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Exhibitionist: Jerry Manuel's bromantic feelings for Daniel Murphy spawn wire frenzy, high expectations

Brad Evans
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Skipping class is a regular occurrence for many college students.

Some take a booze snooze to recuperate from the previous night's Jager bomb binge fest. Others, especially those who believe "Half Baked" is an American cult classic, use the extra time to engage in various "recreational" activities. Meanwhile, the nerdy leftovers dodge professors to fuel their World of Warcraft addictions.

When Daniel Murphy ditched boring prerequisites while a student at Jacksonville University he wasn't sleeping off a hangover or questing with his dwarf warrior; he was crushing baseballs.

In an interview with MLB.com last week, the Mets opening day left-fielder revealed when playing hooky in college he pumped quarters into the local batting cage. Today, the studious and dedicated outfielder is still logging long hours in front of a pitching machine. However, hack time now isn't an excuse to escape dry Econ 101 lectures.

Outside baseball, extensive note-taking was the one thing Murphy retained from college. A true student of the game, he regularly scribbles down observations and tips in a 100-page notebook - a habit he picked up from Carlos Delgado.

It's Murphy's hard-working approach that has Jerry Manuel, and the fantasy community, abuzz. Over the weekend, the Mets skipper announced the lefty-swinger will be sandwiched between Jose Reyes and David Wright atop the batting order. Based on his eagle eye (11.6 BB% in '08), prolific contact rate (83.1 CT% with Mets) and combination of double-digit power/speed, the 23-year-old is in a prime position to become a statistical leviathan.

Before being recalled in August last year, Murphy excelled in three minor league stops, totaling a .315 BA, .378 OBP, 15 homers, 69 RBIs and 14 steals in 357 at-bats. Remarkably, he also batted .310 against southpaws. With the senior club he successfully transferred momentum, slapping a .313 BA with two homers, 17 RBIs and 24 runs in 131 at-bats. More incredibly, he tallied an otherworldly 33.4 line-drive percentage, the highest mark among hitters with at least 120 at-bats. Manuel was astounded by the kid's smooth transition:

"He didn't flinch. You don't look for that necessarily in a young player. It's normal to wonder if you belong. But you notice it when it's there. He came in here, didn't say a word, but the way he went about his business, you could tell he was thinking, ‘Ok, what's the big deal?' We brought him up because we thought he could hit up here. He expected to hit, and he did...The more at-bats that young man gets, the better off we're going to be."

Mixed league owners who invest an end-game pick or waiver claim in Murphy will also be better off. Because he's slated to bat second in an offensively proficient lineup, an effort similar to Brian Giles' ‘05 or Conor Jackson's ‘08 should be expected.

If he curtails the Ks, maintains a strong walk percentage and runs aggressively on the basepaths, a top-30 season among outfielders is attainable. It's also possible the former minor league infielder could gain eligibility at third or second if Wright or Luis Castillo succumb to a major injury.

Owned in a tiny 20 percent of Yahoo! Plus leagues, Murphy is someone to acquire immediately before the sticker price soars. If you've yet to draft, bump him way up your draft board. Although he's going around pick 300 in most mixed league drafts, he could easily be more valuable than Adam Jones (181.9 ADP), Nick Swisher (184.9) or Justin Upton (214.4).

Fearless Forecast: 492 at-bats, .291 BA, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 92 R, 15 SB

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Image courtesy of US Presswire

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