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Fantasy Outlook: David Ortiz

Fantasy Outlook: David Ortiz
David Ortiz

David Ortiz has turned back the clock in his final campaign

With nine home runs and 30 RBI after roughly six weeks of the season, David Ortiz is once again defying time. Surely, his prodigious and persistent power can be owed in part to his wide frame which has sustained so much to the point that he has produced a mind-numbing 14 consecutive 20-home-run seasons entering his final campaign. Ortiz said his ongoing motivation is rooted in his natural love of the game. Playing in his 18th season, the veteran actually told Scout.com last year that he thought 2009 could have been the end of the road for him. Off to an abysmal start, multiple reports suggested the Red Sox were considering outright releasing the Boston Rock Star. The nine-time All-Star says he owes his renaissance to a newfound dedication to his fitness and health. To perfectly summarize just how dedicated he proved to be to his Lazarus-esque revival, look all the way back at the No. 1 song on the day of David Ortiz’ debut on September 2nd, 1997 and you will find “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans. Big Papi has certainly come a long way.

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Hitting .400 in his last six contests with three homers and eight RBI, the three-time champion is batting .431 in 38 at-bats against what Baseball-Reference deems “power pitchers.” Yet most impressive of all is the fact that Ortiz has hit 47% of his balls “hard” according to FanGraphs. Astoundingly, that is almost 10 percent better than juggernauts Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and…Bryce Harper. He is even pulling roughly half of the balls he hits this season for his highest percentage since the 2004 title team. He is managing all this while still maintaining a batting average and on base percentage comparable with his career norms.

The six-time Silver Slugger winner is making history in typically clutch fashion this year as well. Over the weekend he hit a triple to tie the game and then a walk-off homer to beat the Houston Astros. With a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances, he now places top 20 in OPS all-time in “high leverage situations.” With 10 homers (half of them against the Yankees) and 33 RBI, Ortiz is on pace to possibly produce the ultimate farewell season in baseball history, one that would eclipse Barry Bonds in homers (28) and RBI (66). Plus, Bonds, as a 40-year-old, missed nearly his entire season due to injury.

Living up to his pristine reputation in the late innings, the former World Series MVP is hitting .385 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .366 with 13 RBI during innings seven through nine. Even more remarkably, he is hitting .325 in 40 at-bats in 1-2 counts while leading the league in both slugging percentage and OPS. While his bat speed might have slowed marginally, his shrewdness and preparation at the plate has compensated to where he holds his own against hard throwers and still exhibits his Herculean, full-body follow through at the plate, exposing his chest and torso to the mound in the process. As a testament to his prospective campaign, no 40-year-old has has ever hit 34 home runs in a single year. Ortiz’s colorful career is inundated with huge hits, and he certainly emerges when the lights are shining brightest. You have to look no further than his trio of walk-off moments in the 2004 postseason to his memorable “Boston Strong” proclamation in 2013. While it remains to be seen if his 2016 season will be historic, you can definitely bet on it being productive.

Big Papi’s 37 home runs last year were his most in nine years, and the 146 games he appeared in were his most in six years. Typically, a noted athlete’s swan song is filled with celebratory yet oft-cringe-worthy peeks at what is now a fallen star stripped of its resplendent radiance. For Ortiz, Boston fans’ main concern is whether their sizable slugger will have enough protection in the lineup. In other words, they could care less about his impending retirement at year’s end because they have a pennant to win and it may just well happen on the wide, formidable shoulders of the timeless 40-year-old. Perhaps Bartolo Colon isn’t the only rotund elder statesman turning back the baseball clocks in 2016. Maybe the impregnable Father Time has finally met his ultimate match.

Anthony Castellano is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Anthony, check out his archive and follow him @AcasNY23.

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