So long, farewell, goodnight, Prince Fielder. One of the most disappointing starts to the 2014 season has been Mr. Fielder with his .162/.205/.216 line.  To exacerbate things, his offseason move to Texas led to him being hyped heading into drafts and his current owners paying top dollar to roster his .421 OPS. Following a disappointing 2013 season, his slow start has caused some owners to panic, pointing to his inability to walk or hit a home run. So what do I recommend doing at this point? Buy Prince Fielder while you still can. I really don’t like using “small sample size” to dismiss early starts, because it feels like the lazy way out. A better approach would be to see that Fielder has had 0 for 4 games against Alex Cobb, David Price, etc., notice that his batted ball distribution hasn’t dramatically changed, and remember why he was rated so highly in drafts. Even with the slow start, I’d be surprised if Fielder didn’t improve on last year’s .279/.362/.457 line this year, especially the slugging. And while it’s on my mind, here’s a few other players who have had surprising starts and what it means for OPS and OBP leagues:

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From the 30,000 foot view, it’s hard to see imperfections. This applies to corporate jargon (I’m a customer-facing, solution-oriented go-getter), this year’s Lollapalooza lineup, and even Chicago Cubs outfielder Junior Lake. As an aside, I was impressed with how unimpressive this year’s Lolla lineup is. Maybe it’s just me, but this will be only the second year since it’s been in Chicago that I won’t be going (last year was the first). But there’s no use crying over spilled neutral milk hotel. Instead, let’s always look on the bright side of life. The Fantasy Baseball God(s?) have provided us with many late-round and even waiver wire options this year that can bolster our team in OPS and OBP leagues, beginning with Mr. Lake.

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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?

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Happy New Year everybody! I’ve been in hibernation for the most part this offseason, aside from this, but decided to awaken from my slumber to tell you a little secret. Although it’s not really a secret since I repeatedly made it clear last year when I professed my love early and often. And it wouldn’t be a secret anymore once I typed it here, would it? Nevertheless, I’m doubling down on my Josh Donaldson star-gazing and, for those of you who didn’t read the title, proclaim that he’ll be a top tier third baseman for 2014 in OPS leagues.

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And that might be conservative. I’ve seen people projecting him to steal 60, 70, or even 80 bases since that’s what recent league leaders have done. However, I see no reason to try to project Hamilton’s steals by comparing him to recent league leaders. He is not any of those other players and has demonstrated that he is clearly an anomaly in terms of speed, which means that it makes sense to treat him as an individual case. Anyway, here’s my thinking, assumptions, and the Billy Hamilton steal calculation:

500 at bats x .295 OBP x running 80% of time x successful 85% of time = 100 SBs

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Like any stereotypical rock band or movie franchise, I’m going to try to repeat success by sticking with the same formula. I’m referring to last week’s post about The Next Chris Davis, which led to a number of great suggestions for next year’s breakout players. This week, while I still have your attention, I want to focus on the other side: players who you expect to take a step (or two, or three) backwards in 2014. I titled this post after Josh Hamilton’s 2013 performance, but it really could have been named after any number of disappointing performances. So, who do you expect to be a bust next year? And while you’re at it, can you think of any bands with a second album that was better than their debut or a movie franchise that had a better sequel than the original? I’m looking forward to all of your thoughts, which will provide me with some topics to endure the cold, winter months that some call the offseason…

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I’m going to assume that whoever is still reading fantasy baseball articles at this point in the year is a dedicated fantasy baseball player. That’s fair, right? So I wanted to use this article to get your thoughts on some of the best breakout players for 2014 while I still have your attention. On some level, I’m looking for who might be the next Chris Davis. This is kind of ironic because, before Mr. Davis, you would have called this the next Jose Bautista. And so on. So who are some of the players you’re expecting to take the next step in 2014?

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Avisail Garcia has been great the past few weeks, hasn’t he? At this point in the season, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to throw projections out the window (defenestration, yo!). This isn’t to say that you should expect something completely unrealistic from a player, but it is ok to minimize any worry about regression. For example, can Avisail maintain the .800 OPS he’s produced over the past month? Why not? And, am I allowed to answer a question with another question? This is my long way of saying that if a player is on a hot streak, it could absolutely continue for the rest of the season and doesn’t “have to” regress. With that out of the way, I’ll admit that I’m still deciding how I’ll feel about Garcia for next year, but I believe he can be productive for the rest of 2013. Anyway, here are some players who can be better than expected in OPS leagues going forward:

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I never know what to expect from Jay Bruce on a weekly basis. He’s been killing me softly the past month (or really, season), but it always feels like he might turn things around instantly. Is there a term for when a fantasy baseball owner is afraid to bench a great player out of fear of retribution? Or is that simply good old fashioned passive-aggressiveness? I’m not sure if it’s better to have “streaky” players in a head-to-head league or not. Theoretically, they could kill your team in a given week, but they could also save it. Maybe it’s just about having a good balance. What are your thoughts on “streaky” players? Anyway, Bruce has been alright, but is fairly underwhelming in an OPS league, considering his likely price on draft day. I’m thinking about jumping off the ship next year and letting somebody else grab him, but then he would probably make me regret it. There he goes again with that passive-aggressive behavior! Here are some other players on my mind who may or may not stab you in the back:

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Fancy meeting you here, and look at you: all dressed up with no place to go. As the season winds down, some are focused on last-minute playoff help (I try to appease you below), while others are reflecting on the past season. Let’s try to focus on the positives and learn a little something. I’m curious to hear which player you think is most deserving of the “OPS League MVP Award”. Let’s stay away from Miguel Cabrera, who was obviously great, but cost you a high draft pick. I’m looking for guys who provided value that far exceeded what they cost you on draft day and were truly a gift from the fantasy baseball gods. This will ideally help to provide us with a list of potential targets for next season (don’t worry; nobody else besides us will see this). Anyway, for those of you fortunate enough to still be in contention, here are some potential targets:

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