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February 29, 2012 posted by Collin Hager

2012 Fantasy Baseball – Potential Outfield Busts

2012 Fantasy Baseball – Potential Outfield Busts
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Lance Berkman, Cardinals 1B/OF

Plenty of names are flying around this year in terms of players with upside and those that are likely to fall flat. The question always comes as to which ones to avoid.

Two major names are being drafted very close to one another and both should have the same red flag, although for different reasons:  Lance Berkman and Jayson Werth.

Werth had back-to-back 20-20 seasons in 2008 and 2009. In the latter season he pounded 34 home runs and seemed destined for some level of stardom. Not many players posed a threat to steal 30 bases and hit nearly 40 home runs while hitting about .275 in the process. Throw in 100 runs and 100 RBI in a potent Philadelphia lineup and fantasy owners were salivating.

Unfortunately, not all has gone to plan. Werth never duplicated the power he showed in 2009, with home run totals dropping in each subsequent year. The speed that had a shot to deliver 30 stolen bases has fallen short of 20 steals in each of the last two seasons. After nearly hitting .300 in 2010, Werth suffered a harsh reality in 2011 in hitting .236.

The facts do not necessarily make him a bust, but the expectations do. Werth’s .296 mark of 2010 was the aberration. While he is far better than a .236 hitter, he is still likely to produce in the .265 range and not much higher given history and a career BABIP just over .300. The Nationals continue to improve, but the outfielder is not going to threaten the 100 runs scored and he will need plenty of production in front of him to break 75 RBI.

At pick 97 and as the 28th outfielder being taken overall, Werth is being selected as a true starter in all formats. While a .265 average to go with 20 home runs, 15 steals, 65 runs and 70 RBI line works for many and shows decent production, not one category is outstanding and all of them hover around the positional average for outfielders. Nothing more, nothing less.

Make Werth earn the lofty projections and wait another round or two. It will make the numbers far more compelling.

Berkman benefitted from having Pujols in his lineup and a rejuvenation that must come from spending time near St. Louis barbecue. At 36, his ability to continue to hit .300 and have 30-home run seasons is coming to an end. His 31 home runs this past year were the most he has hit since 2007 and the RBI total was his best since 2008. Yet the dual eligibility is intriguing for many. Berkman will enter the season with the ability to play both first base and the outfield in most leagues. For those where he does not start with it he will gain it. His numbers at first base though put him just on the outside of the top-10.

It leaves owners having to ask a lot of questions. From a contact perspective, Berkman hit more line drives than at any point in his career and his HR/FB rate increased by 50 percent to 20 percent of his flyballs. He has not done that in the last five years. You can virtually guarantee a big regression in his HR/FB rate.

He also will be looked at to be the production force surrounding Matt Holliday. Carlos Beltran will need to be healthy around him, something that seems to be an anomaly more than a certainty.

For Berkman, a 100-RBI season needs to be taken off the board and owners need to expect his average to fall at least 20 points with a home run total closer to 20 than 30. Coming off the board near the 95th pick and as high as pick 60 seems to put the pressure on Berkman to replicate his 2011 performance, and that is a tough proposition at 36 years old.

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