Traditional, smarishional, am I right?
I mean, long gone are the days when your soon-to-be father-in-law would actually pay you (in sheep, no less) to take his wretched daughter off his hands.
Similarly, Razzballers are becoming masters of their own domains and kicking the traditional 5×5 fantasy baseball game to the curb. According to this survey, a ton of you guys are adding OPS to your leagues. OPS is on-base plus slugging – basically the sum of a player’s OBP and their slugging (to put it in almost identical wording).
I understand it, it’s new. The long ball is fun. It’s not the 1940s anymore when players hit only singles and everyone had tons of acres and sheep and whatnot to give away.
Back to fake reality: if you’re in one of these newfangled leagues, you have to change the kind of dowry you offer for certain players.
Black OPS All-stars
Not surprisingly, a lot of hitters featured in the OBP value risers will gain value in OPS leagues. Jose Bautista, Lance Berkman, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher all become even more valuable in this type of league. In addition a few other guys gain a good bit of value.
Hanley Ramirez: Shortstops, as a whole, tend to suck even more when it comes to OBP and OPS leagues. Troy Tulowitzki stands a cut above the rest. However, even including last season’s disaster, Ramirez is the #2 SS in OPS over the last three seasons. For his career, Ramirez has a .886 OPS. While he might not get back to his .900+ OPS ways, a .370 OBP and .450 slugging percentage would net him a .820 OPS, which would have been in the top 40 last season and third at the position. A resurgent Hanley is a phenomenal option in OPS leagues.
Carlos Gonzalez: Gonzalez posted the 12th best OPS among OFs last season and has the third best OPS since 2009 at the position. A .365 OBP and .545 slugging percentage (i.e., .910 OPS) seem par for the course with Gonzalez now. That’s a top 15 mark most years. If you add the steals and other counting numbers, Gonzalez becomes an incredibly interesting option in the late first round.
Carlos Beltran: A healthy Beltran represents huge value in OPS leagues. He has the seventh best OPS since 2009 among OFs and posted the ninth best mark at the position just last season. Over the last few seasons, Beltran has increased his walk rate and OBP, and, when healthy has maintained an ISO above .215. Beltran will post a .372 OBP and .487 slugging percentage, meaning an .859 OPS. He has the upside to #1 OF status for your team who you can probably get as your third OF.
Kevin Youkilis: Youkilis (Grey’s geriatric love), who didn’t post an OBP below .390 from 2007-2010, could have been mentioned in the OBP piece (but he’s a no brainer in that format). However, he has posted the 10th best OPS over the last three years. While his 2011 OPS (.833) was low by his standards, it would easily finish top 10 at the position. Outside of health, the only concern entering 2012 is that lack of fly balls from Youkilis last season. Unless he is trading fly balls for liners off the green monster, his slugging percentage will suffer (as it did in 2011). For that reason, Youkilis seems like a .490 slugging guy (oddly right in line with his career number). Add in a .395 OBP and you have an .885 OPS, which would have been second at the position last year and 16th overall. Even if you want to dock him a few more points in SLG and OBP, he’s still a top OPS performer.
Mark Teixeira: Teixeira is tied with Ryan Howard for the 10th best OPS among first basemen over the last three seasons. Still, that OPS lands him in a tie for 21st overall during that time. OPS, it’s a first baseman’s game. Teixeira shows that you can obtain elite production in OPS from the back-end of the first baseman pool, suggesting waiting on a slugger makes a lot of sense. Teixeira has an .877 OPS with the Yankees and should be good for a .360 OBP and .510 SLG this season, i.e., an .870 OPS, which would have put him among the top 25 players last season and eighth at the position.
Jim Thome: Thome has the 15th best OPS over the last three years. During that time, he has averaged 27 HRs, a .376 OBP and a .526 SLG. While last season was nowhere close to his near-vintage 2010, it was in line with his production in 2009. For the Phillies, a .360 OBP and .480 SLG is not out of the question. That would give him a solid .840 OPS. The at bats might not be there, but he’s decidedly worth a flier in OPS leagues.
Josh Willingham: Surprisingly, Willingham is tied with Jayson Werth for the 41st best OPS over the last three seasons. That places him tied for 14th among OFs during that span as well. While Willingham’s OBP struggled last season, it was the first time he was in the American League and first time his walk rate dipped below double digits. Clearly some adjustment was needed and Willingham hit far better in the second half. There’s no reason Willingham can’t get his walk rate back to 11.5%, which should push his OBP to at least .355. In addition, he slugged .477 last year in Oakland, so he should have no problem putting up a .470 SLG in Minnesota. This would give Willingham an .825 OPS, which would put him in the top 20 at his position.
Luke Scott: Last season was a disaster for Scott. However, in the previous three years, he averaged a .348 OBP and .497 SLG (.845 OPS). Of course, there is a legitimate chance father time is catching up to Scott as he will be 34 this season. Nevertheless, he is mostly an afterthought in drafts and should be a cheap lottery ticket in OPS leagues.
Matt Joyce: Joyce, 27-years-old, has put up an .829 OPS over the last two seasons. While he took a small step backward in OBP last year (his walk rate was 9.4%), there’s no way he can’t get it back to 11% or so. If he does, he can post a .355 OBP. In addition, Joyce is entering his prime, hit more line drives last year and could be good for a few more extra base hits. A .482 SLG would net him an .837 OPS, making him an incredibly solid option in OPS leagues. In addition, his splits give you a blueprint to use him, i.e., only when a righty is starting.
Dexter Fowler: There aren’t many speed guys who rank among the OPS leaders at their respective positions (and calling Fowler a speed guy might be generous). Fowler’s .796 OPS last season was 29th for OFs and he demonstrated solid growth throughout the season. His three highest OPS months were in the second half and there was a near 200 point gulf between his first half OPS and second half. Fowler has always walked at a good clip and has posted 21%+ line drive rates the last three seasons. A .365 OBP and .435 SLG are not out of the question, which would help him reach a .800 OPS. Those numbers are a tad optimistic, but he could also improve on them. The biggest aspect of Fowler’s game that limits his value is his failure to use his speed. He was 12/21 in SB attempts last year and is 52/80 in his MLB career. Still, Fowler has two important ingredients in a base stealer: speed and OBP. Call Fowler a real big sleeper in OPS leagues.
Taco Bell Black OPS (non)Ballers
There is a bunch of cross-over from the OBP post to the OPS one when it comes to sucky guys for this format (cough shortstops). Alcides Escobar, Ian Desmond, Ichiro and others who don’t get on base a ton and hit a lot of singles lose tremendous value in OPS leagues.
Elvis Andrus: Andrus had the 13th best OPS among SS last season (behind Erick Aybar, Derek Jeter, Emilio Bonifacio, Yunel Escobar and others). While Andrus has begun to walk at a decent clip and his ISO double last season, his career OBP and SLG are separated by just .003. Andrus will get on base just fine (.350), however his SLG won’t be much higher (.360), leaving him with a pretty terrible .710 OPS. There’s better ways to get 40 SBs than sacrificing that OPS.
Jimmy Rollins: Surprisingly, Rollins posted the 11th best OPS last season at the position and has the 16th best OPS over the last three years. His OPS during that time is lower than Marco Scutaro and Juan Uribe. Rollins’ ISO has trended down since 2007 and has apparently stabilized at .130. While he has begun to walk more, he has also tried to hit more fly balls (potentially to make up for his lack of power), which has zapped his batting average. Consequently, he is giving back the OBP he would have gained with his walks in trying to hit homers. At this point, he looks like a .330 OBP and .400 SLG. He won’t post an OPS much higher than Andrus in 2012.
Michael Bourn: While not as weak as Andrus, Bourn doesn’t drive the ball at all. Bourn maintains value in OBP leagues, but posting around a .700 OPS leaves fantasy owners wanting. Bourn is basically Mark Reynolds in OPS leagues. He provides elite value in one-category while hurting you remarkably in another. He’s not quite as disastrous as Reynolds in average, but it’s probably better to get speed somewhere else.
Alex Rios: Even when Rios was great in 2010, he didn’t crack a .800 OPS. In fact, his OPS over the last three seasons is barely in the top 90 OFs. Even if he bounces back in an optimistic sense (.325 OBP and .440 SLG), that’s a .765 OPS, which would have tied for 34th at the position last year and would be worse than what Jon Jay did. Right now, he’s ranked 70th at Fleaflicker, which is madness, but even if he were another 100 spots later, I’d pass in an OPS league.
Cameron Maybin: Maybin is an odd case as he walks a decent amount and has the potential to drive the ball (.130 ISO last year, .132 for his career), yet he has a .704 OPS for his career. Still, he has posted mammoth OPS seasons in the minors and is still relatively young, so there is room for optimism. However, not even the most optimistic projections (.350 OBP, .425 SLG) get him to an .800 OPS. In reality, it’s far more likely he posts a .330 OBP and .400 SLG. That marginalizes his 40 steal potential.