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I realized that in the couple months I’ve been writing these articles, I haven’t covered any Pirates players. Maybe it’s a personal bias, or maybe I’m struggling with the idea that so many Pirates players are worth owning this year. When was the last time that happened? Seriously, I don’t remember. So to make up for ignoring them, here are a few Pirates:

Andrew McCutchen – I know I’m not going out on a limb here, but McCutchen has been fantastic this year.  His improvements have been even more pronounced in OPS leagues, as his current 1.060 OPS is second to Votto in the entire league. This is even more remarkable because he had previously been a low 800s OPS guy. In 2012, he’s producing a career-low walk rate and contact rate, yet managing a career-high OBP. Yes his BABIP is very high, but this appears to mostly be the result of a more aggressive approach and better contact, as evidenced by a higher swing percentage and line drive rate. He’s also hitting a ton more homers and his home run to fly ball rate is twice that of his career rate, which is typically a sign of future regression. However, his approach seems to have changed and I’m betting that he maintains most of this power increase. It may have sounded crazy at the start of the season, but I’m expecting a line of .380/.540/.920 for the rest of 2012.

Neil Walker – Having an OPS over 1.000 is not something you would expect from Walker, but that’s what he’s done over the last month. However, he started the season hitting less than what you would expect from him, so I believe that this is largely a fluctuation over the course of the season. His OPS is roughly in line with his career average, but there are reasons for optimism with Walker. Most importantly, he’s walking and hitting line drives at higher rates than he’s previously done. Over the rest of the season, I think he will produce a line of .350/.440/.790.

Pedro Alvarez – Pedro has seemingly come back from the dead this year and become a respectable third baseman in OPS leagues. Yes, he is frustrating to own on a weekly basis because it feels like he will either crush or not get a hit, but he has produced well over the season. He basically is what he is and I don’t see any factors that have changed significantly in his plate discipline. His slugging will likely decrease because he will not continue to have a HR/FB rate of 27.5%, but he is capable of maintaining something near 20%. I see a .320/.470/.790 line for the rest of 2012. I’ll caveat this by saying that if you are in an OBP league that doesn’t count slugging as a category, you’ll want to run far away from him because expecting anything greater than a .320 OBP from him is a stretch.

Garrett Jones – Here’s another low OBP, high slugging player. His current .789 OPS is his highest since 2009, but his HR/FB is also well above his levels the past two years. One significant cause for concern is his career-low 3.8% walk rate and career-high 24.3% strikeout rate. I think he will continue to have a low OBP and will see a decrease in his slugging going forward, with .300/.460/.760 as a reasonable projection.

I’m not going to cover Starling Marte here, but he’s definitely worth a look as well. And for all you non-Pittsburgh people out there, here’s a few other players that I find interesting:

Casper Wells – Despite playing in dreaded Safeco, Wells has become a decent outfield option. This year he has benefitted from an increase in his BABIP, but this is partly driven by his increase in line drives. He’s currently walking a little more than he usually does, but his 30% strikeout rate is holding him back from being a great option. Fortunately, he should see improvement upon his current line to attain .330/.450/.780 for the rest of the season.

Buster Posey – Posey keeps getting better. This year he’s retained last year’s improved walk rate, while slugging like he did in 2010. He’s also posting career highs in his line drive rate and contact rate, which suggest that he still has more upside. I believe that he will be able to maintain his current .380/.500/.880 line that is second to Carlos Ruiz among catchers.

Alcides Escobar – Alcides has an OPS 100 points above his career average, but I don’t see any real improvement in his numbers. One positive factor is that his line drive rate has improved, but his strikeout rate and contact rate are both trending in the wrong directions. He also has a higher BABIP and HR/FB than he’s produced in recent years. For the rest of 2012, it is likely that he will be much closer to his career .665 OPS than his current level.

From Around The Web

  1. Ben says:
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    This is the second buy low on Pedro Alvarez article I’ve seen today. I know you experts really want him to be good, but it’s probably time to just accept that he’s not going to be. He’ll have stretches of good times, but they will be surrounded by stretches of very bad times. He’s Mark Reynolds with even worse plate discipline. It’s time to accept it.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Ben, I agree that he’ll be streaky, but overall I don’t think he’s much different than Reynolds. He will have an ugly OBP, but his slugging will allow him to retain decent value in OPS leagues.

  2. Chris says:
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    Thanks for the post.

    I’ve done very well this year in my OPS league (largely thanks to drafting McCutch/Hamilton back to back in the 2nd/3rd), but I’m wondering if it’s time to start aggressively shopping Hamilton. He’s been brutal for this last month+ and says he is “lost at the plate mentally.”

    Would you deal him for someone like Cargo, Fielder, or Encarnacion if you still could? What do you expect from him the rest of the way?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Chris, Thanks for reading. I agree that Hamilton is worrisome. He’s been well below where he should be in June and July. It’s really hard to project where he’ll be the rest of the way since he could change at any moment, but I would trade him for Cargo. I don’t believe Hamilton will approach a .900 OPS the rest of the way, but Cargo should.

      I’d want slightly more than Fielder for him, but could see pulling the trigger if you’re really worried. For Encarnacion, that’s a high risk/reward deal. I’m not going to recommend doing that one, but that could be a good move if you feel like gambling. Good luck, with whatever you decide.

  3. Splendid Sphincter says:
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    Would you deal Martin Prado and Jason Heyward for Carlos Gonzalez? Keeper 5×5 H2H and CarGo’s keeper elig. is expiring while Heyward was a 9th rd keeper (we keep in the slot they draft in, 3 keepers each).

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Splendid Sphincter, I think it all comes down to your chances of winning the league this year. If you’ve got a chance, I would definitely trade for Cargo. If you’re out of the running, I’d rather hang onto Heyward.

  4. douglaz says:
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    Love the OPS section of this site, you do a great job. Playing in a league with OPS makes it so much more fun, I play in a couple without it and there’s so much less strategy.

    Anyway, quick question: which side would you prefer… Fielder/Dickey or Wright/Halladay?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @douglaz, Thanks, I appreciate it. And I agree, it adds another level to the game, which makes it more interesting.

      I prefer Wright/Halladay. Wright and Fielder are pretty close, but I trust Halladay for the rest of the year more than Dickey.

  5. BlinkULDHC says:
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    I am in a deep, deep OPS-ish league, 12 teams, H2H.

    We’ve got 2 catchers, all the infielders, MI, CI, 5 outfielders, 2 UTIL — 15 hitters in the starting lineup in all (so, 180 hitters starting in the league every day).

    We also have 15 — yes, 15 — offensive categories (R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, CS, K, TB, Fielding %, TB, BA, OBP, SLUG, Grand Slam)

    My question: What do I do with Carlos Pena? The best FA hitters available are guys like Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Erick Aybar (remember, 180 starting hitters, you gotta figure the top 250 hitters are gone)

    Pena is at .195/.324/.353 in 354 at-bats, with 55 runs, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 14 HRs, 41 RBI, 127 Ks, and a .995 FPCT.

    The BA, Ks and SLUG are horrendous — but remember, this is a 15-category league. That means that fielding percentage is every bit as important as HR or BA, and Pena is a stud with FPCT (obviously, 1st basemen have tremendously added value with their high FPCT, high-total-of-chances). Pena offers decent run production and OBP as well…. how do you see him hitting the rest of the way

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @BlinkULDHC, In that format, I’d prefer Pena over any of the other guys you mentioned. He’s been worse than I expect him to be going forward. I’m sure his Ks and BA will continue to be horrendous, but I believe he will have a nice improvement in his slugging. I can’t see his slugging staying below .400 and it should benefit from an increase in his home run to fly ball rate. I think he’s more of a .205/.335/.410 guy the rest of the way.

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