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Hart, Berkman: Tier 4.2 NL OF Keepers

Let’s finish up the fourth tier since we managed to get past the two most polarizing players (Shane Victorino and Matt Holliday) without starting a land war in Asia. These are the last National League outfielders that you can keep and feel comfortable about it — and they have their own discomforting details. You might describe both parts of this fourth tier as the group you’d like to trade if you can get strong (younger) value back in your keeper leagues.

Tier One
Matt Kemp
Ryan Braun

Tier Two
Justin Upton
Carlos Gonzalez
Andrew McCutchen

Tier Three
Mike Stanton
Hunter Pence
Jay Bruce
Michael Bourn

Tier Four
Matt Holliday
Shane Victorino

Corey Hart
Corey Hart was worth almost $2 less than Carlos Beltran this past season. Corey Hart, who will turn 30 before the season next year, is five years younger than Carlos Beltran. Corey Hart missed 22 games (and 60 days when you include camp) due to an oblique strain. Corey Hart has never had major knee surgery like Carlos Beltran.

These facts are enough to wedge a tier in between the two players.

It’s true that Hart may not age well. His speed is slipping and his career stolen base success rate (66%) never suggested that he would continue to get the green light. His average-ish strikeout rate (19.8% career) doesn’t quite jive with his swinging strike rate (12.1% career, 8.5% is usually average). He seems like a three-true-outcome player in a three-true-outcome body if you ignore the speed — and maybe we should.

But it’s also true that, injury aside, this past year showed his best collection of peripherals. He saw his best walk rate (9.3%,, 7.1% career), his second-best ISO (.226, .210 career), his best line drive rate (20.6%, 18.4% career), and his best HR/FB rate (19.7%, 13.4% career). If he gets back to hitting more than 40% of his balls in the air, it really looks like growing power will make up for his waning speed.

And, yeah, he’s got those five years before he’s as old as Carlos Beltran.

Lance Berkman
Berkman is going to be 36 next year and 36-year-old corner outfielders / first baseman don’t age well. Berkman’s also had surgeries on both knees, so he doesn’t have that to separate him from Carlos Beltran either. Berkman was worth another $6 more than Beltran, so it’s the superlativeness of his season alone that pushes him onto this list. And yet, Beltran’s name should put a little fear into Berkman owners.

Berkman’s a career .296 hitter, but he’s hit worse than .278 in three of his last five seasons — and other than his debut season, he’d never hit for that bad of an average before. Berkman once stole 16 bases, but that was 2008 and he’s not headed back there after being caught six times against two successful steals last year. So if you’re buying Berkman in 2012, you’re looking for power. Here’s your relevant graph:

You can’t ignore that dip in 2010, even if he suddenly showed a career-low groundball rate in his late thirties. He hadn’t had a HR/FB rate as good as he did in 2011 since 2007. Use a simple projection system (weight his projections going into 2011 1.6 times compared to his actual 2011 stats), and you get .277/.392/.487 line for next year. That’s a boon in OBP leagues, but a .210 ISO would make a letdown for his owners. That line might only produce the easy-projected 22 home runs, too, making him a guy you own for RBIZ and hope that he stays healthy. Did I mention he’s going to be 36 next season?

Treat Berkman like his real-life team did. Go year-to-year.

All 2010 auction values come from Zach Sanders’ new and improved auction value tool.