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Chipper's last hurrah

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - On Monday, Prince Fielder, the winner of this year's All-Star Home Run Derby, hit a ball that traveled 476 feet. A day later, Chipper Jones hit a ball that traveled about 76 feet.

While it may not have been as heroic as the home run Cal Ripken launched into the left field bleachers in his final All-Star Game back in 2001, Jones' hit Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium was just as memorable.

Somehow Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler was unable to get a glove on Jones' weak dribbler to the right side as the ball rolled into the outfield for a base hit. The crowd roared in approval as Jones recorded the sixth and final All-Star Game hit of his major league career.

To me, the bloop single was a subtle reminder that even in his 18th and final major league season, Jones is still getting the job done.

While Ripken's All-Star nod in 2001 had the feel of a lifetime achievement award, Jones was actually very deserving of his All-Star nomination this season. Through 173 at bats in 2012, Jones is hitting .318 with six homers and 33 RBIs. The .318 average would be good for eighth in the National League if he was qualified and his .396 on base percentage would be the NL's sixth- highest.

Ripken's farewell tour was emotional but it rarely produced anything resembling fantasy relevance. His final statline in 2001 included a .239 average, 14 HRs and 68 RBIs in 128 games.

Jones on the other hand is batting .500 in the month of July and with the exception of possibly Jason Heyward (.272, 14 HRs, 41 RBIs), is still the most feared hitter in Atlanta's lineup.

Jones should be able to further cement his place in Cooperstown with another strong half of baseball. He enters Friday's game against the New York Mets with 2,670 career hits, 460 HRs and 1594 RBIs in 2,436 career games (all with the Braves).

The 460s homers (33rd all-time) are the third-most in Braves history and the fourth-most among active major league hitters (he's one ahead of Los Angeles' Albert Pujols). His .304 career average is also the third-best in team history.

Jones has won plenty of hardware throughout his career. He's been an All-Star eight times, he took home NL MVP honors in 1999, he's a two-time Silver Slugger recipient and his .364 batting average in 2008 won him the NL batting crown. He even helped the Braves win a World Series over the Cleveland Indians back in 1995.

Just don't expect Chipper to help you in your quest to win your fantasy league this season.

Though at first glance Jones' .318 average seems pretty impressive, it's mostly the product of a torrid hot streak he went on right before the All-Star break (he's batting .404 during his current 13-game hitting streak) that propelled his average from .278 to where it sits now.

If Jones can maintain his .318 average for the remainder of the season, he'll have some fantasy use but not a lot. Just look at how his first half stats stacked up against the rest of the league.

Jones has been the 308th most productive hitter in fantasy this season according to Yahoo's rankings and among players with third base eligibility, he's been the 26th-highest scorer at his position. Perennially mediocre Chris Johnson (.275, 6 HRs, 34 RBIs) and Daniel Murphy (.295, 3 HRs, 43 RBIs) are both ahead of Jones and so are strikeout kings Chase Headley (88 strikeouts in 86 games) and Pedro Alvarez (87 K's in 76 games).

In a lot of ways, Jones has actually been a bit of a fantasy bust in 2012: his preseason ranking on Yahoo was 272nd overall and 23rd among qualified third basemen.

The problem isn't Chipper's bat: it's his knees.

Jones has already endured two DL stints this season and has been limited to only 173 at bats because of a pair of knees that are so wobbly, you wonder if he borrowed them from Greg Oden. There are 14 National League third basemen who have registered more at bats than Jones has this season and if you include both leagues, there are 26.

Even if Jones can avoid another trip to the DL, it's doubtful he'll earn enough at bats to be a consistent fantasy contributor in the second half. Right now Jones is on pace to play in just 93 games, his lowest amount since 1993 when he got his first taste of the major leagues (and Bryce Harper was still wearing diapers).

Because the DH position doesn't exist in NL ballparks, Jones has been limited to mostly three or four game stints in between days of rest. The most games Jones has started consecutively without a break is five in a row, a feat he accomplished between May 7-12 and then again from June 10-15. And both times that happened the Braves had a scheduled off-day in between.

On top of having to deal with a pair of ailing knees, Jones has also been plagued by inconsistency throughout his 2012 campaign. After a disappointing opening month (.245), Jones cruised in May (.365) before slipping again in June (.260). He's been a machine in July so far (.500) but if this trend continues, fantasy owners will want to stay far away from Jones in August.

Atlanta's tough upcoming schedule won't do anything to assuage concerns about the Braves' aging third baseman. Atlanta still has 30 matchups remaining against Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, the five teams with the lowest batting average against in the National League. So far this season, Jones is hitting .222 with one homer and five RBIs in 27 at bats against this group of opponents.

It's fine to root for Jones as he embarks on his farewell tour across the National League. Just make sure to keep your distance from him in fantasy. And if you are brave enough to give the 40-year-old a chance, make sure you have a backup plan in place for when his knees give out.

07/12 17:07:48 ET


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