Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun are having tremendous years, but Lance Berkman has been the best value player for fantasy baseball this season.
Berkman is coming off of two Player of the Week honors in April. Big Puma isn’t just playing beyond expectations, he’s playing like one of the best players in the game. Berkman is hitting .402 with 9 homers and 27 RBI. That is after only a .214 average over the first 8 games of the season. He probably won’t steal a base all year so while he can’t match up directly with Kemp or Braun on the year, he’s definitely the best value pick of the young fantasy baseball season.
If you listened to BallparkBob and Fantasy Baseball Dugout this year, you’d be happily surprised with Berkman’s 2011 performance. FBD had Berkman listed as its #3 top fantasy baseball sleeper for the 2011 season. Berkman’s knee injury caused him great discomfort last year and he ended the year with just 14 dongs, but he was only two years removed from a 25 homerun season.
Our only concern was that the long time first baseman would be able to play right field well enough to stay in the lineup and warrant the Cardinals $8 million investment. That hasn’t been the case. Thus far, Berkman has caught 30 of 32 balls hit into his zone, according to FanGraphs. He has grabbed 8 balls that were considered out of his zone. This leads to a defensive production of -2 below the average right fielder. Berkman was always a good first baseman so his defense has shown that we were right in our analysis: he’ll catch the routine ball that he can get to, but doesn’t have the speed at age 35 to be an outfield ball hawk. That’s why manager Tony LaRussa has often removed Berkman for defensive purposes late in games.
It’s hard to imagine that Berkman will be able to match his top production years in 2011, but he’s always been a great hitter and he’s certainly made a lot of fantasy baseball managers happy thus far this season.