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Mitch Moreland Is For Real

Heath takes a look at Moreland's breakout 2015 and tells you why you should believe the hype in 2016.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

What I wrote about Moreland in May of last year:

So far in 2015 he has four home runs in 103 plate appearances. If he can somehow manage 550 PAs you could be looking at 20 home runs and tolerable average and OBP numbers, as well as career-highs in runs and RBIs.

Moreland did not set a career mark in runs scored, but he did set career marks in batting average, slugging, hits, RBIs, doubles, extra-base hits, and total bases. He also matched his career high with 23 home runs. In short, it was his most productive season as a professional. The .278/.330/.482 three slash was money in the bank for those who bought him for pennies or added him from waivers.

The Rangers are counting on more of the same in 2016, as Moreland has finally had a healthy offseason this year. Colby Lewis thinks a healthy Mitch can hit 30 home runs. That might seem outlandish, but Moreland only managed 132 games last season. If he can avoid the injury imp and push for a healthy 150 games, 30 home runs is attainable with his power (career .184 ISO). So yes, expectations are high in Texas. Texas forever, by the way.

Let's discuss the injury history first, so that you are a fully-informed individual. In 2015 it was the elbow. In 2014, the ankle. In 2012 and 2013, it was hamstrings. In short, the man has been a walking wound. Maybe he needs to do more ankle strengthening exercises. Maybe he is unlucky. I don't really know. What I do know is his health is something of a risk at this point.

I also know Mitch is fully healthy at this current moment and is still only 30 years old, or squarely in his prime. I have personally been burned a bit in the past by downgrading players due to injury histories. But need I remind you that Darren McFadden remained healthy for the Dallas Cowboys this season? If you want to factor in some missed time due to some future injury, be my guest. I won't waste sleep over that sort of gloom and doom forecast, though.

Now for the good stuff, eh? Mitch plays half of his games at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. His career numbers at home against right-handed pitchers? A line of .270/.339/.471 with an .811 OPS and .201 ISO. So yeah. At home against a righty, Mitch rakes. On the road against right-handers, Moreland's three slash dips a tad to .263/.318/.466 with a .784 OPS and .203 ISO. That's still a solid line, though, and that power plays just about anywhere.

Moreland's spot in the batting order is also prime. He hit fifth more often than not last season, with 264 of his 471 AB coming from that spot. He had 100 AB in the sixth spot--you know, all those times when the Rangers thought it was a good idea to slot Josh Hamilton in there ahead of him. Look, I know the Rangers paid Hammy lots of money, but I'm afraid that ship is sailing off into the distance. If Moreland keeps it going in 2016 and Hamilton is still on the anemic side of things, I'd expect Mitch to get a few more at-bats from the five spot and to bump Hamilton down a notch. We shall see. The only drawback to this, of course, is that Moreland will never be prolific in the runs category. If he manages to stay healthy I'd still say his ceiling would be only about 75 runs in that offense.

I have not discussed Moreland's performance against southpaws yet because it is not as pretty. Still, that's not too out of ordinary for a lefty slugger, and Moreland actually treaded water against lefties last season. He batted .245/.293/.387 with 5 of his 23 home runs, and his OPS was .680--or a shade below league average, which isn't horrible from his weak side. What does this mean to me? Well, I might downgrade Mitch in a rotisserie league if I have to lock him into my lineup for the entire week. But in redraft leagues where I get to do a little managing, Mitch should be just fine against any right-handed pitcher and I'll pick my spots against weaker left-handed pitchers.

That brings us to fearless forecast time, brought to you courtesy of Steamer and yours truly:

STEAMER 123 19 59 66 1 .253 .313 .432
YOURS TRULY 139 26 68 83 1 .267 .326 .455