My fellow Razzballers: there is a massive epidemic that needs to be stopped! It’s what I call “David Ortiz Disease.” I need your help in containing this outbreak that has led fantasy owners everywhere to shun a certain type of old and injury-prone player (more on that later), causing their price to plummet relative to their production and hindering the chances of every would-be owner. The most surprising aspect of this disease is that it applies to players who are coming off productive seasons. Unfortunately, authorities have been unable to contain this disease to a specific league, causing neither keeper nor re-draft fantasy owners to be immune. However, some old and injury-prone players will not be undervalued in drafts this year, such as Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, and Jacoby Ellsbury. What could they possibly have in common to prevent them from being undervalued and how does this affect fantasy baseball, particularly OPS leagues?
Answer: They’re all on the Yankees, duh. No, I’m not trying to hate on the Yankees. I mean, as a Cubs fan, why would I have reason to? It’s not like I had my hopes raised that the Cubs might actually land a player who the Yankees wound up giving a massive contact to, is there? Anyway, yes, Yankees players clearly receive a lot of attention, but the allure (and somewhat myth) of their massively hitter-friendly ballpark sways fantasy owners to look the other way on players that would otherwise fall in drafts due to the old and injury-prone labels. And I’ll admit that Ellsbury isn’t old old, just kinda old. But maybe playing Bingo and watching Wheel of Fortune with the rest of those veterans will age him some…
This now brings us to Mr. David Ortiz. Before last season, I said, “Big Papi finished last season with a 1.026 OPS. Let’s all take a minute for that to sink in… So what can we expect from him for next year? Well, I’m not going to project a 1.000 OPS because I wouldn’t do that for anybody, but I don’t see why he can’t reach a .900 OPS, with upside from there. That’s extremely valuable in any league. Sure, it hurts a little to not have the flexibility of your utility spot, but Ortiz is probably going to be more productive than anybody else you were going to use in that spot. He also typically goes several rounds later than I think he should, due to the designated hitter label. If he qualified as, say, a first basemen or outfielder, I don’t think he’d make it out of the third round in OPS leagues, even with the lingering injury concerns. For 2013, I’ll give him an indulgent .290/.390/.540 line.”
Well, he exceeded that projection in 2013 and I’ll project the same .290/.390/.540 line for this season. Even with the age and injury-prone concerns, he gets undervalued to the point that you have some upside since his projections tend to account for the downside with his concerns. Some other players who share this David Ortiz Disease include:
Joe Mauer – I’m really high on Mauer this year (hey, it’s legal in this state). I’m especially excited in OPS leagues, where I think he’s arguably the best catcher. He’s generally been productive when healthy and he’ll get the benefit of moving to first base, which I expect to help preserve him over the season. Last year’s .324/.404/.476 line could be within reach for 2014.
Chase Utley – He is another one of those ‘productive when healthy’ players that had a solid season in 2013, with a .284/.348/.475 line that only ranked behind Robinson Cano and Matt Carpenter in terms of OPS. That may be on the high end of what to expect for this year, but I wouldn’t expect much of a decline either as long as he stays on the field.
Jed Lowrie – He’s not too old, but he does have what feels like a continuous injury history. That makes the fact that his .791 OPS was the highest among shortstops with at least 600 plate appearances all the more impressive. I expect him to approach his .290/.344/.446 line from last year, possibly with a tick less in batting average.
Tom Jacks is sporadically on Twitter @votetomjacks