by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Remember when you thought that 2016 could finally be the year when the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland exploded? With Prince Fielder being forced to retire the odds seemed that much better, but at the end of the day Moreland took a significant step backwards:
460 At Bats
.233 Batting Average (107 Hits)
22 Home Runs
1 Stolen Bases
.298 On Base Percentage
.422 Slugging Percentage
.266 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Obviously the average (he hit .278 in 2015) and run production were the biggest knocks. The question now is, if given the chance, can the 31-year old deliver a rebound 2017 campaign? Let’s take a look:
Moreland’ strikeouts were up last season (21.7% to 23.5%) and he certainly appeared to be a lot less disciplined at the plate. He was chasing more pitches out of the strike zone (34.1% O-Swing%) and that at least contributed to the rise in SwStr% (12.9%). He did see slightly more Offspeed pitches (13.16% to 15.99%), and that’s something he will have to get used to considering his 23.32% Whiff% on those pitches. Why would opposing pitchers want to throw him a fastball if they don’t have to?
Now consider that he hit .162 with a .284 SLG against change ups last season and the picture becomes even clearer. If he can’t adjust, the average isn’t going to rebound. Keep in mind that over the course of his career he has hit .270 against change ups and there is reason to believe in a turn around.
Adding to the hope was his 21.1% line drive rate (and 36.5% Hard%), yet a poor .266 BABIP. Granted there were a few too many popups (10.9%), but that doesn’t justify the poor number. There’s certainly reason to believe that he will improve, and with the chance that he adjusts and cuts back on the strikeouts a little bit the overall outlook is promising. Maybe he doesn’t push for .280 once again, but .260-.265ish certainly isn’t out of the question.
An improvement there will help his overall run production as well, allowing him to both drive in and score a few more runs. With nothing unbelievable in his 17.2% HR/FB (15.2% for his career), there’s suddenly a lot to like.
You also don’t necessarily have the threat of a platoon, as he actually hit .277 against southpaws last season (though that is a vast improvement from his career mark of .240). Even if he does sit agaisnt some tough lefties, he’d be on the favorable side of things.
There is some upside promise, the big question is going to be if someone will sign him with the intention of handing him a full-time role. Time will tell, but if he’s starting he has deep league corner infield appeal. There likely isn’t quite enough power or a good enough average to justify using him as your 1B, but he’d allow you not to reach and provide solid depth to your roster.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings: