Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em: Marlon Byrd

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Marlon Byrd.  It’s a name we’ve all heard over the past couple of years.  The question always hanging over him for fantasy owners was if this would be the year he finally lived up to his potential. 

In 2001 at Double A, he hit .316 with 28 HR and 32 SB, leading to a frenzy for owners.  People drooled at the potential of the next great 30/30 player.  His numbers did fall off a bit the following season, when he was moved up to Triple A, but they were still good enough for owners.  He hit .297 with 15 HR and 15 SB, so while the 30/30 dreams faded a bit, owners still believed they had a solid 20/20 player on their hands for many years to come.

Of course, that is the furthest thing from what actually happened.  He’s seen time in the major leagues every year since 2002, and his career high in HR is 10, set last season.  His career high in SB is 11, which he had way back in 2003.

He’s played for the Phillies, Nationals and Rangers, continually cast off as a bust.  Let’s be honest, given the amount of talent that the Nationals have, if you can’t stick there, how much hope do you really have at making a major impact in the game?

The Rangers, obviously, still saw the potential.  He got a free agent contract from them prior to the 2007 season, and eventually was recalled from the minor leagues.  He got 414 AB last season, hitting 10 HR and 70 RBI to go along with a .307 average, so all that was missing was the speed he once showed (he stole 5 bases). 

Do numbers like that make him a must own fantasy player?  Far from it, but the rebound allowed him to stick around with the Rangers for 2008, though there were still questions about him this season.

He had 175 AB prior to the All-Star Break, hitting a woeful .246 with 4 HR and 15 RBI.  It was just more of the same for Byrd’s career, so much potential, yet nothing in the way of results.

Since the Break, things have changed dramatically, however.  It’s like the talent has finally broken through, as he is hitting .410 in 83 AB.  He’s already matched his HR total from the first half with 4, while driving in 19 runs.  He’s been particularly hot over the past week (through Tuesday), where he had been hitting .615 with 1 HR and 7 RBI.

Those are simply ridiculous numbers, and it certainly makes him relevant in leagues that require 5 OF’ers, especially while he’s hitting like this.  The real question is, could he finally have put things together?

He plays in one of the deepest line-ups in all of baseball, and that certainly is something to consider.  Could you imagine how scary the Rangers would be if he had indeed turned the corner?

Fortunately, it’s not a thought worth considering.  Byrd is so far removed from the player who lit up Double A pitching back in 2001.  I know you hear stories all the time about players who finally gets things going later then most, so technically it is a possibility.

Still, at 30-years old (he turns 31 at the end of August), I’m just not buying it off these couple of hot weeks.  If you are someone who is missing Ryan Braun for a few days, or recently lost Carlos Lee or Carl Crawford and need a player for a few days as a stopgap, until you move on, then I have no problem grabbing him and hoping he can continue to hit.

If you think you are going to grab him and expect to have him in your line-up the rest of the way, then I think you are overestimating what he may give you, especially in smaller formats.  Like I said earlier, I can see him having some value the rest of the way for owners in formats that require 5 OF’ers, but past that, at this point I’d just look at him as nothing more then a short-termer.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and he keeps hitting, but that’s not a bet I’m willing to make.  Look for things to go back to normal, sooner or later.  It’s just too long of a track record for me to believe the past 3 weeks is anything close to reality.

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