What To Do With Jayson Werth

Using the xBABIP calculator from The Hardball Times earlier this year, I created a preseason xBABIP spreadsheet for every player who got 300+ PA last season and forecast their luck neutral triple slash lines. At this point in the season, the sample size is limited, but I have compiled xBABIP data for hitters thru (and including) May 14. I may release the spreadsheet later this week, but at this point, with a Constitutional Law final in 13 hours, I am just going to limit this post to a quick and dirty player analysis. This noted, I segue into the purpose of this article...

One player of interest on my xBABIP sheet is Jayson Werth. Werth is a catcher-turned-outfielder facing Free Agency at the end of this season. The "payday effect" aside, Werth has built on his 2008 and 2009 breakout campaigns to post a spectacular .345/.423/.681 triple slash line (.465 wOBA) with 7 HR to boot through his first 33 games in 2010. Werth's power is up and his strikeout rate is a tad down. All is well, right?

Thanks to a .407 BABIP, Werth's batting line is sitting pretty in fantasy baseball land. Werth, a career .269 hitter, is simply not going to keep hitting for average. Given his current batted ball profile, THT's formula says Werth's current xBABIP is .324. In other words, of Werth's 40 hits this season, 7 of them were "luck" (in theory). If we subtract these 7 hits and optimistically assume that all of Werth's luck hits were of the single variety, then Werth's triple slash line "plummets" to .284/.372/.620 (.992 OPS). That is still a fantastic and useful fantasy line, but it is a strong reality check on Jayson Werth's batting average for the rest of the season.

A few disconcerting signs exist in Werth's game this year. For starters, his BB%, which is still well above average at 11.7%, is at the lowest mark in his Phillies career. Additionally, Werth's speed score is down from 4.8 (league average) last season and 6.6 (above average) in 2008 to a career low 3.7 (below average) mark. Guys with 3.7 speed scores last year include Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, Nick Markakis and J.D. Drew. The four of them, combined, stole 15 bases last season. What this means for Werth owners is a strong probability of a lower SB/SBA (and less SB opportunities as well, if the OBP dips with the BABIP) for Werth this year. As a result, Werth will likely accumulate less SBs on the season.

Does all this, however, translate into a "sell high" recommendation? Probably not. Personally, I would not recommend selling high on Werth. There are very few players out there who can perform at Werth's actual talent level. Werth's power, his greatest asset, is for real and his RBI opportunities will be aplenty batting behind Utley and Howard. Werth will hit at least 30 HR this season and he's currently on pace for 35. Unless you are a fantasy owner with plenty of power who is in need of elite batting average and stolen bases for the rest of the season, there is really no reason to sell Jayson Werth (or Nelson Cruz, for that matter).

Just in case you want a second opinion, ZiPS seems to agree with me. ZiPS forecasts a rest of season batting average of .285 for Jayson Werth. Compared to me, ZiPS' ROS projections are more bearish on Werth's power (20 more home runs) but bullish on his speed (10 more stolen bases). My personal rest of season forecast for Werth is .284 BA, 27 HR, 74 RBI, 8 SB.


The 'Bright' One said...

Werth is on pace for 90 doubles and 35 home runs. My ROS prediction says he will cool off