The focus of today’s Roto Riteup will be on just one player, Marlon Byrd, and the recent trade rumors surrounding him to Atlanta or possibly Washington.
Injuries and player development are the two biggest “ifs” in both baseball and fantasy baseball alike. Will a player finally make the leap from prospect to player? From projection to production? Who will stay healthy for 550 plate appearances? It is impossible to accurately predict these things all the time, but due to recent development and injury news, some teams are left scrambling to fill out their rosters.
News surfaced earlier today from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that the Braves might be interested in Xavier Nady. There are some that discount that rumor due to the belief that Nady may just make the 25 man roster for the Nationals out of spring training. I don’t see Byrd as a good fit in Washington. Not with Bryce Harper waiting in the wings, potentially as little as weeks away from the call up.
With the recent (though unsurprising) injury to Chipper Jones, Martin Prado will shift from left field to third base. According to Bowman, this will mean a platoon of Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske in LF to start the year. Put together Diaz and Hinske have only topped 300 PA twice since 2009. It would seem as though both would be best suited for a pinch hitting or part time role. The most recent report seems to opine that the Braves are still looking for a right-handed third basemen or outfielder. If Byrd gets moved to Atlanta, I expect him to be named the full time LF until Chipper is healthy enough to move Prado off of 3rd. Knowing Chipper’s fragility, Byrd may be playing lots of games.
Despite it’s hitter friendly reputation, Byrd apparently missed that memo. In his two seasons as a Cub, Byrd has a wRC+ of 89 at Wrigley and a 111 wRC+ on the road. With his bat and his glove, Byrd has been a steady WAR producer throughout his career. Even after getting hit in the face by a pitch in May of last year, he still came back and recorded 482 PA. Byrd has hit very well as recently as his 2010 triple slash of .293/.346/.429 would attest. With the hit by pitch and the subsequent recovery time, Byrd had a down 2011. His line of .276/.324/.395 suggests that perhaps the 34 year old is done. As noted before, his month by month decline paints a tale of a combination of Byrd wearing down and poor BABIP variation.
Could there be nothing left in the tank? Byrd doesn’t think so and neither do I. Now I realize that it is a running joke every spring training to say that someone is in the “best shape of their life” but Byrd truly did show up to camp in fantastic shape. His new physique is thanks to an aggressive work out plan as well as a strict diet. Byrd has apparently dropped 40 pounds, going down from 255 pounds to 215.
Given his new diet and the fact that four out of the past five years he has posted a wOBA north of .340, I think I’ll be picking up Byrd no matter if he gets traded or stays. I’m expecting a strong bounce-back season from him. Regardless of his home team, I will be playing Byrd this season. After his poor 2011 season and a lackluster spring training, he is currently owned in only 3% of Yahoo! leagues. He is a starting center fielder with a solid track record with the bat. Pick him up.