With our NL Outfielder rankings published today I thought I’d take a look at three speedsters who are in three distinctly different tiers.
Let’s start from the top and take a look at Shane Victorino. The Flyin Hawaiian’s 2010 campaign was a mixed bag. Yes his home runs, RBI, and stolen bases were improved over 2009, but his batting average, on base percentage, hits, and runs were way down. The increase in power and decrease average and OBP look to be caused by the spike in Victorino’s fly ball rate. In 2009 it was 33.2 percent while in 2010 it jumped to 37.6 percent. That lead to a dip in his line drive percentage – from 21.7 percent in 2009 to 17.4 percent last year. The more fly balls Victorino hits the more outs he’s going to generate. He’s not a power hitter, so while the increase in home runs is nice, his value lies in his ability to hit for average, score runs, and steal bases. His BABIP was also low last season (.273), but that too be tied to the increase of fly balls hit. The loss of Jayson Werth and Chase Utley‘s injury concerns may have a negative impact on Victorino’s run totals – it’s going to be harder for him to get back to scoring 100 runs a season. If Victorino can get back to slapping the ball around the field instead of popping it up for outs, he has a good chance of regaining fantasy value in the categories you rely on him most.
Next on our list are two players similar enough that I’m going to lump them together for the sake of this post, even though their skill sets are just different enough to separate them in our tiers. Michael Bourn and Nyjer Morgan derive their fantasy value entirely from their speed. If they didn’t steal 30+ bases a year there’s no way in the world they’d be owned in any league, ever. It just so happens that Bourn has stolen 61 and 52 bases over the past two seasons, making him an extremely valuable asset. He’s one of the few players who can win you an entire category for you in any given week. A strikeout rate under 20 percent would be a welcomed addition to Bourn’s game as it would get him on base to steal more, but that’s not likely to happen. As long as he keeps his ground ball rate in the high 50 percent range he’ll be able to use his speed to his advantage, keeping his average in a respectable range (career .263) in the process.
Nyjer Morgan is in a tier below Bourn because his stolen base totals aren’t quite as high and his behavioral issues are a concern. People may look at his .253 average last season and not think Morgan is worth much as a draft pick. A closer look reveals he was actually pretty unlucky last season, even though his BABIP was a respectable .304. It was no lower than .355 in his three seasons prior. Unlike Victorino, his batted ball rates were pretty much in line with his career norms so there isn’t a noticeable reason for the decline in BABIP. Fantasy owners can expect a regression upward, back to roughly .300 batting average this season. A .290-.300 hitter with 30+ steals isn’t easy to find. If Morgan can keep himself out of trouble he can be an asset in NL-only and deep mixed leagues.
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