Justin Morneau Player Projection No. 161

Key Stats: In his last 150 games, Justin Morneau has 22 home runs, 86 RBI, and an .852 OPS. So yes, last year was awful, but at pick number 161 in the draft Morneau can obviously be a steal too. Those numbers alone would make him a value at this point in the draft. Last year, Gaby Sanchez hit 19 home runs, had 78 RBI, and a .779 OPS as the 162nd player in the Yahoo player rater. Regardless of how inflated his BABIP was or the fact that he isn’t playing in a park that will produce a ton of home runs, this guy is a former MVP and is only going to be 31.

 

Skeptics Say: Sometimes a player has a bad year and we can turn to the numbers and point to bad luck. In this case, the reason is almost entirely blamed on Morneau’s health. And there’s no telling if it’s going to be any better in 2012. This issue is the elephant in the room, but there are other reasons to stay away. Target Field was in the lower third according to Park Factors. The best hitter in their lineup also has dealt with injuries throughout his career and has been more inconsistent since the Twins moved to Target. And finally, you can make an argument that every starting first baseman in baseball should be picked ahead of him next season.

Peer Comparison: Justin Morneau falls right in the middle of Adam Dunn and Kendrys Morales in these rankings. Dunn had no known lingering injury last season. And he was just awful. Morneau had an injury, but played about half a season and was awful. Morales was injured the entire season and has been going back to most of the 2010 season.

If all were a lock to be healthy on Opening Day, Morales would be ranked ahead of Morneau and Dunn. We know what he is capable of if he’s healthy. He was the best among the three in 2009 and was on his way to being the best in 2010 before walk-off gate altered his career. That said, at this point in the draft if your team has managed to stay relatively risk-averse, take Morales in this spot.

Morneau would be ranked second if we knew they would all be healthy. Perhaps Morneau was 100% when he was playing last year, but then we could say he did not have the sample size of at-bats he needed. If he played 160 games, there’s no way he doesn’t get to 15 home runs, 80 plus RBI, and a decent average.

As it is, we can’t make that assumption. The safest assumption to make is that the player who had 38 or more home runs for seven seasons in a row before finding his inner Pedro Cerano last year.

Lineup Outlook: In almost 400 at-bats, Mauer has hit 1 home run in Target Field. Michael Cuddyer was decent at Target Field, but it’s unlikely he’ll return to the Twins. Between Cuddyer, Delmon Young’s departure during the season, the Twins are a very different looking team than they were a year ago. Overall they look much weaker on paper.

A Blogger’s TakePredicting Justin Morneau’s outlook in 2012 is exceedingly difficult because frankly no one has any idea how — or whether — he’s going to be able recuperate from the concussion symptoms that continued to haunt him this year. He was headed towards the best season of his career in 2010 before taking that fateful blow to the head in Toronto, and since then he’s never looked quite like himself on the field. Twins fans can only cross their fingers that another winter of rest, followed by a possible move to DH, will straighten things out for Morneau, but at this point that’s more faint hope than realistic expectation. – Nick NelsonNick’s Twins Blog

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #19 First Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: Not Ranked in Top 25 First Baseman 

Projection: Realistically, Morneau will either be a lot worse or a lot better than this ranking, but let’s settle on this line.

72 R 19 HR 75 RBI 0 SB .275 AVG .820 OPS