Hope all of you out in Razzballland (who doesn’t like the ol’ triple L) enjoyed the All-Star Break. We all now know making the All-Star game an exhibition game again was a great idea. It’s just too bad they only scored three total runs. Still I’ll take the more fun baseball games and juiced baseballs; reminds me of the nineties. This season thus far has been a throwback to those days, right?
I think what the MLB marketing department did was they looked at the last truly successful, cross cultural, baseball era and it was the steroid era, right? Admittedly people did care and pay attention when the Cubs won last year and when the Red Sox won their first but that’s World Series time, a couple weeks in October. But baseball needs fans for 162 games and that means continuing to target casual fans. For example, my wife. She knows about Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire but didn’t know who Mike Trout was until we went to an Angels game. She doesn’t know Bryce Harper; she does know ARod and Barry Bonds but she’s familiar with baseball enough to go because of those guys (and buy a hat and a t-shirt and a hot dog and frozen lemonade). Point being, if baseball wants that all-important demographic that really doesn’t care about baseball (but will go to games) they should stick to this…
So it doesn’t bother me if the commissioner doesn’t want to admit he’s juicing baseballs. I’m glad he is. Furthermore for fantasy purposes, because I was tired of having to worry about so many dang pitchers with sub 3.00 ERAs and so few hitters of 30+ homers. As an OPS leaguer I’m ecstatic we can focus more on the power. Though it has taken a little getting used to this season realizing that 20 homer guys are sitting on the waiver same as sub 3.50 guys did the past few seasons. I hope we can stick with these juiced balls because I don’t want to go back to pitchers dominating. On that note, let’s finish off the 2017 OPS All Stars of the First half (Part 1 here):
Shortstop: Carlos Correa leads the group with a .979 OPS followed by Zach Cozart (.941), Corey Seager (.897), Jean Segura (.872), Elvis Andrus (.816) and Chris Ownings (.807). Xander Bogaerts (.806) rounds out the group of .800+ OPS. Cozart’s been on Correa’s level this season and absolutely earned his All Star bid; a .900+ OPS with nine homers is darn impressive, this is looking like career year numbers, so let’s hope he’s stays healthy. More proof the balls are juiced can be found in Andrus, Ownings and Segura; Bogaerts has been playing through injuries most of the season and is a trade target for me.
Shortstop is really about the big guys missing from the above group: Manny Machado, Jonathan Villar, Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor. As a trade target Manny is still going to be hard to get (and he had a two homer game leading up to the break) but I’d look at Lindor who started the season hot in the homer department but has cooled considerably. He does have the lowest BABIP (.260) of the top 17 shortstops by OPS, his 25 doubles are first among shortstops and a .203 ISO ranks fourth. While his .767 OPS could be improved he’s still a solid trade target.
Villar I’d run from (although I know he’s been hurt) especially in OPS leagues as his .826 last season was helped by 38 doubles and 19 homers; this season he has ten and eight to go with a .641 OPS. Story may go into history with that ridiculous first half last season; he is striking out 35% of the time, has dealt with injuries is hitting .224 with a respectable .319 BABIP and he’s near impossible to drop as you know once you drop him he’s going to start crushing it…but a breaking point is nigh.
Third Base: Justin Turner leads all with an OPS of 1.056 followed closely by Jose Ramirez (.988), Anthony Rendon (.960), Travis Shaw (.938), Kris Bryant (.928), Jake Lamb (.922), and Miguel Sano (.906). Nolan Arrenado (.905) closes out the .900+ club. All of those guys should be owned if you’re in a competitive league and, with Shaw as the lone exception, all of the others were high(er) picks, making third base the most consistent position from draft time to now.
Two exceptions worth acquiring: Alex Bregman and Maikel Franco. Future is still bright for the 23-year-old Bregman but a stinky .338 OBP yielding a subpar .757 OPS and a weak .163 ISO have held him back this season; on the bright side is low .291 BABIP and 21 doubles; he has eight homers and eight steals and a hot streak could easily have him ending with a 20/20 season. The 24-year-old Franco has an embarrassing .657 OPS though keeping on the sunny side he also has an ultra-low .215 BABIP, 13 homers, 45 RBIs and a reasonable 13.5% strikeout rate. I wouldn’t pay a lot for either guy, but there is upside.
Outfield: So our top three Outfielders are easy; Mike Trout, Aaron Judge (1.135) and Bryce Harper (1.031). If we want to nitpick we can set a minimum number of games, say 50, and that moves Mike Trout out and up comes George Springer who has a .993 OPS. Not much to say about those guys, except I’m glad Trout is coming back, and they’re all awesome. Also in the top 10 are Marwin Gonzalez (.967), Lonnie Chisenhall (.953), Michael Conforto (.945) and Marcell Ozuna (.940). Three of these four are owned in a minimum of 84% of leagues, and one isn’t. Should be an easy guess, but I’ll tell you as I’m not one for suspense, it’s Chisenhall.
In 216 plate appearances the 2008 first-rounder has a line of 29/12/51/2. Let’s compare that to another guy with 215 plate appearances and a line of 36/14/36/1/.991; one JD Martinez who is owned in a great many more leagues. Chisenhall has a line of 5/2/10/0/.935 the past two weeks, though he suffered a calf injury right before the break; hopefully he’ll rest up and be ready to rock the second half. Chisenhall is only 20% owned in Yahoo! and 26% of ESPN leagues and he’s worth a go to see if he stays hot.
Depending on when this post goes up I’m either on my way to San Diego, enjoying San Diego, or on my way back home. So if you have some tips/recommendations, throw them out there, and I may or may not be able to utilize them this time. If not, I’ll go back, so your tip doesn’t go to waste. It’s a popular vacation spot and people read this (hopefully) so share, it won’t hurt.