Mitch Moreland has always been an intriguing fantasy player as we all have wondered what a full and healthy season from him would look like. Ever since he became a full time fixture with the Rangers, it was clear that he had legitimate power and could be a threat for years to come.
Unfortunately, injuries have always been the case with Moreland and why even after his career best season in 2015, we still may be hesitant trusting him. Moreland had a great season in 2015 tying his career high in homers (23), setting career highs in RBI (85), AVG (.278), and OPS (.812).
He even played well enough to basically have Prince Fielder concede him the starting first base job as Fielder did not object to becoming the full time DH. Moreland finally seemed to put it all together and give us a glimpse of what he could do if he remained semi healthy for a full season.
He did miss time last year though battling ankle and elbow problems, so fantasy owners may have to expect that he will hit the DL at least once a season. The key will be if he can improve on playing more than 140 games and creep closer to playing closer to the 150 game mark, where he could flirt with finally hitting 30 homers.
Moreland’s AVG is probably the hardest thing to predict since it has fluctuated nearly every season. The only other time he has hit above .270 was in 2012. His BABIP is both years he hit above .270, was .306 and .317 respectively. None of those are alarmingly high, and when he has posted averages below .260 like for the rest of his career, his BABIPs were below .300 in those seasons as well.
Point being that owners should not expect a near .280 hitter next season, but know that he should have a respectable AVG as long as he can just have a league average luck on balls put in play. OPS wise, Moreland’s value is solely going to be predicated on if he can post solid extra base hit numbers since his walk rate is not anything to write home about.
This is where owners can find some optimism in drafting Moreland next season. If we remove his 2014 season where he only played in 52 games, Moreland has seen his LD% rise in 2013 and 2015. Last season it was 26%, which is right around the 30% rate, where the league’s best power hitters annually rank.
If we dive deeper into his batted ball data we can also see that with his LD% increased thanks to his MED% (balls in play hit at medium speed) coming in at 50%, which leads us to see how he was able to post a career high in doubles last season.
Now as we know, the more doubles you hit the more likely some of those turn into more homers, especially when playing with the jet stream in left field at Arlington. Now whenever a player posts a career best season, I like to look for any outlier stat that may lead me to believe why they improved or may indicate why they may regress.
The only state that Moreland had that stood out was that his Pull% jumped nearly 7% from 2013 and was the highest rate of his career.
This can be looked at as either a positive or a negative. On one hand you may look at a positive, since eight of his homers were off of him turning on fastballs last season. Negatively speaking, it may be an indicator that he has become pull-centric and may be losing his balanced approached to hitting to all fields.
For me, I look at it more in the more optimistic point of view thanks in large part to the fact that if we look at his home run chart last season, 11 out of his 23 home runs went to center or left field. So while he may be pulling balls at a higher level, it looks as though his power still plays to all fields.
Moreland’s fantasy value will come down to if owners are willing to gamble that he will only miss an abbreviated amount of time next season. The talent is there and all signs point to that he should be able to post similar numbers next season. The Rangers have a pretty stacked lineup in front of him as well, so the counting stats should be there and he could be a sneaky bet to reach 100 RBI.
While that is certainly his ceiling, I think owners can feel comfortable targeting him in the mid rounds as a solid power CI or UTIL option. He should not be trusted to be your starting 1B, but his upside is still tantalizing enough to make him a target.
2016 Early Projections: .265 AVG/25 HR/90 RBI/.800 OPS/55 R