I will not draft…Lance Berkman

Last season, I took a flier on Lance Berkman in a couple of leagues. He had fallen to the tenth round or so and I had waited on drafting a first baseman. As skeptical as I was about his decline and health, I took the chance. I won’t do that in 2011.

I’ll make this quick and simple. Below are some bullet-points as to why Fat Elvis won’t find his way onto any of my teams.
  • Berkman will be 35 in 2011 and has shown less than stellar line drive skills over the past few seasons. His line drive rate has slipped to between 16 and 18 percent, down from a career 19.6 percent rate.

  • His games played over the past two seasons: 136 and 122. Knee, groin and ankle injuries affected him in 2010. I can’t see how playing right field everyday (supposedly) can help.
  • As stated above, Berkman will attempt to play the outfield on an everyday basis. He hasn’t played any outfield spot since 2007 and that was only for 32 games. The last time he played a full season in the outfield was 2004.
  • Clearly, Berkman is declining as a right-handed hitter. He hit .171 as a righty in 2010, .230 the year before. He has become far less patient from the right side as well, having seen his walk rate hover near 10 percent since 2008. In his prime, Berkman would walk somewhere between 14 and 16 percent each year from the right side.
There is a scenario in which I see Berkman getting off to a good start in 2011. If he ends up hitting in the second spot in the order, ahead of Albert Pujols, he is going to see some good pitches to hit. That could translate into a fine April/May, but in the end, given the reasons listed above, I don’t see such a start being sustained over a full season.

Given the depth at first base in 2011, Berkman will likely end up as a later round pick in mixed leagues. While it might be tempting to take a flier on him at that point, I’d rather turn my attention to someone with much higher upside like Justin Smoak or Adam Lind.