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The Social Construct of David Ortiz

Happy Leap Day! Emma Watson, I'm single!

When esteemed colleague Steve Adams stole David Ortiz from me at the end of the 9th round in last week's mock draft, I screamed out. I F-bombed. Steve picked Ortiz at 107 overall, and I had the 108th pick. After I cussed several lines of text into the draft window, Steve suggested I discuss the event in this week's post. Gnawing my fingers trying to finish my dissertation and figure out how to feed myself next year, I happily latched onto Steve's idea. 

First, the DH spot. Fantasy players generally avoid DH-only players because they prefer flexibility at the UT position. This seems to be something of a lazy notion. Essentially, one foregoes Ortiz for the "flexibility" of playing a bench player at the UT position. What are the chances that this bench player can match Ortiz's production? Like Ortiz's midsection this year, seemingly slim. Players often say they like to wait to fill the UT position in drafts. What advantage is this? What advantage is there to playing Carlos Pena at UT?  

With the Red Sox reluctant to play Ortiz at 1B during interleague play, Ortiz lost at bats along with his 1B eligibility. Despite this, Ortiz has managed seven seasons of 600 or more PA in the last eight (2008, wrist injury). Ortiz is not an injury risk. 

Ortiz is 36 years old. Is he in decline? Judging by his peripherals last year, Ortiz had a late-career breakthrough. In 2009, after his injury-plagued season, Ortiz had the highest K% of his career, 21.4%. With this increase in K% came Ortiz's highest FB% of his career, 50.5%. Ortiz had changed his approach, possibly to accomodate for a sore wrist, and his HR/FB% was a career low 13.4%. In 2010, Ortiz's K% rose again, to 23.9%, but his HR/FB% climbed to 19.0%, pushing his ISO to .259. 

In 2011, Ortiz's approach changed again, dramatically. He cut his K% almost in half, to 13.7%, an almost unbelievable change. Ortiz posted a career high wOBA of .426 against left-handed pitchers. The seasons previous: wOBAs of .321 in '08, .310 in '09, and .268 in 2010. This remarkable reversal shows that Ortiz is still one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. With career worst seasons from Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford in 2011, the 2012 Red Sox lineup should improve significantly. Hitting 5th with another year of 600+ PA, Ortiz's upside is very, very high. While a return to the 20+% HR/FB of 2003-2006 is unlikely, Ortiz could replicate his 2007 season (17.2% HR/FB in '07, 17.5% in '11), with perhaps 10 less R and 10 more RBI. Brace yourself: .332/35/127/106. At ADPs of 125.2 (Yahoo!) and 105.9 (MDC), draft Ortiz in the eighth round of a 12-team league and take it to the bank. 

The social construct of David Ortiz involves an aging DH that will clog your UT position (night cats beware). Be antisocial and construct your championship season with Big Papi. More than just another spring training story of good health, Ortiz has identified problems with diabetes in his family, and has taken preventative steps, losing 17 pounds and giving up alcohol. See an informative video here, including Ortiz's take on his massive improvement against lefties in 2011. Papi has something to prove, and you should invest. 

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