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Fantasy Baseball: Man on Fire – Mitch Moreland

It’s been a long week here at BretskyBall HQ, where real life has gotten in the way of fantasy for just a minute… but that’s all in the past now so let’s get back to what truly matter in this life: Fantasy Sports! We touched on Mitch Moreland in last week’s Waiver Wire Friday  and we can’t help but think that some of our love has helped raise Moreland’s ownership rate up from a measly 9% last week to a still under-appreciated 26% which he sits at as of Wednesday morning. Oh, I suppose the 7-for-20 performance with three home runs in five games since that writing may have a little something to do with the increased attention as well, but where would we be if we didn’t credit ourselves for someone else’s performance?

There are several things to like about Mitch’s early season surge that has him as a top-10 offensive commodity over the last 15 days on ESPN’s player rater and the .296/.347/.578 season slash to go along with nine taters. His run production–17 runs scored and 18 RBI–is actually a bit low for a guy with nine home runs, but we expect that to improve so long as he keeps hitting. Moreland’s strikeout rate is down slightly fro last season and he’s finally getting everyday at-bats to prove what he can do.

That said, we have question whether Moreland can sustain this level of success. His walk rate is actually down from where it was back in 2011, but he’s still shown solid pop over the past three seasons. Since 2010, Moreland has smacked 49 home runs in 1,071 at-bats, for a solid 22.2 AB/HR rate. He doesn’t run, however, so the he’ll need to keep the power pace up to sustain solid fantasy value.

Texas is certainly a nice place to play for an offensive talent, but in the end, platoon issues are what is going to cap Moreland’s value in standard leagues. For his career, Mitch has handled right-handed pitching to the tune of  a.275/.337/.486 slash line, but really struggles versus lefties, batting just .244/.304/.359. Further, 44 of his 49 career home runs have come off of right-handed pitching, albeit in a ton more at-bats. Moreland has shown some improvement against left-handers this year,  batting .281 against them so far, but he has just one home run in 57 at-bats versus southpaws and his OPS falls off of a cliff when a lefty is on the hill (.789 OPS vs. LHP/1.024 OPS vs. RHP).

All told, Moreland is worth a pickup while he is running hot and is making a case to be owned in the majority of  standard mixed leagues. Still, his struggles against lefties leave us wondering whether he will ever be more than a Garret Jones-type bat, a guy you will want to run out there in a favorable matchup, but will ultimately leave you wanting more when given a full-time role. Smart fantasy owners with a deeper bench who can take advantage of daily roster moves will  be happy to shuffle Moreland in and out of their lineup when he’s set to face a right-handed starter, but those who will be locked into the Ranger’s first baseman seven days a week should sell high before his numbers take a turn south. Any player hitting this well is worth an add, but there is little reason to think that Moreland has improved enough against lefties to have a true breakout.

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