Here are some updates on guys I covered earlier in the year and where I expect them to be for the rest of the season:
Jason Heyward – He no longer drives me crazy. Right Said Fredi Gonzalez caused him to have a toxic season last year, but he’s rebounded nicely in 2012. He’s been more aggressive this year, with the highest swinging percentage of his career. This has resulted in a higher number of strikeouts, but also more line drives and his best slugging ever. Unfortunately, this aggressiveness has also led to Heyward walking less than in either of his previous seasons. When I wrote about him a few months ago, I projected an OPS of .830. Currently he has an .827 OPS, and I’m inclined to believe he hovers near there for the rest of the season. He has upside if he is able to regain more of his on-base deliciousness, but his strikeouts also have me feeling like he could go into slump at some point. Long-term, I still think he will be fantastic and this season has answered some of the questions that his 2011 season brought up. Going forward, I expect him to remain consistent with his 2012 performance and have an average/on base/slugging line of .270/.350/.470. Hit it J-Hey one more time!
Josh Willingham – Earlier in the year I said that Willingham was for real and could even hit 30 homers with a little luck. He now has 30 homers. The interesting thing about him is that his home run to fly ball rate increase is the main factor behind his career year, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to turn into a pumpkin any time soon. He has maintained a high home run to fly ball rate since last August and appears to be capable of continuing this going forward. It now looks like he could even hit 40 homers with a little luck. In OPS leagues, his increase in home runs has directly resulted in the highest slugging of his career. I didn’t expect him to slug much more than his career average of .480, but he’s at.544, ranking him among the league leaders. For the rest of the season I think he approaches a .260/.360/.510 line, but he could very well have a little more slugging.
Hanley Ramirez – I’ve had enough of Hanley. Yes, he’s still good for 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, but his .900+ OPS days are merely a distant memory. His OPS is sitting at .762, right in line with the .765 OPS he had when I covered him a couple months ago. I thought that he would approach an .825 OPS, but I’m going to admit that I was wrong and he likely will not do better than an .800 OPS for the rest of 2012. The million dollar question is whether he’s going to play enough games to again qualify at shortstop next season. If he does, then he will still be a solid option, but no longer a clear top tier shortstop. If he is only eligible at third base, his value will decrease dramatically, since there are easily a handful (maybe even two) of players who will have a higher OPS than Hanley. For the rest of the season, I project a .260/.340/.440 line.
Here are some guys that I haven’t yet covered, but find worth mentioning:
Bryce Harper – Maybe you’ve heard of this guy. This year he’s produced a .717 OPS, which is mediocre at outfield in OPS leagues. Yes, he’s insanely young and has tons of upside, but I don’t see him breaking out this year. There are a lot of things to like about him aside from his age, with his walks at a nice level, his strikeouts not consuming him, and a solid line drive rate. Over time, he is likely to see an increase in his home run to fly ball rate. Additionally, he has room to have more of his hits turn into fly balls. These two factors could lead to a significant increase in slugging. Until then, I’m going to be a bit optimistic and give him a line of .260/.330/.410 for the rest of 2012.
Nick Markakis – Markakis has been pretty consistent across his career. He’s generally been close to an .800 OPS player, with a batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage that are all above league average. Over the past few years, he’s experienced a decline in his slugging, in part due to a lower home run to fly ball rate. This season, he’s recovered in his slugging, largely thanks to his home run to fly ball rate returning to previous levels. I believe that he is likely to continue on his current path, potentially with a small decrease in slugging. A .290/.350/.450 line should be attainable.