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Can Markakis Make The Jump to 30-HR Guy?

Usually when a player adds 50 points of OPS to his ledger he sees an increase in his fantasy value. But Nick Markakis saw his OPS go from .847 to .897 and lost nearly $4.00 in production in 2008 according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. Markakis saw the reduction due to a 25-point drop in RBIs and a net loss of eight steals. Still, his 136 OPS+ ranks 19th among all players in their age-24 season since 1990 and marks a player that still has room for growth.

Most of Markakis’ OPS jump came thanks to an increase of 38 walks. His BB% surged to 14.3 percent, the 13th-best mark in the majors. None of his other peripherals changed a significant amount, although his FB% dropped from 37.4 percent to 32.9 percent.

Given his track record over his first three seasons in the majors, Markakis is a decent bet to post a .300 average with 100 runs and RBIs. The question is what he can give owners in HRs and SBs. His 18 stolen bases in 2007 was a professional best for Markakis and since he was successful on just 10 of 17 attempts last year it is unlikely he will be a threat to steal 20 bags in 2009.

His age-based comps at baseball-reference.com show a mixed bag, with four of the 10 players eventually having at least one 30-homer season in their career. But it’s a depressing list for a player with broad-based skills like Markakis, with early flameouts like Ben Grieve, Ellis Valentine and Steve Kemp on the list.

In 2008, 28 players hit 30 or more home runs and only two had a FB% like Markakis of less than 35 percent – Josh Hamilton and Carlos Delgado. Hamilton had a HR/FB rate of 19.2 percent while Delgado had a 23.3 percent mark in the category. Markakis had a 12.6 percent rate. If he is going to take the next step and become a 30-homer guy, Markakis will have to hit more flyballs and/or hit a greater percentage out of the park. It seems a tall order given his track record in those categories.