Here are some updates on guys I covered earlier in the year and where I expect them to be for the rest of the season:
Albert Pujols â€“ When I last wrote about him a few months ago, he had an OPS below .600. I remember people talking about how he was struggling to adjust to American League pitching. Since then heâ€™s been getting to know them, getting to know all about them. The King has impressively turned his season around to the tune of an OPS well over .900 since June. His BABIP and low home run to fly ball rate are two areas that have vastly improved as the season progressed. I expect him to be more than king for a day, and continue to dominate for the rest of the season. One potentially exciting development is his 24.2% home run to fly ball rate in July and August. Small sample aside, this is a much higher level than he has posted in previous seasons. It will be interesting to see how well he is able to maintain this level going forward. Earlier in the season I was concerned about his lack of walks, but he has generally improved this problem the last couple months. I expect him to remain an elite hitter and project .310/.400/.550 as his baseline for this year and next year. Albert just canâ€™t wait to be king (again).
Chase Utley â€“ After injuries left him questionable for this year, Utleyâ€™s proved this season he wonâ€™t be chasing pavements. Heâ€™s posting an .830 OPS that is mostly due to a spike in his home run to fly ball rate and a return to his career levels for line drives and walks. Most of this performance looks like it can be sustained for the remainder of the season, with the obvious caveat of his continued health. Earlier in the year, I thought heâ€™d have an .800 OPS, and I still believe that he will have a .250/.360/.440 line for the rest of 2012.
Chase Headley â€“ When I looked at him earlier in the year, I was optimistic because his increased patience looked like a real improvement. From that time, he has continued walking well above his career level and maintained his OBP around .370. I expected him to have a slugging of at least .400, but he has performed much better than that. I still believe that his slugging will decrease a little more, but a .270/.370/.430 line seems reasonable for this year and next year. With a career OPS 150 points higher on the road than at home, fantasy owners can only dream about the possibility of him going to another team.
Here are some guys that I havenâ€™t yet covered, but find worth mentioning:
Matt Wieters â€“ Matt Wieters fact: His on base percentage ranks behind 16 other catchers, among those with at least 200 plate appearances this year. Another fact: his OBP isnâ€™t all that different from previous years. Thankfully, since 2011 heâ€™s evolved into what should be an annual 20+ home run hitter. His home run to fly ball rate appears to be sustainable and may even increase in future years. Additionally, heâ€™s increased his line drives, which may lead to an increase from his current BABIP. On the other hand, after reducing his strikeouts over the past three years, he has been striking out more frequently in 2012. This factor and his decreased contact are dragging down his batting average, OBP, and slugging, likely limiting his upside in these areas. For the rest of the season, I expect a line near .250/.330/.440.
Prince Fielder â€“ His move to Detroit has resulted in a couple less home runs, but on the surface he is largely the same hitter. However, this year he has taken strides in many key areas, with a career-low strikeout rate, a line drive rate well above his typical level, and a career-high contact rate. This aggressiveness has led to less walks, which could be tolerated if it led to improved overall results, but it hasnâ€™t. The one factor I can find that may prevent him from taking a step forward is that he is making more contact with pitches outside the strike zone, suggesting that all of this contact is not necessarily a better thing. Moving forward, I see him continuing on his current pace, with slugging upside if he starts laying off of pitches outside the strike zone. Well, if you like to hit for hours, just go ahead now.