Brett Lawrie is finally starting to live up to the hype he had coming into this season. After hovering around a .700 OPS in April and May, Lawrie has an .870 OPS in June. This is especially encouraging because his BABIP and his HR/FB in June are not indicating that he may simply be receiving good luck. Instead, his entire approach appears to have been reworked, with a walk rate nearly double and a strikeout rate nearly half that of the previous two months. Additionally, he has increased his fly balls while decreasing his ground balls, suggesting that more home runs may be on the way. One cause for concern is that he has not demonstrated anywhere near the power that fantasy owners were expecting from him. This is evidenced by his 2012 isolated slugging being half that which he displayed in 2011 (.138 in 2012 and .287 in 2011). While the .189 isolated slugging he’s posted in June is a very respectable number, it does not seem that he will approach anything near his 2011 rate, at least for the foreseeable future. For the rest of 2012, I believe Lawrie’s floor will be at .350/.450/.800, but he has upside for more slugging if he’s able to reclaim more of last year’s power.
Jay Bruce looks like the same exact player that he’s been for a couple years. Not that that’s a bad thing. Bruce’s 9.8% walk rate and 22.4% strikeout rate are nearly identical to his career 9.7% walk rate and 23% strikeout rate. This year’s .843 OPS is close to his .846 OPS in 2010 and his .814 OPS in 2011. However, there are some noticeable changes that, when viewed in aggregate, suggest he is improving and may benefit from these improvements this year. His 22.3% line drive rate is the highest of his career and is well above his 18.4% career rate, while his 30.1% groundball rate is easily the lowest of his career. If this trend continues, Bruce should see his relatively low BABIP rise due to an increase in line drives. In addition, his 18.5% HR/FB is above his career rate and, coupled with his slight increase in fly ball rate, could result in a career-high in home runs. One factor that has played an important role in Bruce’s success is his home and road splits. Considering his home ballpark, it isn’t surprising that he’s performed significantly better at home than on the road (.897 OPS at home and .725 OPS on the road). This year Bruce is taking greater advantage of his home ballpark, with a .939 OPS at home and a .769 OPS on the road. This may not affect his overall line much, but it is something worth keeping in mind if he slumps or has a hot streak that corresponds to whether he’s at home. For the rest of this season, I think Bruce will approach a line of .350/.510/.860.
Joe Mauer isn’t dead yet. This year he’s back to being an OBP monster, with a .414 OBP that recalls the level he regularly achieved prior to last year. His .433 slugging is also near where it had been prior to last year, aside from his exceptional 2009 season. In 2012, he’s been walking and striking out more than his career norms, but the ratio between them has remained in line with his career ratio. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any reason for expecting improvement upon what he has produced, but he should be able to remain far above the .729 OPS he struggled with last season. A line of .390/.430/.820 could be within reach, which would place him near the top tier of catchers in OPS leagues for the rest of 2012.
Michael Young is on a fast decline. His current .660 OPS is underwhelming compared to his .795 career OPS. This year he’s walking a career-low 4.1%, hitting more ground balls, and showing well below his typical modest power. At his age, I have little faith that he will be able to completely turn things around. I wouldn’t expect more than a line of .320/.400/.720 moving forward. That will hurt you if you’re using him as a third baseman, but it could be manageable if he qualifies for second base in your league.
Shin-Soo Choo may be a different player. Choo posted a .733 OPS in 2011, which was far less than the .900 OPS he had approached over previous seasons. This year, he’s demonstrated a similar batted ball profile and plate discipline, except for a noticeable decrease in his fly balls and an increase in his line drives. His BABIP is higher than last year’s, but this is to be expected with the change to his batted ball profile. This indicates that he may be able to realize an improvement in his OBP and slugging due to an overall increase in hits from the line drives. However, given the decrease in fly balls, he likely has limited home run upside, which may also limit his slugging. For the rest of this season, he is likely to maintain his current .360/.440/.800 line.