Fantasy Tale of the Tape: Logan Morrison or Michael Brantley?
First it was Dexter Fowler, then it was Melky Cabrera, and now it's Matt Kemp? I know that injuries are simply a part of being a fantasy owner, but somebody clearly did not make their sacrifices to the Greek god of outfielders (Dr. James Andrews?) this past offseason.
Now, especially in the case of Kemp's DL stint, these injuries have sent fantasy owners sprinting to the waiver wires. Rajai Davis, Ichiro Suzuki, and Raul Ibanez have each been picked up in at least 10 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues in the past week. If you don't have them already though, good luck trying to pick them up. Each of those guys are already owned in at least 80 percent of ESPN leagues.
So with those outfielders gone, who's left? The other two main outfield pickups from the past week are two guys now owned in close to 50 percent of ESPN leagues: Logan Morrison and Michael Brantley. These guys aren't entirely similar, since Brantley has speed that Morrison could only dream of and Morrison has power and a high Twitter following. But for your final roster spot, they could be head-to-head.
Which one should you pick up? Just like Presidential elections and CBS dramas, the numbers will tell the whole story.
Want a guy who does very few things particularly right but also nothing particularly wrong? For the fantasy owners whose favorite color is beige, Michael Brantley is your guy.
A 2.0 percent homerun rate, which means he'll have occasional power but not quite hit the league-average homeruns? Sure, why not. A 7.3 percent walk rate that is right around the MLB average? Be my guest. A .301 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that says he's slightly above average at finding holes when he hits the ball? I'll take it.
In fact, there is only one number that actually makes Brantley a worthwhile fantasy play: 78. That's the percentage of his plate appearances that result in a ball in play, thanks to an 11.6 percent strikeout rate. We don't see that in-play percentage going down; Brantley has hit a 78 percent in-play percentage for his career as well.
When the high in-play rate is mixed with the above-average BABIP, an appetizing RBI-producing stew is the result. Especially hitting fifth behind two fellow high on base options in Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher, Brantley's career-best 6.9 at-bats per RBI looks to be a figure that will continue down the road. His current 45 total RBIs are tied for 50th among all current MLB batters.
And don't forget: Brantley can provide some small stolen base opportunities as well. Cleveland doesn't like him to take off too often; he only has 11 stolen base attempts in 120 total opportunities. But of those 11 attempts, Brantley has been successful nine times, an 82 percent stolen base percentage that would be his best since 2010.
Good luck getting that speed from Logan Morrison - he has three total stolen bases in his career. But if it's power you seek, look no further than the man wearing the Miami neon colors.
Morrison has doubled, sometimes tripled, Michael Brantley's homerun output with homerun ratios of 4.4, 3.3, and 4.7 percent of all total plate appearances between 2011 and 2013, respectively. While his career high homerun total is only 23 in 2011 due to limited plate appearances, if he can stay healthy, he's a potential 30 homerun guy.
What intrigues me about Morrison, though, isn't just his power. You could get that from any number of power-only hitters like Chris Carter or Brandon Moss. Instead, I'm intrigued as to whether he can continue to find holes when he puts the ball into play.
Previously, Morrison was a BABIP Black Hole. With a .265 BABIP in 2011 and a .248 BABIP last year, Morrison could just never seem to get into a groove grabbing base hits. A career 19 percent line drive rate and a lack of solid contact didn't hurt either.
This year, though, Morrison's all the way up above average with a .301 BABIP and a 25 percent line drive rate. While it does mean his ground balls are up as well as he's trying to keep the ball low, I'd take a .370 OBP and slightly fewer fly ball opportunities from Morrison any day.
The Future Projections
So, given their overall efficiencies, do we take the power guy or the well-rounded speed guy? Given the numbers, Logan Morrison's likely unsustainable batting average increase and inability to stay healthy are flashing neon lights to stay far, far away.
The key number to look at on these tables is the very first one: Brantley's 298 projected plate appearances are the 10th-most of any MLB projection the rest of this season. Morrison's 124 plate appearances, meanwhile, rank somewhere in the 300's. Given the same amount of plate appearances, Morrison's homeruns and likely RBIs would beat Brantley's projections, but that's just not an assumption we can make right now.
The last number on those tables interests me as well. Given Morrison's penchant for more power, I'd believe that his projected slugging would be much higher. Because of his likely inability to get on base with a .253 career average and .341 career OBP, however, Brantley's OPS is almost just as high. We only project Brantley to finish with 14 homeruns, but he provides so much more value in other areas than his homerun-hitting counterpart.
Logan Morrison is the high riser on ESPN's fantasy charts, but he shouldn't be. If given the choice, I'm picking up Cleveland's Michael Brantley nine times out of ten, and the tenth time is only if I desperately needed only power in my fantasy format. Morrison may be more entertaining, but I don't know of any fantasy leagues giving out Twitter points. Go with the sure thing.