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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.

22 Responses

  1. Chunk says:
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    Any word on how Ryan Howard’s meeting went yesterday?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Chunk, Sounds like he is improving, but will not begin baseball activities for at least another week. I don’t expect him back for at least a month.

  2. TheBravesWear Prado says:
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    I’m not in an OPS league but I am in a league that uses OBP and total bases and I have Heyward, Ortiz and Holliday. I’m hoping Holliday gets more patient. He may be pressing to pick up the slack without Pujols.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @TheBravesWear Prado, I think his OBP will definitely improve, just not to the levels we’re used to. If you’re thinking of trading him, I wouldn’t sell low right now.

  3. bean says:
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    Pandaval is seeing the ball much better and is extremely patient compared to his hackitis self of the last few years. Occasionally he bites on the high fast ball but nothing near what pitchers were suckering him into before. The walks will go up but more importantly the average will hover around that .320/.330 mark if he can continue to mature at the plate.

    One thing to watch for is his right handed ABs vs. LHP which has always been his trouble spot. When he is going good the RH BA is above .280 but he has only had 12 ABs vs. LHP. Give it another few weeks vs. quality LHP to see if this is the Panda of 2009.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @bean, Thanks! I’ll hadn’t looked at this split, but will keep an eye on it.

  4. CL says:
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    10 team, dynasty year 5, OPS and strikeouts… Did I really just bench Mauer so I can start Napoli Da Man at C, and get Sandoval off my bench and into my UTIL?! Votto & Longoria are making this difficult for me… Thoughts? I feel like I’ve been building to this year all of my life….!

    Now I just jinxed myself.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @CL, Haha my money’s on you to win with those players. Napoli is absolutely crushing right now, so I wouldn’t recommend benching him. Maybe you can trade one of your catchers to fill a weakness (if your team even has any)?

      • CL says:
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        @Tom Jacks,

        Just to toot my own own a bit more… Sandoval is the only original draftee of this group. I traded for Longoria 3 or 4 years ago, Votto 2 years ago, and Mauer at the end of last year.

        My weakness is at 2B for sure… Aaron Hill & Jemile Weeks. No one seems to want to give me an improvement there, so I guess I keep my two catchers.

        • Tom Jacks

          Tom Jacks says:
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          @CL, Yeah that’s a very solid core. I agree with your thinking that if nobody is trading what you need, it’s better to hang onto your trade chips.

  5. Eric says:
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    Ike Davis, Aaron Hill, Cody Ross, Alejandro De Aza, or Alex Rios who do you like for the rest of the year?

    Stats
    R HR RBI SB OBP XBH

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Eric, I know he’s off to a slow start, but I’m a believer in Ike Davis. I think he’ll be near or above all of those other players in every category except for steals.

  6. mike says:
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    AROD or Freese ROS?
    Thanks!

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @mike, In OPS leagues, I’d still go with AROD. Freese has an unsustainable BABIP right now (over .400) that will come down soon enough. I think Freese’s upside is an .800 OPS, which is probably AROD’s downside.

  7. mike says:
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    THanks..i am in a standard 10 team league…would u trade freese or AROD and billingsley for GReinke? too much?

    How about freese for Luebke?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @mike, I love Grienke and don’t trust Billingsley. Trading Freese and Billingsley to get Grienke sounds like a good deal.

      Freese for Luebke is close, but I’d probably keep Freese unless you need pitching. I like Luebke, but feel there’s decent amount of starting pitcher depth on the waiver wire in 10 team leagues.

  8. ryan says:
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    cuddyer and billingsley for Luebke?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @ryan, I’d rather have Cuddyer than Luebke.

  9. chata says:
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    nice article , Tom .

    is that bourdain’s line that you used to describe pablo ??

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @chata, Yes! Glad you noticed the reference. And thanks for reading!

  10. 14 Team 5×5 League (OPS instead of Avg)…..can you give me your take on my lineup, and if I should be strong enough with this offense OPS wise, or if it’s something you believe I will need to address/upgrade.

    C – Montero
    1b – Butler
    2b – Zobrist
    3b – Longoria
    SS – Hanley
    OF – McCutchen
    OF – Bruce
    OF – LaHair
    Util – Dee Gordon

    B – Ellsbury
    B – Howard
    B – Campana

  11. Tom Jacks

    Tom Jacks says:
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    You’ve got some very solid OPS players. I don’t really like Dee Gordon in OPS leagues, and your team looks fine in steals (especially with Campana), so I’d shop Gordon to somebody in need of SS or steals. Also, I know LaHair is crushing right now, but I don’t trust him long-term. Maybe you could try trading LaHair with Gordon for an outfielder upgrade? Another option could be pairing Gordon with Butler for a first baseman with more power, since Butler loses some of his value with average no longer a category. Otherwise, I like your team, especially in a 14 team league.

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