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:
Anthony Rizzo has been fantastic so far. Since I’ve already been at a few Cubs games, I can say that the main thing I’ve noticed was his improved approach against lefties. Yes it’s early, but it’s still a good sign. If he’s able to improve against lefties, that would make him a good bet to beat his pre-season projections. A .270/.350/.500 line is a reasonable expectation, with slight upside from there.
Chris Carter has struck out in 44% of his plate appearances, which is pretty remarkable. He’s also hitting far more ground balls at the expense of fly balls, which hurts his chance of hitting home runs. His OBP will improve, but I don’t believe he has a good chance of topping anything decent, like .330. He could be worth a buy low offer in OPS leagues because 30 homers and last year’s .770 OPS is attainable going forward.
Alexei Ramirez has one of the best OBPs in the league right now, which was hard for me to type because he’s had around a .300 OBP and a .670 OPS over the past couple years. I don’t think anything has changed though, so if you own him for some reason in an OBP or OPS league, I would absolutely look to sell high if that is possible.
Jason Kubel is worth owning and had been fairly consistent before his down year in 2013. At best, he may give you a .330 OBP and a .450 slugging, which isn’t the greatest endorsement, but is still useful as your fifth outfielder. It’s worth noting that he does better against righties so he’s more valuable in daily leagues.
Joe Mauer could be a great buy low, although he has a .386 OBP, despite his slow start. His track record is long enough to give me confidence that he will have no trouble topping an .850 OPS going forward.
You can find Tom Jacks on Twitter @votetomjacks. He spends far too much time praying for the Cubs, planning his next concert, and wondering if there’s an instrument that could ever rival the theremin (there isn’t).