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Giancarlo Stanton has battled injuries and the Marlins’ awkward ballpark this year, but I haven’t completely lost hope. Since arriving in the majors, he’s been a fantastic player in OPS leagues because, aside from his insane slugging, he’s been taking walks at a solid rate. This year’s been different, with Stanton walking a lot less, hitting less of his balls in the air, and less of his fly balls becoming home runs. I have no idea how much of his struggles can be attributed to lingering knee problems, but the fact that the Marlins have played him in a majority of their games gives me confidence that his knee is improving. If he stays on the field, I don’t believe these negative trends will continue because his excellent eye and power are too good to disappear. For the rest of 2012, I’d expect his baseline near .330/.500/.830, or roughly his 2010 numbers. Keep in mind that he already has 57 career home runs, despite being only 22 years old. I believe that he will regularly top a .900 OPS throughout his career, possibly as soon as next year. Speaking of sluggers with slow starts…

Nelson Cruz, an avid historian, has been a long-time believer in Theodore Roosevelt’s sage advice to speak softly and carry a boomstick. He has a relatively low OBP, but offsets this potential shortcoming in OPS leagues with his career .500 slugging. He’s had a weak start in 2012, posting an OPS below .700. There are many numbers that stand out this season. Cruz has been swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone and more pitches inside the strike zone, always a good sign. However, he’s made less contact with the pitches he’s swung at, as evidenced by an increased swinging strike rate, an increased strikeout rate, and a decreased contact rate, relative to his career norms. Another important factor is that his HR/FB is roughly half his career rate, suggesting likely improvement going forward. Overall, I believe these factors indicate some decline is probable, but improvement is to be expected from his current 2012 pace. For the rest of the season, I’ll project a .320/.480/.800 line.

Derek Jeter is a player only Matthew Berry would call an “upper-level fantasy shortstop” for the rest of 2012. Sure Jeter’s been rocking a 1.000 OPS this season, but I’m astonished that other fantasy baseball ‘perts are buying into him. Apparently ESPN analysts watching the Yankees are like observers at a Man vs. Food event shouting “This is the stuff of legends!” In OPS leagues, it might be tempting to like his fast start, but he’s just not going to continue anything remotely near this pace. In fact, Jeter has arguably been the luckiest player in baseball, with a .400 BABIP and a HR/FB at 30%. It’s also important to note that he hasn’t maintained an OPS over .900 since he partied in 1999, while his OPS has been below .750 the past two seasons. I think he approaches a line of .360/.390/.750 as he did in 2011. However, his upside is limited and there’s the possibility that Jeter leaves his fantasy owners alone in a world that’s so cold.

Seth Smith is used to being neglected. The Lisper’s Nightmare was the backup quarterback to Eli Manning at the University of Mississippi. Last year he was traded to the A’s for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. He’s currently owned in less than 1% of ESPN leagues. If this doesn’t compel you to pick up Smith out of sympathy, then do it because he’s a sneaky play in OPS leagues. His plate discipline has improved, as illustrated by his increased contact rate and walk rate, along with him swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone. Despite these encouraging signs, he’s posted a .650 OPS. I expect Smith’s BABIP to surge and his overall line to have a corresponding rise, with .340/.460/.800 a distinct possibility for the rest of the season. In leagues with daily changes, it would be worth benching him against lefties because the A’s plan to do so the majority of the time (Smith has a career .590 OPS vs. lefties and .870 OPS vs. righties).

Bryan LaHair continues to set the world on fire. The 29-year-old rookie obliterated Triple A in 2011, with 38 homers in 129 games, also known as taking candy from a baby. In his stint with the Cubs last September he demonstrated that he appears to be capable of playing in the majors, with an .885 OPS across 20 games. This year he switched jerseys with Albert Pujols and is currently carrying an OPS over 1.200. Some, if not all, of his stats are downright ridiculous and he won’t be able to remain the best player in the league. Nevertheless, after heavily regressing his numbers, there appears to be a decent hitter underneath all that luck. I’d expect LaHair to produce a .330/.470/.800 line for the rest of the season, with upside for more if his luck continues. You may be old for a rookie Bryan but tonight, with you on my fantasy team, we are young.

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  1. Chunk says:
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    Finally, someone willing to talk about Cruz and his thusfar suckitude. Nice to see some optimism going forward…

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Chunk, Thanks! Cruz will start hitting more homers, but I’m really hoping to see better contact from him.

  2. ryan says:
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    moore,josh johnson,or lance lynn ROS
    Thanks!

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @ryan, I’d take Josh Johnson. His FIP is under 3, so I think he’ll improve as long as he stays healthy.

  3. MIke says:
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    Cudddyer or JD Martinnez ROS?
    Standard league
    Thanks

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @MIke, I like Cuddyer more.

  4. CL says:
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    I picked up LaHair this morning, and his dinger and his current 3.500 OPS look LaAwesome for me today!

    Sandoval to DL, by the way. Lost Longoria and now Sandoval this week. Jed Lowrie anyone? Glass Chipper?!

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @CL, Nice with LaHair! Those are tough losses at 3B. I’d pick up Chipper and pray that he stays healthy until you get one of your other guys back.

  5. wilsomiam says:
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    Thanks for the attention to OPS leagues

    Any thoughts on Matt Joyce and Jim Johnson for Jason Heyward? I’ve got more than enough saves. Could use more of both HR and SB.

    12 team roto with OPS. Keeper league.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @wilsomiam, Thanks for reading! I’d definitely do that deal. Joyce is solid in OPS leagues, but Heyward is the better all around player. Also, Heyward is a fantastic keeper, while Joyce really isn’t.

  6. Adam says:
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    Please rank lohse,billingsley,josh Johnson,and Worley ROS
    Need to keep 2
    Standard league
    Thanks

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Adam, Keep Johnson and Worley. I’d rank them: Johnson, Worley, Billingsley, Lohse. Billingsley ahead of Lohse slightly due to his high (and Lohse’s lack of) strikeout potential.

  7. Ryan says:
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    Would u trade lohse and billingsley for shields ?
    Have excess pitchers..trying 2 for 1

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Ryan, Yeah, I’d do that deal.

  8. Hole Camels says:
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    About Jeter.

    Obviously he isn’t going to keep up these ridiculous numbers, I don’t think anyone would think anything else.

    My question is, does anyone actually have a viable plan for getting rid of Jeter?

    No one is going to buy high enough on Jeter to make any sort of trade worthwhile with the crap hitters out there that play SS that you can replace him with. You aren’t going to get a top 4-5 SS in that trade (if you play in a league where that would happen, why bother even reading this stuff anyway, you already have your league won), and the Ian Desmonds are way too crappy to go in on as a wire replacement.

    TLDR: Other than selling out for prospects/draft picks in a keeper, why not just ride out Jeter?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Hole Camels, With Matthew Berry and Tristan Cockroft saying that he might be a top SS for the rest of this year, I felt that it would be helpful to establish how Jeter will likely perform going forward.

      I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ride him out if you can’t get a decent offer. Although it might be worth shopping him, just to see if anybody buys into his hype at all. Obviously, it depends whether you can get an SS back in the deal and which SS are available on the wire.

  9. Dan says:
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    What do you think you could get for a Lance Lynn/Andre Ethier or a Lance Lynn/Mike Aviles package.
    Is Cargo or Reyes aiming too high in a deep 12 team mixed league?

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @Dan, I think that it would be nearly impossible to get Cargo since he’s tearing it up right now. Maybe the Reyes owner is getting anxious and will consider trading him, but I bet he’d want more than Lynn/Aviles. Normally, I try to “buy low,” so guys who are either hurt or should rebound soon (like Reyes) are my targets. I could see a scenario where Ethier/Lynn tempts a Hosmer owner. That package might also be close to the asking price for Pablo Sandoval as well since he’s going to be on the DL for a few weeks.

  10. xopchipili says:
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    Agreed that Jeter won’t keep this level of production up, but his .400 BABIP doesn’t even come close to LaHair’s .543 BABIP. If I had LaHair anywhere I’d be selling him for whatever I could get.

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @xopchipili, Yeah, I definitely agree that his stats are ridiculous. I think he’s capable of having an .800 OPS going forward, so if you had LaHair and found somebody willing to pay for more than that, I’d jump at their offer. I bet the Cubs are trying to sell high too.

  11. C.O.C. says:
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    So if I have Jeter and Ian Desmond, do you project them close enough for the rest of the year that I could try and sell high on Jeter? Its a DEEP 16 team H2H points league, so its pretty safe to say that no other SS is going to turn up as good, at least not one I’ll get first, anyway…

    • Tom Jacks

      Tom Jacks says:
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      @C.O.C., I think Jeter’s a .750 OPS player, while Desmond is roughly a .700 OPS guy, so there is a downgrade. Still, I’d explore options because the upgrade you get elsewhere from trading Jeter may outweigh the drop from Jeter to Desmond.

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