If I had to pick a favourite band, I would probably pick Chicago’s alt-folk outfit, Wilco. I’m not as big a fan of their latest two albums, but the four-album-stretch that included Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost is Born finds a resting place on my turntable more often than any other band’s material. They’re consistently solid and their sound is never stagnant.
Late last night I sat listening to Summerteeth, trying to figure out what the hell I was going write about for this week’s fantasy piece when the song A Shot in the Arm came on. The last line of the song belts out in defiance “What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore” and I thought to myself, this is what I need to write about this week: players we thought we knew who are turning out to be something different altogether.
Was this just a half-assed ploy to mention Wilco in a baseball post? Maybe.
No, you’re stupid.
Nationals’ first baseman/outfielder Mike Morse, Giants’ righthander Ryan Vogelsong, and Pirates righthander Kevin Correia have all been very different players this season than they were coming into the year. Chances are, none of them were on your fantasy Doppler in March, but they probably are now. Are they worth picking up? Should you sell high on them before they turn back into pumpkins? Could they be nice pieces to pick up before the trade deadline? Let’s explore the numbers.
Morse was drafted a-way back in 2000 by the Chicago White Sox in the third round out of Nova High School in Davie, Florida. He was a big-bodied shortstop standing at 6’5” and weighing about 215 pounds. Scouts thought he would grow into his frame and eventually he’d have to move off of short, projecting long-term as a corner player.
In late June 2004, Morse was dealt to the Seattle Mariners in the deal that brought the Palehoes Freddy Garcia. He went on to spend almost exactly five years with the Mariners organization making it to the majors for a total of 107 games. He filled out to 230 pounds, struggled defensively wherever they put him and had mixed results at the plate. In June 2009, the Mariners dealt him to the Nationals for career fourth outfielder Ryan Langerhans.
With the injury to first baseman Adam LaRoche, the Nationals are finally giving the now 29-year-old everyday playing time for the first time in his career and he’s responded by putting up a .300/.352/.546 slash line for a 146 OPS+. He’s swatted 14 homeruns, has a .383 wOBA and a 1.6 fWAR in 250 plate appearances.
This is being called Morse’s breakout year, and if we look a little closer, we really should’ve seen this coming. In 293 plate appearances last season, Morse put up oddly similar numbers with a .289/.352/.519 slash line and a 133 OPS+ with 15 homeruns. Over his career, Morse has a .293/.353/.480 slash line and a 125 OPS+.
Morse is a classic late-bloomer who just needed playing time to figure things out; much like a Jose Bautista or a Jayson Werth on a lesser scale. His positional versatility (he’s eligible at both first and the outfield) and undervalued nature make him a potential bargain on the waiver wire and given the consistency of his numbers, it’s safe to say that as long as he gets the playing time, he’ll continue in the same vein.
And don’t be alarmed by his high .344 BABIP this season; Morse’s career mark is .347 so he seems like the type of player who manages a high BABIP consistently.
Vogelsong was drafted by the Giants way back in 1998 in the fifth round out of college and proceeded to make it to the Majors in just over two years. In 2001, the Giants dealt him to the Pirates in the deal that brought them Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. After five-and-a-half years in the Pirates system with little success, Vogelsong was granted free agency and signed with the Hanshin Tigers of the NPBL in Japan. After three successful years, he came back to the U.S. and split 2010 in the Phillies’ and Angels’ system.
Coming into this year, Vogelsong signed a minor-league deal with the Giants and was optioned to AAA-Fresno. After only two starts, he got a call to come to the big club and since has reeled off a 5-1 record and a 1.86 ERA in 72.2 innings filling in for the injured Barry Zito.
Unlike Morse, Vogelsong is probably not for real. He’s 34-years-old and even last season in AAA, he posted a 4.84 ERA between Lehigh Valley and Salt Lake. During that stint, he didn’t appear to be any more effective than when he left for Japan after 2006. This season, his peripheral numbers solid which has led to a 2.88 FIP, but there’s no way his 2.35 BB/9 rate is sustainable considering his career mark is just 4.02.
Vogelsong also has a very high LOB% and a low BABIP; both numbers should regress toward the mean at some point. Pitching in San Francisco and in the National League West will certainly help him, but eventually he’ll turn back into a pumpkin, matching the colour of those god-awful home alternates the Giants wear.
Correia was a fourth round pick of the Giants in 2002 who played in parts of six seasons with them before spending the last two seasons with his hometown Padres. In 2009, Correia posted a career-year in San Diego winning 12 games and posting a 3.91 ERA in nearly 200 innings-pitched. Unfortunately he regressed in 2010 posting a 5.40 ERA and had a 1.24 HR/9 rate despite pitching in cavernous Petco Park.
After signing this offseason with the Pirates for two years and six-million dollars, expectations had to be low for Pirates’ fans (what else is new?), but so far Correia has a 3.65 ERA and is tied for the NL lead in wins with 9.
Here’s the problem: Correia simply isn’t missing bats this year. His K/9 rate is an awful 4.28 and although he’s been saved by his excellent 2.05 BB/9 rate, he’s likely to regress closer to his career walk-rate of 3.41. His BABIP and HR/FB rate are also below average which is reflected in his 4.12 xFIP.
The bottom line is that Correia isn’t as good as he has been this year, nor is he as bad as he was last season. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle has very little fantasy value; if you have him, see if you can trade him…maybe for Mike Morse.
Travis Reitsma is the fantasy baseball guru here at Getting Blanked, but you’ll find he sometimes writes on other subjects as well. You can find more of his work over at Baseball Canadiana, including bi-weekly power rankings which are fun to do even if they mean pretty much nothing. You can also follow him on the Twitter.