I was certainly the high man on the totem pole with regards to Jayson Werth in our consensus OF rankings, released two weeks ago. In fact, I have him as my 31st OF, while the other three contributing rankers had him at 40, 46 and 56 respectively. Through the lens of five pictures from the greatest Tumblr account ever created, I will tell you why I still like him to be a valuable OF in fantasy for 2013.
Leaving 2012 in the Rearview Mirror (YES)
Just when Werth was starting to leave behind his reputation for being a serious injury risk, he went ahead and had his first season of fewer than 350 PA since 2007. And while this may just reconfirm many long held beliefs about his ability to stay on the field, just remember that it was his first trip to the DL since 2008. Clearly there is still risk here with Werth, but I think just like it was likely understated over the past two seasons, it's now reversed course and is now overstated.
More Power to Bear (YES)
While it's true that Werth's power has been declining, the 5 HR in 300 AB in 2012 was a fluke for two reasons. First of all, he hit 3 of those HR in his first 98 AB before breaking his wrist -- and as we all know, wrist injuries can sap power like nobody's business. When he returned, he hit 2 HR in his next 202 AB. This left him with a completely underwhelming 5.3% HR/FB rate. To put that in perspective, his career HR/FB rate is 14.4%. Even last year, in a down season, it was 12.2%. I expect him to return to 20 HR form in 2013, assuming he can avoid the DL.
Stomping Out the Strikeouts (YES)
One item on Jayson Werth's stat sheet which really jumps out at you about his 2012 season was that he put up, by far, the lowest strikeout rate of his career. His 16.6% rate was a reduction of around 30% from his career 24.0% rate. And while some may look at that number and scream "REGRESSION!!", just remember that statistically speaking, a hitter's strikeout rate stabilizes after 150 plate appearances. Jayson Werth came to the plate 344 times in 2012. If he can even split the difference and turn a 20% K-rate into his new normal, Werth's fantasy outlook will improve in nearly every category.
The Nationals offense was not projected to be anything extraordinary in 2012, but a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity. Bryce Harper came up and put together one of the greatest age-19 seasons of all time. Ian Desmond broke out and had one of the most impressive offensive seasons of 2012 for a shortstop. Ryan Zimmerman had a first half to forget, but then remembered that he's Ryan Zimmerman for the second half. Add to those three a returning Mike Morse, new addition Denard Span, a healthy Wilson Ramos and a possibly returning Adam LaRoche. That has the makings of a well above-average offense. With Span being installed as their new leadoff hitter, and Bryce Harper a candidate for #3, don't be surprised if the right-handed Werth implants himself into that #2 spot in the lineup -- which would be great for his counting stats. Plus, it's never a bad thing when Jayson Werth sees more fastballs.
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick (YES)
OK fine, there's no real substance here. I just wanted to link to the picture of Werth riding Teddy Roosevelt. It's my post, I make the rules.
My way too early 2013 Jayson Werth projection: .277 AVG with 19 HR, 78 RBI, 91 R and 16 SB in 530 AB.