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2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 55: What To Expect From Twins' Justin Morneau?

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 06: Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after striking out in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 6, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Nick KappelAnalyst IIIFebruary 26, 2011

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Justin Morneau is very much like Prince Fielder, in that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.

In 2008, Morneau hit .300 with 23 HRs and 129 RBI. The next year, he hit just .274 with 30 HRs and 100 RBI. Last season, Morneau’s seemingly career season (18 HRs, 56 RBI, .345 in 81 games) was cut short in early July due to a concussion.

Looking forward to 2011, it’s tough to know what to expect from the former A.L. MVP. On February 1, Twins G.M. Bill Smith said:

“We have pledged patience, and we only want him to go when he’s ready. If that’s March 1, April 1 or July 1, that’s what it will be.”

A week later, Morneau himself told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Joe Christensen via e-mail that he had just begun swinging a bat.

As of Sunday, Morneau has already faced a few live batting practice sessions. Though he wont be active for an games early this spring, he’s currently on track to start Opening Day.

Assuming no setbacks between now and then, the Twins’ first baseman could be in for a big season.

Morneau’s 2010 batting average was inflated thanks to a .385 BABIP. His career batting clip of .286 suggests a regression in that category. However, Morneau’s walk rate, slugging percentage, OPS, ISO power and fly ball rate have all improved progressively over the last three seasons.

Target Field proved to favor pitchers last season, and Morneau couldn’t buck the trend, posting a lowly AB/HR rate of 38.0 at home last season, opposed to hitting a HR every 10.3 at-bats on the road (career 19.3 AB/HR).

Morneau has been a better hitter on the road in his career anyway, so the spacious Target Field may limit his HR potential, but it could aid his BABIP, and thus, his batting average as well.

Keep a close eye on Morneau’s progress this spring. If everything goes according to plan, he’s a borderline top-50 player.

 PARHRRBISBAVG
2010 stats3485318560.345
3-year average5507824950.300
2011 FBI Forecast64090311000.279

 

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