Can I assume that you’re still competitive in your league if you’re reading this article at this point in the year? Or are you simply looking to find solace from a lost fantasy baseball season? Well, I can’t promise that this article will save your team or your spirits but, then again, I can’t promise that it won’t either. After all, Juan Francisco should give you plenty to smile about, and not just for Brewers fans after a rough season. Following his mediocre .685 OPS across limited playing time in Atlanta, he’s thrived with consistent playing time in Milwaukee, posting a .245/.325/.511 line. I’ve always been one big Juan fan and am confident that he will be much closer to his Milwaukee line going forward. He doesn’t have a fantastic OBP, but his slugging will definitely help you, especially if you’re hurting at third base. That he’s largely available means that he can help you in your playoff push. Anyway, here are some other guys who might be able to save your team:

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I’ll admit that I rarely write about pitchers, which may not come as a surprise if you knew my long and troubled past. Many years ago, I had a strong affinity for many pitchers on my favorite team (rhymes with Drew Stubbs). Unfortunately the coach – let’s call him either “D. Baker” or “Dusty B.” – was bent on crushing my hopes. But for you, my favorite readers, I will temporarily set aside my shattered dreams to review how 2013 “OPS against” views different pitching staffs. I’ll also include WHIP and BB/9 because I’m just that generous (don’t forget humble!). Anyway, here is the list of the worst pitching staffs:

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Manny Ramirez is no stranger to controversy removing him from the field, which makes it even stranger that controversy may end up putting him back on the field. The Rangers, who have Manny playing in their minor leagues, have been insistent that they have no need for Ramirez on their major league squad. However, that could change with Nelson Cruz accepting his 50 game suspension. I want to address a larger point in that over-the-hill sluggers are sometimes worth the gamble, even when they seem unlikely to produce. Yes, I’d take the same approach with Alex Rodriguez (Steamer projects a decent .258/.340/.438 line for him). I know it tends to be unpopular because they aren’t as exciting as younger players, but, depending on the size of your league, they still have value. If you have any doubts about a player being productive at an unlikely age, I’ll give you my Exhibit A: David Ortiz, who is likely well into his seventies. If Manny gets another chance in the majors, I wouldn’t expect Ortiz-like production, but something similar to Steamer’s A-Rod projection seems reasonable. That would be helpful at removing some of the weight from losing any fantasy baseball players to a suspension. Anyway here are some less controversial players I’m following in OPS leagues:

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Drafting Michael Bourn? That’s a paddlin’. Focusing on steals in an OPS league? That’s a paddlin’. Drafting a SAGNOF who hurts your OPS and doesn’t steal bases? Oh, you better believe that’s a paddlin’! In all honesty (which implies that I’m rarely honest with you?), I feel sorry for fantasy owners who were counting on him for stolen bases. Don’t you feel that way too, Matt Kemp? They had their fantasy teams left cold and ashamed, lying naked on the floor. No, let’s not get into Rihanna right now. But I really don’t know where to start with Michael, so I’ll begin at the beginning and go on till I come to the end, then stop. His current .288/.341/.381 line is fine in OBP leagues, but hurts in leagues that use slugging. The fact that he only has 13 steals is puzzling, considering that he’s a guy you would pencil in for 50 a year. Perry Farrell told me to note that Bourn’s been caught stealing seven times, a potential indicator of less speed. To make a not-so-long story short, I wouldn’t count on Bourn turning his season around. Anyway, here are some other guys I’m watching in OPS leagues:

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No worries, fantasy owners: Alejandro De Aza may not speak Swahili*, but this past month his numbers have been music to fantasy owners’ ears. With a .350/.418/.567 line in July, a strikeout rate that has decreased every month of this season, and already reaching a career high in home runs, there are many reasons for optimism. Yes, he struggled early on this season, but he seems to be rounding into form with an approach that attempts to hit for more power. And why not? After all, he plays in a park where Adam Dunn bunted for a home run** last year. I, for one (unless I can speak for more than one?), am embracing the slightly more homer-friendly De Aza. If he continues to steal bases, then he will add to the scarcity of players who steal bases, but don’t destroy your OPS (you know who you are). For the rest of the season, I believe that he will be able to maintain his current .278/.336/.444 line, which represents a slight dip in OBP with a nice bump in slugging. Anyway, here are some other guys I’m dreaming about in OPS leagues:

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Maybe I’m paranoid, but we have to be masters of reality and understand that he won’t be able to continue this wizard-like production. I’m not exactly trying to declare war on Yasiel Puig, but, like any new found glory, it’s all downhill from here. Don’t make me choose my friends over you, Yasiel! He’s truly been a fantasy baseball catalyst, but he has a very low walk rate and his strikeout rate is rising to worrisome levels. He will continue to be hit or miss, although I unfortunately see him missing much more often. Let’s address the giant Sandoval in the room: his .472 BABIP is preparing him for a head on collision. Another factor is that his hip injury has shown that he’s no iron man. I’ll temper expectations a bit by saying that a certain player had a comparable 1.105 OPS last June, only to fall to mediocrity afterwards. Shout out to whoever names that player first. I think Puig will be closer to Mark Trumbo going forward, which isn’t bad, but isn’t anywhere near what he’s been this year. On a different note, Terse and I will be doing a Reddit AMA tonight at 7pm EST. Y’all should stop by. Anyway, here are some other guys who are putting up somewhat surprising seasons:

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Ike Davis had an epic 21st century breakdown this year that has rendered his fantasy baseball owners jaded and viewing this basket case as a true American idiot. What a nimrod! I’ll admit that I screamed in silence after owning him this year, but let’s try to take the long view here. Yes, he’s 2,000 light years away on holiday in the minors after leading your team down a boulevard of broken dreams, but this a warning that Ike, walking contradiction that he is, could finally come around to what we previously expected. I might be a minority here, but, in the end, I still believe he’s capable of producing an .800+ OPS in the majors. Some players temporarily burnout, while other are able to make things click when you least expect it. Right, Chris Davis? We’ve all been waiting a long time for him to see the light and I will look to grab him where I have an open bench spot. Hopefully we’ll be welcomed to paradise. If his stats go kerplunk a final time, then I’ll be willing to bid him a permanent good riddance. Anyway, here are some other players that have my ear in OPS leagues:

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Nick Swisher is one of those guys we love in OPS leagues. Yes, I will be referring to myself in the plural form. It’s easier to win arguments that way, no? Swisher’s been a flop so far this year, but the great thing is, like most politicians, he’s a flip-flopper. To put it less confusingly, I fully expect him to rebound. To put it more confusingly, read this while trying to spell Jeff Samardzija’s name aloud. Swisher has been one of the most consistent guys in OPS leagues and is a sure bet to produce an .800 OPS in a given year. He’s been slowed a bit by injury, but I expect around a .260/.360/.470 going forward. He’s been dropped in some leagues and, if he’s owned, his owner is likely willing to sell him at a discount. Let’s just say that I (we?) don’t think this is the year he collapses. Did I mention that the Chicago Blackhawks are awesome? Now I did. Anyway, here are some guys who have my attention in OPS leagues:

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Here’s the deal. We all love guys with exciting upside, but every now and then we forget that there may still be upside remaining in certain players. Starlin Castro is currently sporting an uninspiring .650 OPS, by far a career low. When I was at the Cubs game this past Sunday, it was mentioned that it was Castro’s 500th big league game. Pretty impressive, especially considering that he’s only 23. So, let’s think about it – Are we going to put more weight in his struggles this season or the chance for a rebound, based on his past numbers and youth? I’m going with the latter. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb, let’s call it an arm and a leg, and say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him produce a .290/.340/.450 line for the rest of 2013. That would be elite for a shortstop, especially a healthy one. Typically shortstops hurt your OPS, but Castro can be one who actually helps it. I’d be seeing if his current owner is worried about him, especially in a keeper league. He could continue to be a top shortstop for the next decade.

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Josh Donaldson is fired. As in, he’s been on fire since last August and I’m finally willing to announce that I’ve seen his face. Now I’m a believer! What’s there not to like? An improved walk rate, reduced strikeout rate, better contact, increased power, and a brand new hairstyle. After getting to know him from afar, I think he’s less likely to hurt your team than Jafar. There are many possible reasons for his improvement: receiving consistent playing time in the majors, having the pedigree (former first round pick), seeing the movie Moneyball, being in his prime, and, my favorite conspiracy explanation: that he’s no longer catching. All of these likely contributed in some way, but the important thing is I don’t expect him to fall off a cliff any time soon (as long as he cancels that hiking trip). For the rest of 2013, I’m going to optimistically project a .270/.350/.460 line, which is solid for a third baseman. Hold him if you own him. Otherwise, I’d see if his owner expects heavy regression (band name?). Shout out to commenter SwaggerJackers for inspiring me to cover Donaldson. On a different note, after next week’s article I’m going to have a very temporary Razzball hiatus (aka two weeks) while I travel to my motherland (or literally my mother’s land) for the first time. Whoever correctly guesses the country can pick who I’ll cover as my lede next week. I might give hints if asked on Twitter. Ready? Go! And here’s my Quick Draw McGraw approach to OPS leagues:

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