco Scutaro had a decent first season for the team in 2010 with a .275 batting average and 92 runs, but he’s 35 years old and offers almost no power and speed.
Meanwhile, Jed Lowrie was phenomenal in the latter part of last season when he came back from a wrist injury and mononucleosis and had to fill in at 2B for Dustin Pedroia, who was lost for the year with his own injury. In just 171 ABs, Lowrie had 9 HRs and a .287 batting average. Among players eligible at SS with at least 150 at bats, only Troy Tulowitzki had a higher OPS. Yes, Lowrie bested Hanley Ramirez there.
Shortstop talent is thin, so any news that Lowrie had unseated Scutaro would make a big impact in fantasy baseball drafts. 
For the most part, we won’t see many value shake-ups in the next month, but have an eye on the exceptions. Depending on the timing of a draft, there’s both profit and risk to being a bit ahead of the game.
For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

(Video) Ballpark Figures: Man vs. Machine – Corner Infielders

By Bloomberg Sports //

Man vs. Machine: Episode 2 — In a special from Bloomberg Sports’ Ballpark
Figures, Mets legend Keith Hernandez sits down with Bloomberg Television’s
Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw, to discuss the Fantasy
Bulls and Bears for the second half of the season. In the second episode, the
focus is on corner infielders.

Today’s Position: Corner Infielders 1B and 3B


The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:

Mark Teixeira has long distinguished himself as a slow starter, and he’s done
little to shed that label in 2010. Let’s take a graphical look at the
trajectory that his OPS has taken over the past few seasons:

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The pattern is clear; whether by chance or as a result of some inate
predisposition toward starting slowly, Teixeira has turned in his best work in
the second half over the course of his career. The Yankee has yet to surpass
that blue benchmark line by much in 2010, but history suggests that he’ll soon
be putting some distance between himself and the rest of the league.

At age 30, it’s possible that Teixeira’s best seasons might already be behind him, but very unlikely that the first baseman has simply fallen off a cliff. His walk rate and strikeout rate haven’t suffered during his slow first half,
and he’s been red-hot in July. Some of Teixeira’s struggles are attributable to
the fact that he’s been plagued by a low BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in
Play). Teixeira posted .301 and .316 BABIPs in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
His .248 figure from this season should continue to regress toward the mean as the
season progresses, bringing his other rate statistics up with it.

Our year-end projection isn’t fooled by Teixeira’s disappointing production
to date, foreseeing a .300/.393/.600 second half for the slugging first
baseman. Considering the .243/.352/.453 line next to his name as we near the
All-Star break, anything resembling that caliber of performance would qualify
as a resounding success.

The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:

“Well, I very seldom agree with the machine, but I have to agree this time. I’m going
to have to go with Mark Teixeira, and why, because A) he’s a switch hitter, and B)
his track record, he’s always been a slow starter. Now this is obviously a
real bad start for him, he’s had a bad first half, but normally his bad starts
are April. He’s carried over to June. I got to believe the three days off in
that all-star break and hitting left-handed more in Yankee Stadium (which is
conducive to left-hand hitters), [will help]. Even though he’s a switch-hitter, I think he’s going to have a terrific second half. He’s my man.”


The Machine says:

Justin Morneau has been one of the American League’s leading offensive
performers for several seasons, so the fact that he’s had a standout first half
is certainly no fluke. In every category except stolen bases (he has yet to
attempt one), Morneau has been quite a boon to his fantasy owners (not to
mention the Twins):

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Morneau won the AL MVP award in 2006 and finished second in the voting in 2008.
But his performance in 2010, pro-rated over a full-season, would blow away both
of those campaigns. To say that we’re bearish on him is simply to say that we
expect his performance to be merely great, rather than otherworldly, going

Has the slugging first baseman truly attained a new level of performance? He
does seem to have become more selective: his 3.90 Pitches per Plate Appearance seen this season easily trump his career rate of 3.64. As a result of working
deeper into counts, Morneau is both walking and striking out more often.
However, these changes don’t seem to be driving Morneau’s inflated performance.
The All-Star’s career BABIP rests at .295; but his seasonal BABIP stands at a
lofty .385. A leap of that magnitude is extremely unlikely to be the result of
an improvement in underlying skill level, so we can conclude with a fair degree
of confidence that Morneau has been benefiting from a hearty helping of good
luck, which we shouldn’t expect to continue.

Assuming Morneau’s concussion symptoms (from his collision with John McDonald‘s
knee) don’t linger, he should be a safe bet to provide fantasy owners with his
customarily valuable production for the balance of the season; our
projection pegs him for a .282/.366/.534 second half. If you can find an owner
willing to believe that Morneau’s stratospheric BABIP is sustainable, he might
be a suitable sell-high candidate, especially if you can get a true superstar for him. Otherwise, he’s still a fine hold.

The Man says:

I look at the Atlanta Braves, and I look at Troy Glaus. And why, because he’s
a man who’s always had injuries his whole career. It’s all about Troy staying
healthy; can he stay healthy this year? I think that he’s going to start to wear down, maybe get a couple of minor injuries that are going to slow him down, even though he’s been terrific in the first half and one of the reasons why the Braves are on top in the National League East. I don’t think he’s going to have the second half he had the first


The Machine says:

Evan Longoria has had a fine first half, and deserves to be placed near the top of any list of the league’s most valuable players. Even so, we think there’s
room for improvement in Longoria’s near future.

Overall, he’s had his most productive season at the plate, walking more often
and striking out less often than he did in either 2008 or 2009. He’s also had
some elevated success on balls in play, enjoying a .341 BABIP before the break
(compared to a .319 career rate). Those factors have culminated in a stellar .
299/.381/.513 line. But despite the luck on balls in play, Longoria’s slugging
percentage is his lowest yet seen in the majors. His Isolated Power (SLG minus AVG)
has fallen from .259 in 2008, to .245 in 2009, to only .214 this season.

Our projection foresees a rise to unprecedented heights in the
second half, calling for the third baseman to post a .294/.380/.575 performance
down the stretch for Tampa Bay. Longoria has launched 13 long balls
thus far in 2010; the Machine expects 20 more over the remainder of the

Longoria’s fantasy owners have enjoyed the return on their investments so far, but the slugger’s best in 2010 may be yet to come.

The Man says:

I am going to go with Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake. Why?
Because he is just one of those players that I like. It’s just a hunch, I think
he is going to be one of the guys, on a hunch, one of the key players in the
second half for the Dodgers.


The Machine says:

Adrian Beltre is enjoying his best season since his monster 2004, and his
fantasy owners are reaping the benefits:

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However, while the slick-fielding third baseman won’t disappear at the plate
for the rest of the season, his best offensive performance is likely behind him.

Beltre’s offensive talent was obscured by Safeco Field during his tenure in
Seattle. Fenway Park is a far better park for a hitter of his profile, so some
of Beltre’s improvement this season can be attributed to his environment–some,
but not all. Beltre’s walk and strikeout rates are hovering near their career
levels, and his Isolated Power is elevated, but not extraordinarily
so. Only one individual component of his production seems to be responsible for
the bulk of his uptick in overall productivity.

Beltre’s BABIP currently hovers at .372. His career rate is .293, and he’s
never finished a season with a rate higher than .325. Subtract his extremely
good fortune on balls in play, and his line would resemble a more typical
Beltre performance from the past few years. Beltre’s first-half performance happened, and no amount of
retroactive analysis can take it away. However, when forecasting future
performance, we shouldn’t expect a run of good luck to continue. Our projection does pegs a .273/.320/.463 line for
the rest of the way. If you’d be satisfied with that production from your third baseman, don’t hesitate to hang onto Beltre. If you can get a big haul in trade for him, though, do it.

The Man says:

Jose Bautista. I think that he had just a first half off the
charts. All the home runs he’s hit, I can’t imagine him matching the second
half. He’s been around a long time, he’s a veteran, he’s on the backside of his
career. He’s just had an awesome first half, I just can’t see him matching it.