Let’s take a look at a couple National League outfielders that might be interesting for teams of different depths.
Michael Morse (20% owned in Yahoo, 2.8% owned in ESPN)
Maybe ESPN has fewer five-outfield leagues. Maybe Yahoo has more NL-only leagues. ESPN’s projections aren’t fabulous – a .341 OBP with 15 home runs – but you’d think that would be owned in more than 2.8% of all leagues. Let’s not get too up in arms about this, though, because Morse is making it tough for us to love him. Yes, he’s playing at first base with Adam LaRoche feeling his sore shoulder, but its unlikely he’s going to be worth much more as a corner infielder than a fifth outfielder. The thing that is most concerning about his early-season work is his strikeout rate. So far he’s struck out in a third of his at-bats after putting up a 23.9% percentage over his career. It’s in a small sample size, but given that Morse struck out in 30.1% of his 55 PAs in 2009 and 24.1% of his 293 PAs last year, and that makes up about half of his 717 career major league PAs, we shouldn’t be sure that we know his true-talent-level strikeout rate just yet.
All of the projections suggested that Morse would improve his strikeout rate this year and put up a .275 batting average partially as a result (once his .330 BABIP normalized). We have to wait another 100 or so plate appearances before we can say a ton about Morse’s strikeout rate, but if it’s closer to 30% than 20% once he hits that threshold, don’t expect a strong batting average this year. Given that his career ISO is .158 and he’s only put up a .200+ ISO the last two years, he’s a very risky piece to count on as a starter.
Allen Craig (1% owned in Yahoo, 0.2% in ESPN)
This might seem like a poorly-timed update on Craig, but stick with us. Sure, Matt Holliday is back now, so there’s a little less playing time in the cards (badumching) for Craig right now. The thing is, though, Tony LaRussa had some kind words for Craig. At least, they were kind considering the source:
“Getting him in there is not easy,” La Russa said. “But I’m going to try. … I think he’s a legitimate force.”
The reason it’s hard to get him in there is his glove. He was moved off of third base in the minor leagues because of his butchery at the hot corner, and UZR/150 has him as a negative in the outfield (-3.2 allbeit in only 259 OF innings). The reason he might be a legitimate force is that he takes walks (7.8% career but 10.3% so far this year), doesn’t strike out a ton (22.1% career, 19.2% this year), and has some power (.143 ISO career, .067 this year, .210 in the minor leagues). He also hit above .300 every year but his first in the minor leagues. Given the fact that Craig is a right-hander and Lance Berkman has a platoon split (.421 wOBA versus righties, .338 versus lefties), he can at least get PAs versus lefties in the outfield. Berkman’s health and ‘new’ position also might provide some opportunities for Craig. David Freese is playing well, but he has an injury history of his own and Craig might get some time there to keep him fresh. A team full of groundball pitchers probably doesn’t make for a great chance for Craig to break into the infield, but every PA counts. Craig works as a bench piece in the deeper leagues, and has the upside to be the primary injury replacement for the eventual Berkman injury.