Why hello there. It seems like only yesterday when we were drafting our fantasy baseball teams and were guaranteed to breeze to first place. But then baseball happened. An injury (or two or three…) here and an underperforming guy there can really dampen your early season enthusiasm. Fortunately, there are always opportunities to grab guys off waivers or to buy low. Enter Brian McCann. A few months ago, I said, “I strongly dislike recommending people draft an injured player, but I’m going to do it this time. The last I saw, he’s expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season. Even if the injury reduces his production, I could still see him producing a high .700s OPS, with solid counting stats. Considering that you would only have to use a late round pick, it may be worth the gamble.” Well, considering that he’s still largely available, I suggest you close your eyes and fall back into McCann’s arms (gently, of course). Like Scott Weiland, he’s half the man he used to be, but there’s no reason why he can’t be a top 10 catcher for the rest of 2013. Anyway, here are some other players that have me crossing my fingers in OPS leagues:
Paul Konerko – Do you have Konerko on your team? Cover your mouth. Now look at his numbers since last June. Yeah, I yelled too – that’s why I told you to cover your mouth. It’s beginning to look clearer than ever that the ageless wonder is struggling and that he won’t bounce back. His contact rate and walk rate are lower, strikeout rate is higher, and his slugging is treading around .400. I hate to bet against him since he has defied the odds over the past few seasons, but I would be willing to sell slightly low on him, pointing out his hot start last year to potential buyers to keep the price decent.
Chase Headley – Time for a happier note! At the beginning of the year, I was confident that Chase could maintain a .370 OBP, but didn’t expect him to maintain a near .500 slugging. It’s still early, but so far the underlying numbers provide reason for optimism about him producing at the same level as he did in 2012. If an owner thinks that they are selling high because he will regress, then I’d be buying. I expect him to approach his .286/.376/.498 line from last season going forward, which is elite for a third baseman.
Kelly Johnson – I’ll admit that I was skeptical of him this year. Like Dan Uggla, his strikeout and contact issues were causing him major problems the past couple seasons. In 2013, his contact rate has increased, while his strikeout rate has held steady, resulting in a decent .244/.330/.427 line. He’s worth trusting as a second baseman or middle infielder, but I’m still going to keep an eye on that strikeout rate to make sure he maintains his current production.
Jay Bruce – I want to use him to illustrate a point (sorry for using you, Jay!). I’m fine with buying low on Bruce, but just because he was expected to hit around 35 homers doesn’t mean that he has to hit 34 homers over the rest of the season (since he’s only hit one). I expect him to hit homers at that same rate, but don’t expect him to necessarily make up for that time with extra production.
Carlos Gomez – The same idea I mentioned for Bruce applies to Gomez: just because Gomez has been better than expected, doesn’t mean that he will be worse than he was expected to be to balance it out. His .368/.417/.642 line would be incredible for anybody. Still, I’m having a hard time believing that he’ll maintain anything near his current production, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see him improving on last season. Carlos has continued to reduce his strikeouts and is hitting a career-high percentage of his hits for line drives, both encouraging signs. I see him as more of an .800 OPS player for the rest of 2013, but it will be fun to see if he can continue his hot start.
Tom Jacks likes it when you follow him on Twitter @votetomjacks (no, not in that way)