Jayson is Werth a Look

Jayson Werth is expected to return to the Nationals as early as Tuesday of next week, which is certainly good news for those who held onto Werth throughout his long stint on the disabled list. Werth netted just 113 plate appearances before breaking his wrist, but he was actually looking quite promising in his second season in Washington. With his expected return, he seems like a good buy opportunity before he rejoins his team.

Werth had a big down year last year, but still netted 20 homers and 19 steals, something any fantasy owner would be happy with. His average was atrocious and his run production was abysmal compared to seasons past, but he maintained a steady walk rate and was still able to hit enough homers even with a general drop in power numbers. His .276/.372/.439 line from earlier this year is not quite as nice as his previous seasons in Philadelphia, but it’s still a serviceable line from a player who can combine both power and speed.

As he is owned in just 51% of Yahoo! leagues, there is a decent chance he is available on the waiver wire. There may not be a better waiver wire pick up than Werth for the remainder of the year, so grabbing him and storing him on your roster before he returns from the disabled list is definitely recommended, even if you are down on him as most are. The seasons of 30+ homers and close to 100 RBI and runs are in the past, but that does not mean that Werth is an ineffective fantasy player.

I would compare Werth to Dexter Fowler or Austin Jackson at this point, all three of which I recently owned in a dynasty league. Werth’s expected return combined with an abundance of outfield options made trading one of Fowler and Jackson a good option, as I would be able to sell relatively high on one of those two and insert Werth into the lineup next week or at worst the week after. I ended up trading Jackson in a package, and while I am higher on Jackson than most, I expect Werth to produce similar numbers over the remainder of the year. For reference, ZiPS has Jackson with a .276/.346/.412 line with four homers and nine steals for the rest of the year, while it has Werth at .247/.342/.407 with six homers and five steals. I expect Werth to run a bit more than that, but those numbers are comparable either way, especially in an on base league.

What was nice to see about Werth’s early season performance was his drop in strikeouts. It will likely increase, but it seems that Werth made it a point in the offseason to command the zone better than he did in his first season in Washington, when he posted his worst BB/K ratio since 2005. I expect the strikeouts to tick above 20% for the rest of the year, but his approach did seem to be improved and he should see more run scoring opportunities with a healthy Nationals lineup around him compared to last year’s less than stellar group.

The key with Werth is valuing him for what he is worth today rather than what he previously was. The sour taste most have in their mouths when speaking of Werth revolves around his ugly contract and big drop in production in his first year with the Nationals, so taking advantage of poor owner sentiment is possible. If you need a boost in your outfield, take a flier on Werth before he returns from the disabled list and be happy that you acquired a player who can provide decent power and speed down the stretch run.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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That was my exact reaction to the headline, except with about six times as many o’s.