Maybe I’m getting greedy, but Lance Berkman looks like somebody that could have not just one, but two bounce back seasons in his career. The first came in 2011 when he won Comeback Player of the Year. 2012 saw him succumb to injuries, however, and many were left wondering if he would even play again. I think that Big Puma has another big bounce back in him for 2013.
You will certainly hear about some of the factors going against him. The surgically repaired 37 year old knees, the grueling Texas heat, and the fact that he only played in 32 games last year to go along with multiple trips to the disabled list. But there is also a lot of reason to think positively again.
His knees will get the rest they need as the Rangers everyday designated hitter. No longer will Berkman have to shag fly balls or man first base. All he has to do now is hit, and he can do that in spades. Even when you include his poor 2010 and 2012 seasons, over the last five years Berkman has ranked in the top 30 in BB%, ISO, OBP, and SLG. Given his injuries, DH is about the perfect position for him in real life. For fantasy purposes he retains his eligibility at first base and this gives him more flexibility than a guy like David Ortiz. Ortiz’s injury sounds like it is going to continue to be a problem and yet he is going about 70 spots higher in drafts than Berkman.
In addition to the friendlier position, Berkman will be moving to a friendlier hitter’s park at his new home in Texas. A switch hitter with power, Berkman should be able to take advantage of this. He has probably lost a step since his bounce back as a 35-year-old, but Arlington is also ranked about 14 spots higher than St. Louis as a hitter’s park (he only hit 9 of his 31 bombs there in 2011).
Finally, there is the quality of the lineup around him. He is most likely going to bat third in the order, which nestles him behind Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, and ahead of Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. That puts him in a position to drive in runs and provides protection. If Berkman can reach the neighborhood of 550 PA, we could be looking at contributions in R, HR, and RBI that put him way ahead of his current ESPN ADP of 210 (he went 66 overall at this time last year). He’s definitely worth a late round look in snake drafts and in auction leagues probably won’t cost you more than a buck or two. While it’s hard not to be nervous about the injuries of last year, don’t overlook the fact that he is a capable veteran hitter in a very good position to produce.