SleepersApril 27, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Matt Levenberg

For those of you who do not know Chris Duncan’s amazing story, Duncan had to have a prosthetic disk inserted into his back in August 2008 to repair a bulging disk in his neck. The injury was described as possibly career-ending. A herniated cervical desk, Duncan’s injury, was the same one that forced former perennial All-Star Larry Walker into retirement. The Cardinals did not expect him to fully recover. They expected their third outfielder on Opening Day this season to be top prospect Colby Rasmus. Duncan won the position battle in spring training with his hot bat, and has carried that into the regular season.

In the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Chris Duncan showed the Cardinals’ organization and fantasy owners that he had tremendous home run potential. In 2006, he averaged 12.7 ABs/HR. That is an excellent number. To put that in perspective, Adam Dunn’s career ratio is 13.9 ABs/HR. After 2006, several fantasy owners had Duncan pegged as a sleeper, but 2007 was cut short due to a sports hernia. He still hit 21 homers in just 375 at-bats. If you project that rate to 500 at-bats, that’s 28 homers. This season, he is hitting the ball very hard but only has two home runs in 54 ABs.

Duncan has gotten comfortable batting fifth behind Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Those are some pretty good guys to follow, and he should continue to see several RBI chances. He is currently ranked 14th in the NL in RBIs and there is no reason why he will fall. Duncan is a career .270 hitter but is batting .315 this year. His BABIP is above .365, so expect the BABIP to regress towards .300 and the season batting average to regress towards the .270s. It is worth noting that Duncan would ideally be used in a platoon. In his career, he bats .282 with 46 home runs in 755 at-bats against righties, and just .215 with 6 home runs in 186 at-bats against lefties.

For those of you in medium-to-deep leagues, I would recommend Duncan as a 4th OF or utility player. His 1B eligibility can’t hurt either. I project him for .275 Avg, 65 Rs, 20 HRs, 80 RBIs, 2 SBs.

Matt Levenberg is a student at Duke University but more importantly an avid Mets fan, and he believes that this is the year they will not collapse in September. You can find Matt at the cafe posting as j24jags hanging around the Baseball Leftovers, Game Commentary, the Brushback League, or any other forum at the Cafe.
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