It’s time to start looking ahead to the 2013 fantasy baseball season. With that in mind, this column will hope to shine a light on players who are noticeably affected by OPS:
Michael Morse – Like a true one-hit wonder, Morse is likely to continue playing well past his prime. Ironically, he seemed marked as a Quad A player when he began his career with the Mariners, receiving sporadic playing time in the majors and spending the majority of his time in the minors. Upon joining the Nationals, his OPS consistently improved: .772 in 2009, .870 in 2010, and .910 in 2011. Unfortunately, he struggled last year with a .291/.321/.470 line, and the Mariners decided to trade for him. On a slightly related note, what are the Mariners thinking? Are they looking to counter the Los Angeles murderers’ row of Trout/Pujols/Hamilton with their struggling-to-stay-on-the-field-to-provide-veteran-presence trio of Ibanez/Morales/Morse? Somewhere, King Felix sighs… then still pitches a shutout. If I were a Mariners fan, I’d tell the front office to go sit on a flagpole, Harvey Danger. But I’m not, so I won’t. Anyway, what can we expect from Michael Morse this season?
The answer: a lot. The second part of that answer: of mediocrity. Last season, Morse lived and died by the home run. He posted by far the lowest walk rate of his career at 3.7%, also known as roughly half of Alfonso Soriano’s walk rate. His strikeouts also increased to the highest rate of his career since becoming a full-time player. Yes, his increased HR/FB% is nice, but I’m not willing to count on that next year because: 1) his ground ball rate significantly increased, 2) his fly ball rate significantly decreased, and 3) his infield fly ball rate significantly increased. So what are we left with? I think he may only produce slight improvement upon last year’s line, with an upside of a .280/.330/.480. That’s still worth owning in many leagues, but I wouldn’t expect anything like the sure-fire .850+ OPS player he used to look like. Although if you’re playing in a Mariners-only league, he’s still worth a top pick. Sorry Mariners fans! But if you knew which team I root for, you’d have just as many (if not more) things to say…
Brian McCann – As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I participated in and wrote about one of my 2013 fantasy baseball mock draft experiences. One thing I forgot to mention was that some players fell much farther than I thought they would. Mr. McCann is one of those players and went at pick 212. At the end of last season I said, “Arguably the biggest disappointment among catchers in fantasy leagues, McCann’s .230/.300/.399 line pales in comparison to his .279/.351/.475 career line, which had roughly been his production from 2009-2011. The strange thing is that his plate discipline and batted ball statistics really do not indicate any red flags, so I believe that his career-low BABIP may be largely to blame. I cautiously expect a rebound back to an .800+ OPS next year.” Well, that was before his shoulder surgery. I strongly dislike recommending people to 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 a high .700 OPS and solid counting stats from him. Considering that you would only have to use a late round pick, it may be worth the gamble.