Jason Heyward is the kind of player I love in OPS leagues. He draws a lot of walks and hits enough extra-base hits to raise his OPS league value well above that captured in standard 5×5 leagues. Following his manager-ordered off-year in 2011, J-Hey appears to be himself again. While his BB% is below and his K% is above his career averages, I’m not worried and view it largely due to a more aggressive approach since he’s currently hitting everything in sight. Expecting an .850 OPS this year is not unreasonable, considering he did just that in 2010, at the age of 20! I’ll conservatively project a line of .370/.460/.830 for the rest of this season, with upside for a little OBP and much more slugging.
Matt Holliday has always been a reliable .900 OPS player, but this year I’m worried. Yes, a regression in his BABIP will improve his overall line, but there are many reasons for concern. First, his speed is nonexistent, as evidenced by his 2012 speed score of 1.4, also known as Bengie Molina’s career average. Next, his O-Swing% and O-Contact% are well above his career averages, meaning he is swinging at and making more contact with pitches outside the strike zone. Finally, he is walking at roughly half his career rate. Small sample caveats aside, this year Holliday is slower, less patient, and making worse contact. Best case scenario, I’d project a rest of season line at .370/.490/.860, which is still great. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle to maintain his end of season OPS above .800.
Eric Hosmer was about as hyped as they come this year, and rightly so. He breezed through the minor leagues and maintained an OPS near .800 as a 21-year-old rookie. Despite currently having an OPS near .700, there are reasons for optimism. Relative to 2011, his BB% increased while his K% has held constant. Additionally, he’s hitting a similar percentage of line drives, flyballs, and groundballs relative to 2011. These factors suggest that his extremely low BABIP, may be contributing to his struggles. This leads me to project Hosmer to have an OPS above last year’s .800 for the rest of the season. I would count on a .350/.470/.820 line, with upside for .360/.500/.860 if he turns things around soon. Even if his struggles continue, I promise you this year Hosmer will not have a bigger bust than Billy Butler. Speaking of who’s got the moobs like Butler…
Pablo Sandoval is always hungry for more. Kung Fu Panda has been a high OPS player throughout his career and this year appears to be no different. He’s an interesting kind of high OPS player because he doesn’t have a relatively high walk rate, but his excellent batting average props up his OBP to respectable levels. His slugging, aside from his down year in 2010, has been elite and I see no reason for this to change. He seems to be as safe as they come in OPS leagues, with a baseline near .350/.550/.900. An OPS of .900 would rank him atop the league leaders and is particularly valuable at third base, where he would likely trail only Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista.
Chase Headley has been taking a walk on the mild side. Over 20% of his plate appearances have resulted in a walk this year, representing a tremendous increase from 11.8% in 2011 and his career average near 10%. In addition, he is swinging less at and making less contact with pitches outside the strike zone. I believe these numbers indicate some real improvement in patience at the plate and Headley will be able to maintain his OBP around .370, which he sustained last year. Clearly his .600 slugging is far from sustainable, and largely a product of a HR/FB above 25%, but I could see a slight improvement from his career average of .400 slugging. For the rest of the season, I’ll project a .370/.400/.770 as the floor, with room for some improvement in slugging.
David Ortiz’s hits don’t lie. The Latin 36-year-old has been a bright spot amid the slow start by the Red Sawks. Though he lacks positional flexibility (or any flexibility for that matter), he is a fantastic asset in an OPS league. His insanely high OPS is largely being driven by a BABIP near .500. Once this regresses, I believe he will still be able to approach his 2010 numbers. Since arriving at Fenway, Big (Grand) Papi has only had one year (2009) without an OPS near or above .900. I see no reason for this year to be any different, despite my annual concerns about his age. I’d conservatively project a line of .360/.500/.860 for the rest of the season, with upside for much more slugging. Speaking of players who continually elude Father Time…
Paul Konerko has been in the catbird seat waiting for duck snorts, or whatever Hawk’s been saying. I’ve given up understanding how, after posting an OPS below .850 from 2007-09, he’s produced an OPS above .900 since 2010. Despite being a non-Latin 36-year-old, Konerko is off to a roaring start this year. His near 1.000 OPS is aided by a high BABIP, although I’m confident he’ll remain an exceptional player when this regresses. I’ll keep my eye on his BB%, which is less than his last couple years, but he probably isn’t worried about walking when everything he makes contact with falls for a hit. I’ll project him to approach last year’s numbers for the rest of the season with a .380/.500/.880 baseline that could result in more slugging while he resides at the fountain of youth.