Jayson Werth is one productive player, and he’s often being overlooked in fantasy baseball in 2013. Should you join the heard and ignore him, or should you buck that trend and target the Nationals’ outfielder in your fantasy baseball draft?
In 2008 Werth, while a member of the Phillies, went 20/20.
In 2009 he was one RBI and two runs away from a 30-100-100-20 season.
In 2010 he hit .296 with 106 runs scored.
In 2011 he saw his average dip to .232 though he was one steal from yet another 20/20 season.
Last year Werth was limited to just 81 games. But were you aware that he hit a career best .300 last season? Did you know that his OBP was .387, .025 points better than his career mark? Did you know that his OPS was .827, just slightly ahead of his career .824 mark? Despite all of that information Werth is currently being drafted just inside the top-50 at the outfield position. That must mean he is a potentially valuable add on draft day, right?
It’s a surprise to many that the following statements are true about Werth’s 2012 season (remember he was limited to just 81 games played so his overall numbers are a bit skewed).
If Werth maintained his pace through 81 games last year over the course of a 162 game season he would have hit .300 with 84 runs scored and 16 steals. That’s a pretty good season, isn’t it?
How is a guy like that being drafted to late?
The most obvious thing to point to is that Werth missed half of the games last season. On the plus side he had appeared in at least 150 games each season from 2009-11 so recent history would seem to suggest that he has a good chance of rebounding in 2013.
Perhaps people look at the eight steals and aren’t impresses. As I noted though, he was on pace for 16 steals over the course of a full season. From 2009-11 he averaged 18 steals a season.
Perhaps people aren’t buying the .300 average. It was a career best, and he does own a .267 career mark. Why was his average elevated last season? His GB/FB ratio was 1.08, just slightly above his career 0.95 career mark. His 12.2 percent walk rate was just above his 12.1 percent career mark. His 18.9 percent line drive rate was a three year high but still below his career rate of 20.4 percent. Nothing going on there explains why his average went up. Two key points that I’ve yet to mention. After posting a career K-rate of 24.0 percent, Werth cut that number down to 16.6 percent last season. That’s damn impressive. Since that mark had never been below 22.5 percent since 2003 it makes you wonder if he can hold on to that again (the odds say he won’t). If he can it would go a long way to supporting his strong batting average. The other factor to look at is that .356 BABIP. That’s a really big number, but perhaps his give back in that column won’t be as pronounced in 2013 as some might think. (1) He owns a career mark of .327. (2) He had a .352 mark in 2010 an a .389 mark in 2007 showing that he can produce at that level for the course of a season.
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The other issue that has many nervous is his lack of pop last year, and I get why people are nervous there. From 2008-11 Werth never hit fewer than 20 big flies and averaged 27 homers a seasons. Last year he hit five, a pace that would equal 10 homers. Part of the reason that his power dissipated was the injury to his wrist that landed him on the 60 day DL. I say it all the time – hand/wrist injuries can sap a players power, especially right after they return. However, there is more to it than that. He simply didn’t perform up to normal standards. Remember earlier when I noted that his GB/FB ratio was a bit higher than normal at 1.08? That still isn’t a huge number, the league average was about 1.20 last season, so it’s not like he was hitting a ton of ground balls. However, his fly ball rate was 38.9 percent. That was the first time in four years he had failed to post a mark of 40 percent (his career mark is 40.8 percent). That’s a rather minor thing though an certainly doesn’t speak to a 50 percent drop off in homers. The reason that happened is that his HR/F fell to 5.3 percent. Not only is that about half the big league average, it’s a massive drop off for a guy who owns a 14.4 percent career mark, and one who had posted a mark of at least 12.3 percent each of the previous five seasons. As long as his wrist is healthy, he should see his homer total go back up.
So what to do with Werth? The National announced that they were moving Bryce Harper’s spot in the batting order. Harper will hit third behind Denard Span and Mr. Werth. That’s a great spot for Werth as he will see a lot of fastballs so that Span will have a harder time stealing and so that the game’s greatest phenom isn’t always coming to bat with players on base. With health there is a very reasonable expectation that Werth will provide numbers like he always has, and that means a .270-20-65-85-15 type of season is very well within the realm of possibility for a guy who it looks like you may be able to tab as your 4th or 5th outfielder. I like the sound of that a lot and so should you.
* Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the 2013 BaseballGuys Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is now available. Nearly 150 pages of insight to help you dominate the competition in 2013.
By Ray Flowers