In 2009, fantasy baseball owners were able to take advantage of a couple waiver wire speedsters and ride their lightningquickness up the standings. Now, entering the 2010 draft season, both Michael Bourn and Nyjer Morgan will cost considerably more than a free agent pickup. Both have speed enough for 50-plus steals, but who will be the better value on draft day?
Let’s start by looking at their 2009 seasons:
The numbers are telling of a few things. First off all, Bourn has a much higher stolen base success rate. His track record shows that this is no fluke either. When Bourn decides to go, chances are he’ll make it. This bodes well for him being able to maintain a high number of steals even with a regression in OBP. Which leads right into the role regression should play in both of these two. Both Bourn and Nyjer Morgan had relatively high BABIP’s last season. The fact that each has top-end speed helps inflate their BABIP a little, but it would be a lot to expect something above .360 again. Also, both set career highs in OBP. Though standard leagues do not use OBP as a stat, it is important for a player whose value lays in stolen bases and runs scored. Fewer times on base equals fewer chances to steal a base or score a run. In the case of both Bourn and Morgan we can expect lower AVG and OBP numbers going forward. More on that in a bit.
Back to the 2009 comparison; Morgan stole 19 fewer bags, but had 137 fewer at bats and 145 fewer plate appearances thanks to a broken hand. If you add in those 145 plate appearances and prorate his stolen base numbers, Morgan would have stolen about 53 bases. Clearly this is where his lower stolen base success rate comes into play.
The biggest difference between the two comes in plate approach. Bourn may be a bit more selective, but Morgan has a much better contact rate, which keeps his strikeout rate low. That approach is much more suitable to the type of hitter these two profile as. Due to the fact that Bourn strikes out over 20% of the time (backed up by his track record) and he makes contact on less than 80% of his swings, his AVG will be much harder to sustain than Morgan’s.
About that regression, we should expect it from both Bourn and Morgan in 2010. The high BABIP’s are one thing; the fact that neither had ever done this before over such a sample size of at bats is another. Before 2009 Bourn had struggled against lefties, but he did one of two things last season to correct that. One, he made a tremendous adjustment or two, he got fairly lucky. His .287 AVG against lefties in 2009 came by way of a .368 BABIP. Morgan, on the other hand, continues to struggle against left-handed pitching. He hit only .233 against them in 2009 with a .233 BABIP. It is important to note that in both cases we are looking at a sample size of under 200 at bats so we shouldn’t look at either, good or bad, as finite.
Another issue is the Average Draft Position of both currently. Michael Bourn currently has an ADP of 63 (round five) compared to Nyjer Morgan’s ADP of 121 (round ten). Are there really five rounds and 58 picks difference between the two? Not in my eyes. Bourn is less likely to hit for a high AVG again because of his high strikeout numbers, but he has a much higher stolen base success rate than Morgan. Morgan, on the other hand, should be able to maintain a higher AVG than Bourn, but doesn’t have the stolen base ceiling that Bourn has. All in all I really think a healthy season from both in 2010 could end upas a push.
The real question is: Are we looking at Juan Pierre or Willy Taveras as a comparable? I’d lean more toward Taveras as neither display the same elite level of contact skills that Pierre does. Pierre, by the way, has an ADP of 236 (round 19) and a starting job with the White Sox. Should we really use a high round draft pick on Bourn or Morgan or should we just wait to get Pierre late? I say wait.