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No value gain for Nyjer Morgan via trade

3/28/2011

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan -- that's right, in case you missed it, the Washington Nationals dumped him on another team over the weekend - is being selected ahead of fellow outfielders Logan Morrison, Tyler Colvin and Dexter Fowler in ESPN average live drafts, just to name a few. He's also being taken ahead of the player likely to start ahead of him in center field for his new team, the similarly frustrating (to fantasy owners and real-life managers) Carlos Gomez.

The thing about Morgan is, while some might view this trade as a wonderful new opportunity for him, he's really a glorified fourth outfielder anyway, with a glove and terrific speed. He doesn't post a high on-base percentage. He has no power. He made questionable decisions on the field last season, resulting in suspensions. There are fellows like him all over the minor leagues, eagerly awaiting their chance. Morgan can steal bases, which is nicer for fantasy owners than anyone else, really, and I imagine he'll do this in occasional duty for Milwaukee. Ultimately, I congratulate the Nationals for getting something -- anything -- for someone they didn't want anymore. And we don't even know if the minor leaguer sent their way, former second-round draft pick Cutter Dykstra, has a future in the big leagues.

I'd advise fantasy owners to steer clear of Morgan, as well as his primary competition, in standard leagues. It's just not worth it. There are stolen bases all over the place for fantasy owners, and even if you can't get your steals along with power potential, there are far safer speedsters out there, even in the late rounds. Get your power early, middle and late, and you'll still be able to find stolen bases on the free-agent list. My favorite thieves currently not being drafted in standard leagues include Will Venable, Peter Bourjos, Cliff Pennington, Alexi Casilla and Will Rhymes. Perhaps Scott Podsednik will play as well. Or you can ignore the underwhelming 25-steal options and take a handful of 15-homer, 15-steal types. One of my teams features not one player likely to steal 30 bases, but it's so balanced with Bobby Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Colby Rasmus types that I'm still projected to finish second in steals.

So who wins this Brewers-Nats trade? Well, it appears the Nationals are going to present one of the most unique platoons in center field I've come across, with Rick Ankiel and Jerry Hairston Jr. handling things. Perhaps Ankiel is a cheap source of power this season; he did smack 25 home runs in a mere 120 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. And Hairston came within one stolen base of double digits in home runs and steals for the San Diego Padres last season. I could make the case for each player having value in a deeper league -- Hairston has second base and shortstop eligibility -- but not in standard leagues.

The Nationals are an odd team indeed. They announced over the weekend that "billionaire" free-agent signing Jayson Werth will likely bat in the No. 2 slot in the lineup, which isn't typical for run producers. Perhaps he'll run more. He'll certainly bat more. It doesn't make me change my rankings on him. I'm not as down on him as it seems many owners are. I could, however, see Werth getting much more duty in center field than expected. Mike Morse, meanwhile, is going to hit 25 home runs -- book it! -- in left field, so the Morgan trade could, assuming Ankiel/Hairston isn't an awesome platoon, ultimately give opportunities to Roger Bernadina. He's mildly intriguing since he hit 11 home runs and stole 16 bases (in 18 attempts) last season. I'll call Ankiel and Bernadina winners here. And don't even think about taking Bryce Harper in one-year leagues; he's still just 18 years old. There's a better chance Stephen Strasburg suits up for the Nationals than Harper this season.

As for the Brewers, a team that seemed to have a terrific offseason thanks to the acquisitions of pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, I do see problems. Right fielder Corey Hart is probably bound for the disabled list at any moment because of an oblique strain. I rank him lower than most, outside the top 100 overall. Gomez and Morgan might both have to play regularly in April, or Mark Kotsay claims right field. What a shame Mat Gamel isn't prepared to play left field yet. Greinke is already on the DL, and Marcum could soon follow. There's not much at shortstop or catcher. I'll take the Cardinals and Reds, in that order, in the NL Central.

If you're in a deep league and must choose between Gomez and Morgan, I'd take Morgan. It's more an indictment of Gomez, though. Each can run and field; neither can hit. But Gomez hits right-handed, Morgan hits left-handed. There are a lot more right-handed pitchers out there. Take the under on either speedster stealing 30 bases, though.