Aaron Hill is something you can’t understand. He’s maintained a career-high .868 OPS in 2012 after posting a career-low OPS the past two years, with .665 in 2010 and .655 in 2011. The only time he’s achieved an OPS above .800 in his career was in 2009, and that was largely fueled by a HR/FB well above his career rate (14.9% in 2009 compared to a career 8.0% average). This year he’s not getting overly lucky with his HR/FB or his BABIP, which is great news. Additionally, his walk rate of 9.2% is an encouraging sign as it represents a significant increase over his 6.8% career rate. This walk rate is likely not a fluke because he’s swinging at and making contact with fewer pitches outside the strike zone. This Hill has patient eyes. Aaron is also hitting more flyballs and fewer groundballs, which should translate into a steady helping of home runs. It’s worth mentioning that his strikeout rate is higher than his career average, but I don’t see it worth worrying over at this point. I didn’t expect to be this optimistic about Hill, but, based on his performance to date, I think he manages at least a .340/.460/.800 line for the rest of the season, with upside if he can maintain his current walk rate and HR/FB. That’s a nice line for a second baseman. Fantasy owners, you know you better watch out. Some guys are only about…
Curtis Granderson won’t rompe, rompe, rompe, break your team down. His 21 homers this season indicates that he could approach last year’s total of 42 home runs, which is fantastic for his slugging. However, his HR/FB is over 30% and will certainly decrease. The main predictor of his future performance is just how much this will decrease. His career rate is near 15%, but I’m expecting that he’ll be closer to last year’s 20.5% rate. Regardless, there will still be a noticeable decrease from 30%. Granderson is also matching his career-high 12.3% walk rate from 2011, although he is striking out a bit more than last year. One interesting difference worth monitoring is that he is hitting far more line drives and fewer flyballs, suggesting that he may hit fewer home runs if this trend continues. For the rest of the season, he’s unlikely to continue his .872 OPS, yet a .350/.500/.850 line could be within reach. Who can take an unsustainable HR/FB rate, and sprinkle it with luck? The Grandy Man can.
Jed Lowrie, with an .852 OPS, is surprising as a top shortstop in OPS leagues. On an annual basis, his OPS has been all over the place, ranging from .475 in 2009 to .907 in 2010. This variance can in part be attributed to a small sample size, as Lowrie had never received over 350 plate appearances in a single season during his major league career with the Red Sox. Enter his 2012 season on the Astros. His 11.4% walk rate and 18.1% strikeout rate are solid and demonstrate improvement upon his career rates. His plate discipline is also encouraging, as he’s swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone and has a decreased swinging strikeout rate, relative to his career norms. The only red flag is his HR/FB at 14.4%, nearly double his 7.7% career rate. I don’t think Jed will be able to maintain his current rate, but a line of .350/.450/.800 for the rest of 2012 would allow him to remain a top shortstop. As Lil’ Jon would say, “Get Low(rie).”
Ben Zobrist is welcome onto my fantasy team with arms wide open. After weathering a .694 OPS in May, Zobrist has come storming back with a 1.000 OPS in June. I’m no longer torn on this one: he’s an incredibly exciting player, as evidenced by his 16.6% walk rate (relative to a 12.6% career average) and 15.9% strikeout rate (relative to a 17.0% career average). Not only is he walking more than he’s striking out, he’s been somewhat unlucky with his BABIP. Going forward, he can take his BABIP higher. There do not appear to be any red flags with Zobrist and a .360/.460/.820 line for the rest of the season is reasonable.
Brian McCann, like most top catchers, has been a disappointment in OPS leagues. A .721 OPS is about 100 points lower than he was expected to achieve, due to his last three years: .834 OPS in 2009, .828 in 2010, .817 in 2011. The strange thing is that his batted ball and plate discipline statistics haven’t changed much this year. One factor that has likely played a role is his low BABIP. He is making contact with a career-high percentage of pitches outside the strike zone, which could contribute to a lower BABIP, because hitting pitches outside the strike zone generally results in weaker contact. Moving forward, I expect him to improve, but not to the levels he’s attained the past few years. I believe he’ll hover around .340/.440/.780 for the rest of 2012.