Veteran “Sleeper”: Has Justin Morneau Returned To Fantasy Relevance?

This is going to be a new series of articles, as we breakdown some of the elder statesman around the league to try and determine if they hold fantasy appeal or are too big of a risk. While many fantasy owners want to focus on the next “up-and-coming superstar” (and the performance of Mike Trout certainly didn’t help stop that) when looking for a late round “sleeper”, the savvy owner is left with potentially productive options at a discount, mainly because of their age.

Lets kick things off with Justin Morneau…

With all the new shiny toys emerging among 1B it is easy for fantasy owners to completely disregard Morneau at this stage of his career. He will turn 32 in May and has been hampered by injuries in recent years. Most notably, he lost the bulk of 2011 due to concussions, leaving us to wonder just how well he would produce in 2012 (if he was even capable of playing).

The latter proved to be a non-issue as he appeared in 134 games (505 AB), his most since 2009. While he may not have been quite as impressive as the player we once knew, Morneau did hit .267 with 19 HR and 77 RBI. His average also improved in the second half, as he hit .289 (compared to .246 in the first half). Part of the reason was an improved BABIP (.319 vs. .268). Considering he hit the ball equally hard (22.4% vs. 21.2%), that’s something we have to take as real.

The other concern people will voice is his struggles against left-handed pitchers. First, realize it had never been as big of an issue before (.255 for his career is passable). Secondly, look at the line drive rates from a year ago:

  • RHP – 21.1%
  • LHP – 22.9%

Morneau actually hit the ball harder against left-handed pitching, which definitely is a sign of hope. That said, he hit for significantly less power (32.5% fly ball rate, 3.9% HR/FB) and struck out more (21.0%). In other words, it is impossible to argue that Morneau is going to be a star against southpaws, given his line drive rate and career mark, however, there is reason to think he will at least be passable.

We all know Morneau is not the same player he once was and he easily could start sitting against left-handed starters. That said, he proved that, when healthy, he still can be a force to be reckoned with. He is not a starting fantasy first baseman by any stretch of the imagination, but he could be used as a late round fill-in at a corner spot. Ideally he is the perfect player for your bench, because he has more than enough potential to get hot. In the later rounds, he is well worth the value.

What are your thoughts of Morneau?  Is he a player you would consider drafting?  Why or why not?

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Make sure to check out all of our 2013 projections:

2013 Rankings: Top 15 Relief Pitchers
Searching for Saves: Milwaukee Brewers: Can John Axford Do The Job In 2013?

2 comments

  1. Dave De Wit says:

    Love it! He’s definitely worth a late round pick. I have a bit of a bias being a Twins fan, but I definitely think a .280 AVG with 25 bombs is within reason if he can stay healthy.

  2. RollTideTaylor says:

    I’d love to be able to get him late in the draft.

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