Mitch Moreland: Postseason Hero. 2011 Sleeper?

Texas Rangers' Mitch Moreland watches his three RBI home run against the San Francisco Giants in the second inning during Game 3 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas October 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Despite just falling short of a World Series title this past year, the Texas Rangers had a chance to showcase their young talent on baseball’s biggest stage. We saw the likes of Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Derek Holland all have their moments to shine and become story-lines of the postseason. 
Having been ranked third on the organizational depth chart at first base coming into the season, Mitch Moreland was perhaps the most unlikely of the Rangers’ youth to make a postseason impact. However, his nine pitch at-bat against lefty Jonathan Sanchez in game three only added to his great overall performance (.348/.400/.500 in 51 postseason plate appearances). In that at-bat, Moreland fouled off four pitches in a row with two strikes before hitting what turned out to be the game-winning home run, a three-run shot. 
With such good depth at first base for the 2011 fantasy season, can Mitch Moreland produce enough to be a late-round sleeper? 
I’ll start by saying this…His .255 AVG in 2010 is very misleading. [Read more>>>]

Drafted more for his pitching abilities than hitting, Moreland fought for a chance to be an everyday player and the Rangers gave him that opportunity. He never looked back.

Year Age Lev PA AB 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 21 A- 118 108 7 1 2 15 8 25 .259 .308 .398 .706
2008 22 A 533 466 37 4 18 99 60 67 .324 .400 .536 .936
2009 23 AA-A+ 524 471 38 3 16 85 44 68 .331 .391 .527 .918
2009 23 A+ 197 170 19 0 8 26 21 26 .341 .421 .594 1.015
2009 23 AA 327 301 19 3 8 59 23 42 .326 .373 .488 .861
2010 24 AAA 412 353 29 2 12 65 47 63 .289 .371 .484 .855
4 Seasons 1587 1398 111 10 48 264 159 223 .313 .383 .509 .892

Due to the fact that he was a corner outfielder — and not a very athletic one at that — then a first baseman, Moreland never received much love as a top-notch prospect due to a lack of power production. However, his line-drive hitting and on-base skills were enough to get him top ten consideration in 2010 by Baseball Prospectus (ranked 7th) and Baseball America (ranked 9th).
In 2010, Moreland hit .255/.364/.469. The AVG is quite low, but a .364 OBP is very solid for a player in his first exposure to big-league pitching. That OBP speaks volumes about Moreland’s discipline at the plate. In 173 plate appearances with the Rangers, he walked 25 times (14.5 percent walk rate). 
I mentioned earlier that his .255 AVG is misleading. Moreland’s BABIP with the Rangers was .275, quite low if you consider he held an excellent 22.5 percent line drive rate and a fly ball rate under 40 percent. Given his line-drive approach, good plate discipline and a strikeout rate that should improve in 2011, Moreland has the chance to approach a .290-.300 AVG or better next season.
Moreland’s power output with the Rangers is also a bit misleading, though on in a good way. Nine home runs in 145 at-bats is about 16 at-bats per home run. Such an AB/HR rate is designated for the best sluggers in baseball. Moreland, while a good pure hitter, is probably not going to be an elite slugger. His 12 home runs in 393 triple-A at-bats (29.4 AB/HR rate) is more telling of his true home run skills. Playing home games in Texas may help his power output some, but think of him as more of a 20 home run bat than a 30 home run bat. 
What has been gathered so far equates to a first baseman with the potential to hit .290-.300 with 20-plus home runs in 2011, which is pretty much what Billy Butler did in 2009. The RBI numbers should be solid due to his presence in a strong Texas lineup. Even if Vlad Guerrero re-signs, Moreland should move up to the 6 or 7 spot in the order. Moreland didn’t fare well against lefties in 2010, but the sample size was extremely small (20 AB) and he held a .801 OPS against left-handed pitching at triple-A. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus wrote of Moreland before the 2010 season, “He uses all fields, and has no platoon issues.”

Given the depth at first base, Mitch Moreland should last until the later rounds on drat day. If that ends up being the case, his potential is more than worth a flier pick. In OBP leagues, his potential is even higher given his top-notch plate discipline. Rather than going after players like Aubrey Huff, Derrek Lee and Luke Scott, take a chance on the new Rangers first baseman of the future.

Table Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/8/2010.