2013 Sleeper: Nick Markakis

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Brian Creagh discusses why you should target Nick Markakis in the later rounds of your draft.

The Baltimore Orioles have been quiet all off-season following one of the more surprising runs in recent memory in 2013. While some regression is expected in Baltimore and with Toronto emerging as division favorites, a repeat playoff appearance is difficult to project. However, I do believe the O's will benefit from increased production from one player in the middle of their order, and this is a player I'll be targeting in almost all of my drafts. It is the Orioles starting Right Fielder, and No. 3 hitter, Nick Markakis.

Markakis will be entering his age-29 season and is still well within his prime, and as mentioned above he should be slotted into the 3 hole - a prime spot for accumulating counting stats. In almost all drafts, in all formats, Nick Markakis is going to be undervalued due to playing only 104 games in 2012. Markakis is currently going around pick 178 according to Mockdraftcentral.com. In 2011, another comparatively down year in Markakis' career, he still ranked 99th in points using the SABR Points scale in Ottoneu leagues.

The reason for my excitement, and this article, are the improvements in Markakis' peripherals, which returned to his 2007-2009 levels where he averaged 99 Rs, 20 HRs, and 100 RBIs, to go with a slash line of .299/.372/.476. Markakis' BABIP increased to .310 in 2012, which is still below his career average of .322 and if this trend continues in 2013 he should easily flirt with a .300 average. The second positive indicator was an increase in HR/FB%. Normally an indicator of luck, Markakis' HR/FB% from 2007-2009 hovered around ~10% - a very sustainable number and by no means an outlier compared to the rest of the league. In 2010 and 2011, this number decreased 6.1% and 7.7% respectively and ultimately hurt his HR totals (only 27 HRs in this two year period). 2012 saw a return to his earlier success with a HR/FB% of 11.1% and helps explain why Markakis was able to still hit only 2 fewer HRs than in 2011 despite playing in 56 fewer games.

Both the .310 BABIP and 11.1% HR/FB ratio are easily sustainable in 2013 and are on par with the rest of Markakis' career averages, but these increases are being masked by the poor numbers he put up in 2012 due to an injury-riddled campaign. The injury appears to be an anomaly, as Markakis has never played in fewer than 147 games, while also having 5 straight seasons of 157+ games played. I expect Markakis to put up a solid line of around 85 R, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 5 SB, and a .295 AVG - a very solid return for a player taken after pick 100.

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