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Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleeper? Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau

(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)

00112696 Justin MorneauJustin Morneau could be good. Sigh, what’s there to say about a former MVP who is still only 31 and just two years removed from a half-season where he batted .345 with 18 HR and 56 RBI? Is he another Jason Bay-- i.e., someone whose talent seemingly vanishes at the age of 30? No doubt, he played with a nasty concussion that essentially ruined his 2011 season. Now he says he’s healthy, but who really knows? You’ve got to also consider that the Twins are definitely in a rebuilding phase, and outside of Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham, the rest of the lineup is league-average (at best).

Looking at Morneau’s 2012 performance, let’s focus on some positives (minor though they be): He played in 134 games, and had 570 plate appearances, which may not seem like an accomplishment in and of itself. But following two seasons during which he played in a grand total of 150 games, just avoiding the DL last year is a big win for Morneau. His line-drive rate of 21.8% was not too far below his 2006 MVP season mark of 23.5%. Morneau also CRUSHED right handed pitching, but stunk it up against lefties. If this trend continues it means he won't by much more than a very good platoon guy in your U / CI slot. Overall though, considering that 2012 was his first full season since 2009, RotoBaller sees some silver lining around this cloud. Morneau showed that he still has some skills left.

First base is a deep position with lots of sluggers, and you generally want to slot in a guy who is more of a power lock. Morneau is probably not that guy this year, but he's shown in the past that he can be that guy and certainly isn't too old to write off yet. The big wild card in 2013, though, is that he is entering his contract year-- and now, the completely subjective arises: Morneau is wrapping up a six-year, $80 million contract and I’m willing to bet he wants another big payday. He probably won't get anywhere close to that kind of money, but he could land himself a decent deal if he can stay healthy and regain 75-80% of his MVP form. It’s also very possible that he gets traded to a contender, gets inserted into a kick-ass lineup, and starts raking. He’d be a good replacement over a Brandon Belt on the SF Giants. Or maybe if Adam Lind continues his descent into oblivion, I can envision the Blue Jays upgrading to Morneau, as well. Sometimes a change of scenery and some lineup protection can help kick-start a player's production and bring him back closer to his glory days.

Net Net:

RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 8.0
(scores are from 1 – 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)

RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .271/27/88/72/0

RotoBaller’s Target Draft Rounds: 8-10

Justin Morneau is an enigma. You are looking at a 15th-round type player, who has had some monster seasons in the past, and may finally be fully healthy and recovered. Morneau will most likely put up 20 HRs and 80 RBIs in a full season, with upside approaching 25+ HRs and 90+ RBIs if he can recover his skills against left-handed pitching. Hopefully he'll have have a little extra motivation in his contract year. Since he's not a huge gamble on draft day, he has the potential to crush his ADP and reap some fantasy rewards. It wouldn't be the worst idea to take a late round flier, keep the fingers crossed, and hope that he can rediscover some of that lost magic and start resembling "the old" Morneau once again.

Update 3/6/13
With Mark Teixeira sidelined with a wrist injury for 8-10 weeks, the Yanks will be in the trade market for a 1B. Morneau is a FA at the end of the year and with a big contract and the Twins going nowhere, the Yanks could be a potential landing spot. If Morneau is traded to the Yankees, this will be a big upgrade for his fantasy value. In 48 AB's at the New Yankee Stadium, Morneau has a .458 avg with 7hr's, 10 RBI's and 13 runs.

Be sure to check out RotoBaller's fantasy baseball First Base rankings, and also all of RotoBaller's 2013 fantasy baseball rankings.