March 05, 2013; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Denard Span (2) at bat during spring training game against the Houston Astros at Space Coast Stadium. Washington defeated Houston 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Preview: Denard Span

Centerfielder Denard Span had been long rumored to be a trade target of the Nationals, as he seemed to fit the team’s center field/leadoff spot perfectly. But around 2012’s trade deadline, whispers swirled that the Twins wanted closer Drew Storen in the deal, and the teams could not come to an agreement. But this offseason, they found common ground and the Nationals agreed to send top pitching prospect Alex Meyer to Minnesota for Span. Through five major league seasons, Span has a career .284/.357/.389 line, and hit a similar .283/.342/.395 last year. He struggled with a concussion and post-concussion symptoms in 2011, when he played only 70 games, and early 2012, but reestablished himself at the end of last year. Now positioned atop the Nationals’ lineup and fully healthy for the first time since 2010, he could be primed for a career year, but his baseline is likely set now that he will be 29 for the 2013 season. Our projectors foresee a similar output to 2012’s:

ZiPS: 525 AB, .273/.330/.380, 42 RBI, 68 RS, 17 SB, 4 HR

MLB.com: 570 AB, .282/.352/.384, 46 RBI, 84 RS, 21 SB, 5 HR

CBSSports: 600 AB, .275/.341/.382, 49 RBI, 85 RS, 21 SB, 6 HR

ESPN Fantasy: 532 AB, .271/.333/.382, 40 RBI, 71 RS, 18 SB, 4 HR

Averages: 557 AB, .275/.339/.382, 44 RBI, 77 RS, 19 SB, 5 HR

Looking at these numbers and Span’s career, we can confidently conclude that he will play the same way he has for his entire career: as a solid, if unspectacular, role player. With good speed, an ability to draw walks, and nice centerfield defense, he fits the need the Nationals have had every since they (mercifully) jettisoned Nyjer Morgan. Unfortunately, despite being exactly what the Nationals needed does not make him a particularly valuable fantasy asset. He will contribute runs, steals, walks, and not much else above average. However, he could outperform the above projections if he is somehow reinvigorated playing on a new team, and would merit more consideration if he can replicate or exceed his 2012 stats. Another consideration with Span is his health, as ESPN notes that he has only had over 600 plate appearances one in his career, and he has missed 126 games over the last two seasons combined, albeit all due to the same injury. Playing a full 2013 would mark a huge step in his return to consistency. But with the above forecast, Span will be a bench OF at best, and only a viable option in NL-only or exceptionally deep leagues. He as much more value to the Nats, as a long-missing cog in the machine Davey Johnson hopes to drive to a World Series championship.

Tags: Denard Span Washington Nationals

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