The Verdict: Joel Pineiro, Nyjer Morgan

Mr. Jones and MeCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2010

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Pitcher Joel Pineiro #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2009 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Welcome to the first edition of The Verdict.


In each issue of The Verdict, I will place two hot-topic fantasy players on trial.  The plaintiff and defendant will be able to argue their cases, and I, acting as both judge and jury, will present The Verdict.


Court is in session.


Accused: Joel Pineiro

Charge: Pitching way over his head in 2009.


Plaintiff: There are two reasons why Pineiro will not recreate his 2009 success in 2010 with the Angels.  For one, his move to the American League will negatively impact his numbers. Second, Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan is staying in St. Louis.


Pitching in the NL Central is a lot different than pitching in the AL West. History has long shown that the vast majority of pitchers that move to the American League from the National League, or vice versa, perform better in the National League. Pineiro is an obvious candidate to see his numbers balloon in the American League.


Perhaps more important is the fact that Duncan will not be joining Pineiro in Anaheim.  Like so many other major league pitches, Pineiro owes the rebirth of his career to Duncan—far and away the game’s best pitching coach. 


While Pineiro will cherish the lessons Duncan taught him during their time together in St. Louis, the past shows that most reborn pitchers who leave the guidance of Duncan never again meet the success they had under him. See Suppan, Jeff and Williams, Woody. Pineiro will never post another season like his 2009 campaign.


Defendant: Dave Duncan does deserve a lot of the credit for Joel Pineiro’s return to fantasy relevance. No one can deny that, but did you catch the last part of that statement? Yes, Pineiro’s return to fantasy relevance.


In 2002 and 2003, Pineiro was one of baseball’s brightest young pitchers. He won 30 games over the course of those two seasons and posted ERAs of 3.25 in 2002 and 3.79 in 2003. Pineiro’s 2009 wasn’t a fluke; he was a talented guy who got back on track with the help of Master Duncan.


By the way, the team that Pineiro pitched for during those two wildly successful seasons? The Seattle Mariners. The same Seattle Mariners that play in the AL West division that Pineiro has moved to. Not only does Pineiro have experience pitching in the American League, he has been successful doing so.


Pineiro joins an Angels team that ranks among the best in baseball. The Cardinals are good, but they did not offer the run support that the Angels will. Therefore, Pineiro should easily be able to match, if not surpass, his 15 wins from a year ago. Pineiro will build off his 2009 success and maintain his status as a quality starting pitching option in the fantasy game.


The Verdict: Guilty. While I doubt that Pineiro reverts to the pitiful numbers he posted from 2004-2008, he won’t come close to matching his 2009 totals. The move to the AL will negatively impact his totals, and his shockingly low number of strikeouts in 2009, 105 in 214.0 IP, is a huge red flag. 


Let's remember that prior to 2009, Pineiro's last successful big league season was seven years ago! Plus, without Duncan in the clubhouse, who does he turn to when something goes awry with his mechanics? Look for Pineiro’s numbers to dip to a 4.50 ERA, 12 W, 1.30 WHIP and 110 K in about 195.0 IP.



Accused: Nyjer Morgan

Charge: Using his legs to put up deceptively good numbers in 2009.


Plaintiff: Nyjer Morgan is nothing more than a slap-hitter who overachieved in 2009.  Sure he’s fast, but at the major league level, players can’t maintain long-term success when they rely on speed instead of skills. Just ask Joey Gathright.


Furthermore, Morgan lacks even the slightest bit of power. In fact, you can argue that his three homeruns last year were a fluke, and that he will be hard pressed to smack three long balls again in 2010. 


In 2009 Morgan had 144 hits, but only 25 were of the extra base variety. That translates to approximately 17% of his hits going for extra bases. For some perspective, Michael Bourn came in with a rate of 24% and even Rajai Davis had a rate of 29%.  Yes, Rajai Davis!


Morgan will start for the Nationals and will steal enough bases to make his fantasy owners happy. However, poor homerun and RBI totals will negate much of the value he will provide with his legs. In the long run, he lives out his career as nothing more than a pinch runner and defensive replacement.


Defendant: Nyjer Morgan is nothing more than a slap-hitter. Who cares? He has posted a batting average of at least .298 in each of his past four professional seasons and shows a strong understanding of what a player with his skill set needs to do to get on base.


Once Morgan is on base, the fun really begins. In his time with the Nationals and Pirates in 2009, he stole 42 bases in just 120 games. In his six years in the minors, he stole 234 bases in just 513 games. That’s equivalent to .47 SB per game! Calculate that over a full 162-game major league season, and you’re looking at 73 SB. Wow!


Last season, Morgan scored 74 runs while primarily batting leadoff. In 71 games with the Pirates, he scored 39 runs, but with the Nats, he scored 35 runs in just 49 games. The move to Washington really benefited Morgan. In a full season with the improving Nats offense, an increase in Morgan’s runs scored is in order.


Morgan won’t hit the ball all over the park and collect homeruns or RBI in bunches. So what? He will hit enough to help your average, score a ton of runs and single-handedly keep you at the top of the heap in stolen bases.  


The Verdict: Not guilty. Sure Morgan won’t help you much in the power categories, but you’re not drafting him to fill those needs. Also, he did enough in 2009 and in his years in the minors to prove that he will post a batting average that will be an asset to your fantasy team and be a reliable source of runs. I don’t think he will post a .300 average again, but he will have a solid season. I am calling for a .285 AVG, 85 R, 1 HR, 30 RBI, and 45 SB.


Look for the next issue of The Verdict soon.


Court is adjourned.