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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Pick 1: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland

By Richard Durrett


Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

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Today's Pick 1: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland

Remember, this is about the player you think will have the better 2013. Today, we've got two players who are set up for very interesting seasons.

Murphy is a starter for the first time since coming over to the Rangers as part of the Eric Gagne trade at the deadline in 2007. He hit .304 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 147 games for the Rangers in 2012 (457 at-bats). It seems that every year there's a question about how Murphy is going to get playing time and by the end of the season, he's got more than 400 at-bats and has put up solid numbers.

This season is different. After hitting .347 (26-for-75) against lefties last year, Murphy will get a shot to hit them more often as the starting left fielder.

As for Moreland, the 27-year-old gets yet another shot at the starting first base job. A hamstring strain sidelined him for nearly a month last season and he hit .275 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. He was a much better offensive player at home than on the road and he didn't play against certain left-handed pitchers, hitting just .239 against southpaws. He worked this offseason with a left-handed batting practice pitcher in order to improve.

Again, this is about who you think will have the better 2013. I'm going to take Moreland even though the numbers suggest Murphy. I think Moreland began to show more of his power last year, hitting one fewer homer than he did in 2011, but with 137 fewer at-bats. He's focused and knows this is probably his last chance to seize the first base job. I'll bet that he does and ends up putting up better numbers than Murphy.

Karabell's thoughts (on which player is better for fantasy purposes):
I’d take Murphy over Moreland in standard fantasy drafts, mainly because I’m more confident that he’ll see the proper playing time to reach his projections. Murphy is annually underrated by fantasy owners worried about opportunity, but he’s averaged 476 plate appearances the past five seasons, including 521 in 2012, and he’s a safe contributor in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. He plays outfield, which considering the position needs for a standard roster, is certainly not as deep as Moreland’s first base spot. But ultimately it comes down to the fact he’s more likely to see the playing time needed to stick on a fantasy roster.

The Rangers already have a question mark in center field, so it seems likely Murphy’s playing time against right-handed pitching, at the least, is set. Plus, Murphy hit .347 against southpaw pitching in 2012, so he doesn’t need to be platooned. At first base, however, the Rangers already compromised Moreland’s opportunity last season, when Michael Young, now the Philadelphia Phillies’ problem, started a quarter of the games there. Moreland saw enough time but he hit well only in home games (.318 home, .229 road) and was awfully inconsistent from month to month.

What happens this season if uber-prospect Jurickson Profar forces his way into the lineup? Assuming he handles second base, is Ian Kinsler more likely to move to first base or left field? I’d say he remains in the infield. Plus, newcomer Lance Berkman can certainly play first base, and should see some action there, as long as he’s healthy enough, to free up others to get designated hitter at-bats. The younger Moreland has a bit more power potential than Murphy, but there’s hardly a guarantee he gets the chance to achieve it.

Your turn. Who has the better year: David Murphy or Mitch Moreland? Tell us why.