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2011 MLB Fantasy Baseball Spotlight: Why Roger Bernadina is a Top-30 Outfielder

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2011 MLB Fantasy Baseball Spotlight: Why Roger Bernadina is a Top-30 Outfielder
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So you're telling me to buy Roger Bernadina... as a top 30 outfielder? (Pause) I'm sorry. Can you repeat that one more time? I don't think I'm hearing you correctly.

Okay, maybe not is. Maybe could be would be more accurate, so let's start over.

Why Fantasy Zombie Roger Bernadina Could Be a Top-30 Outfielder.

Much better.

In 2008 Roger Bernadina looked destined for stardom. Since 2008 Bernadina has looked destined for failure. However, since his call-up nearly two weeks ago, Bernadina has hit leadoff every single game atop the struggling Washington Nationals lineup with success—relatively speaking—which is still surprising to say the least.

Throughout his short time spent in the majors (494 at-bats prior to this season), Bernadina has left much to be desired with his overall numbers (.241 AVG, 11 HR, 21 SB, 63 R, 49 RBI). Though it's certainly a forgettable line, there are a few interesting things that stand out.

Over what would roughly be 100 at-bats shy of a full season for a healthy leadoff hitter, Bernadina has amassed 11 HR, 21 SB and 63 R. Add 100 at-bats into the mix and you can tack on roughly 3 HR, 4 SB and 12 R, giving Bernadina a grand total of 14 HR, 25 SB, and 75 R. Not as bad of a line now, huh? 

Flash back to present day.

Through 50 at-bats this season, Bernadina has found more success than ever before. He has a .280 AVG, 1 HR, 4 SB, 5 R and 5 RBI. He's walking more (10.7%, career 8.4%), striking out less (22%, career 23.2%), and has increased his plate-discipline (decreased Swing%, F-Strike%, SwStr% and increased Contact%).

These are all positive signs that he's making the necessary adjustments to improve his game in order to survive at the major league level. Thanks to the small sample, we don’t really know if he's finally poised for a breakout or if his hot start is more of an aberration, but he is certainly trending in the right direction.

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Last season, Bernadina did a lot of things wrong—both mechanically and mentally—which severely crippled his batting average, confidence and fantasy value. He worked very hard in the off-season and in Triple-A before his call-up to make some adjustments in order to permanently fix those mistakes, which is beginning to look like it's paid off.

With the Nationals aching for an everyday guy to hit leadoff and patrol the outfield (they've been platooning Morse, Ankiel and various others) after they traded away troublemaker Nyjer Morgan, Bernadina has a legitimate shot to not only win the job this season, but to lock it down long-term as well.

Though this may be his last opportunity within the organization to prove that he is their guy for the future I have to say, so far he's doing a great job, albeit in a very small sample. Lets extrapolate Bernadina's numbers out over 150 games:

.280/55/11/55/44.

He's right in line with the 10-15 HR pop he's believed to possess, but running at twice the rate we expected from him, which is a really great thing considering the Nationals are tearing up the base paths this season. Bernadina is finally returning to his 2008 bread and butter: Speed.

In 120 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008, Bernadina hit .335 AVG, had 9 HR and 41 SB. Though the .335 AVG may be out of reach thee days, the HR/SB totals are right in line with what he's on-pace for this season. Do we have failed prospect Roger Bernadina three years removed from greatness, now back on track for fantasy stardom? I honestly believe we do, and here's why:

"Bernadina has hit liners at a good rate in the big leagues, and he did just the same during his stint in the minors. He’s also making contact at a higher clip thus far, dropping his strikeout rate by quite a bit, even if it is just a handful of games."

- Zach Sanders, Fangraphs

He's not pressing or trying to do too much at the plate -- he's simply being patient and putting the ball in play. If Bernadina can stay healthy and continue being productive atop the lineup, he should be a strong third or fourth outfielder going forward. With the breakout performances of both Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos, the impending return of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth beginning to heat up with the Summer, Bernadina could quietly be in store for a big season.

I don't expect him to hit anywhere close to .300, but something between .265 to .275 is quite realistic. Pair that with 10-15 HR power and 25-plus SB potential and you've got a Fantasy Zombie waiting to feast, playing everywhere in the outfield this summer. Keep in mind that he's missed nearly a month and a half of the season, but my projections for him are as follows:

On the low-end: .245/55/5/45/15

On the high-end: .285/80/17/65/40

What I'm betting on: .270/70/11/55/31

Which makes Roger Bernadina of 2011 what? Andres Torres of 2010. Let's compare, shall we?

Roger Bernadina of 2011: .270/70/11/55/31

Andres Torres of 2010: .268/84/16/63/26

Andres has a little bit more pop, Bernadina has a little bit more speed. Ah, so their position eligibility isn't their only similarity (both are eligible at LF, CF and RF). Touche. Oh, did I mention the fact that Andres Torres finished last season as the No. 30 OF on the player rater and No. 96 overall?

That's right, just behind guys like Delmon Young, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher, Martin Prado...and just in front of guys like Matt Kemp, Colby Rasmus, Justin Upton, Jay Bruce and Jayson Heyward. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Bernadina needs to be added in all formats, as any player with the potential for top 100 fantasy appeal is a must-have. I even added him in my 14-team dynasty league to accompany the likes of Logan Morrison, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Andres Torres, Josh Willingham, Ryan Raburn, Desmond Jennings, Dayan Viciedo, Aaron Hicks and that relatively unknown kid Bryce Harper. Yeah, I'm stacked.

Buy Roger Bernadina while he's still under the radar. You'll be thanking me come October.

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