Charlie Morton 2021 Outlook: MLB Betting, Fantasy Baseball Tips: The Rays declined a one-year,$15 million option on Charlie Morton, and the Braves swooped in, signing him to a one-year, $15 million contract in late November. He adds a veteran presence with experience succeeding in the postseason to Atlanta’s young rotation.
Charlie Morton 2021 Outlook
The late-blooming righty Morton bolsters a high-upside, mostly young rotation. The Braves came up only one-win short of reaching the World Series last year. Will the Morton signing help get over the hump this year? What’s Morton’s fantasy value in his new home?
Braves MLB Future Betting Odds
BetMGM lists the Braves as the favorites to win the National League East at +125, +500 to win the National League, and +1000 to win the World Series. The signing of Morton and Drew Smyly creates a deep rotation for Atlanta when also factoring in the eventual return of Mike Soroka from surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon. Max Fried and supremely talented youngster Ian Anderson are the other high-ceiling rotation members. It’s a talented group who should help the Braves pile up wins.
The offense isn’t looking as potent this year with middle-of-the-order bopper Marcell Ozuna a free agent. Ozuna’s 179 wRC+ was the third-highest mark among qualified hitters last year, according to FanGraphs. The Braves ranked third in wRC+ (120) last year, so, even without Ozuna, they project to be above average.
Atlanta’s combination of an above-average rotation and offense should be enough to get them back to the postseason, but I believe the Mets are the better bet to win the National League East. As such, I think betting on the Braves at a short number is ill-advised. I’m also fading their National League Champion and World Series Champion lines. The rotation’s good, but it lacks the proven front-line starters the other top teams in the National League have thus, making their life difficult in playoff matchups against the Padres, Dodgers, or Mets.
Fantasy Baseball: Morton with the Braves
Shoulder inflammation contributed to Morton making only nine starts spanning 38.0 innings last year. Additionally, his 4.74 ERA was nothing to write home about. He didn’t show any ill effects from the shoulder injury in four postseason starts totaling 20.0 innings in which he spun a 2.70 ERA, mitigating concerns about the shoulder inflammation foreboding problems this season.
Morton’s underlying numbers were much better than his ugly 4.74 ERA would suggest, starting with his more palatable 3.97 SIERA. Morton thoroughly outperformed the league averages of a 9.2 BB%, 23.4 K%, and 11.3 SwStr% with a 5.9 BB%, 24.7 K%, and 12.1 SwStr%, per FanGraphs.
Last year snapped a three-year run of excellence from Morton. The veteran righty ranked 11th in ERA (3.24), 10th in SIERA (3.58), tied for ninth in strikeout percentage (28.7%), tied for 11th in WHIP (1.14), and 15th in swinging-strike percentage (12.0%) from 2017 through 2019 among starters who pitched at least 450 innings. His innings pitched rose from 146.2 in 2017, to 167.0 in 2018, culminating in 194.2 in 2019 before his hiccup last year.
Splitting the difference and projecting somewhere between 160 and 170 innings feels reasonable.
Further, I’m buying Morton’s underlying stats pointing toward a rebound. He ranks as SP38 with an average draft position of 122.7, according to FantasyPros. I’m higher on him than the consensus, rating him as my SP30. He’s a high-end SP3 with SP2 potential who’s worth a top-120 selection.
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