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March 15, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter

by Michael Street

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Chicago (NL)

PECOTA

2007-09

Scoresheet

Short-Term PT%

Third Base

Age

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BA

OBP

SLG

K%

BB%

TB/H

vRH

vLH

Rng

1B

3B

DH

All

Jeff Baker

28

375

10

45

42

2

.255

.320

.406

24%

8%

1.62

–23

+56

2.65

0

0

0

60

Aramis Ramirez

31

589

21

76

89

2

.280

.359

.463

13%

9%

1.75

+4

–12

2.61

0

85

0

85

Chad Tracy

29

73

2

7

9

0

.241

.310

.367

15%

8%

1.63

+19

–65

*1.85

0

15

0

15

Heater team expert:

Avg for First Base

.275

.359

.477

17%

11%

1.74

vRH = OPSvR

Figures by Heater

Rob McQuown

Avg for Third Base

.269

.339

.434

18%

9%

1.61

vLH = OPSvL

New upgrade

 

Avg for Desig. Hitter

.263

.350

.468

19%

11%

1.78

Rng = Range

New downgrade

* = Range stats not available, or from alternate position

SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Jeff Baker 15 2 1 0 0 .133 .235 .200 3/2 0/0
Aramis Ramirez 17 4 2 0 0 .235 .235 .353 4/0 0/0
Chad Tracy 15 4 0 0 0 .267 .353 .267 2/2 0/0
Spring Training stats per Heater

Losing Aramis Ramirez for two months in 2009 to a dislocated shoulder has made his backup an important consideration. Among MLB’s most consistently productive 3Bs, Ramirez has slugged over .500 for six straight years, though his SLG has dropped each one of those years. Consistent contact rates in the mid-eighties and a steady 8% walk rate make him a threat to hit .300, and he should beat those PECOTA projections if he stays healthy.

If he goes down, however, the Cubs will turn to Chad Tracy, as HEATER’s Rob McQuown sees Jeff Baker shifting over to share time with Mike Fontenot at 2B. Tracy’s career-worst 2009 capped off several years of sliding production, making him well-suited for a backup, not full-time, work. 2009 offers some hope for a Tracy rebound: his 9.0 BB% and 14.8 K% were both at or near career highs, while his BABIP and H% were career lows. But his peaking FB% isn’t good, since he hasn’t turned 10% of those flies into longballs since 2005. He’s also become a strict offspeed hitter; anything fast or breaking befuddles him.

Diminishing skills, PECOTA’s pessimism at a rebound and a lack of power make Tracy a poor play at 3B; only another Ramirez injury will give him the PT to deliver any appreciable value. And while the increasingly fragile Ramirez isn’t the guy you knew in 2004, he’s still a good second-tier mixed-league option.

 

Oakland

PECOTA

2007-09

Scoresheet

Short-Term PT%

First Base

Age

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BA

OBP

SLG

K%

BB%

TB/H

vRH

vLH

Rng

1B

3B

DH

All

Daric Barton

23

495

12

60

57

2

.262

.362

.416

17%

13%

1.58

+3

–10

1.86

65

0

0

65

Eric Chavez

31

101

3

10

11

0

.233

.283

.380

20%

8%

1.79

+24

–70

*2.65

10

10

15

35

Jake Fox

26

209

10

26

33

1

.255

.324

.467

19%

6%

1.81

–8

+21

*2.56

20

5

10

50

Landon Powell

27

151

6

16

20

0

.226

.311

.394

23%

9%

1.88

+5

–14

*–

5

0

0

20

Heater team expert:

Avg for First Base

.275

.359

.477

17%

11%

1.74

vRH = OPSvR

Figures by Heater

Melissa Lockard

Avg for Third Base

.269

.339

.434

18%

9%

1.61

vLH = OPSvL

New upgrade

 

Avg for Desig. Hitter

.263

.350

.468

19%

11%

1.78

Rng = Range

New downgrade

* = Range stats not available, or from alternate position

SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Daric Barton 18 8 3 0 0 .444 .565 .611 4/5 0/0
Eric Chavez 14 4 0 1 2 .286 .286 .857 1/0 0/0
Jake Fox 21 2 0 0 1 .095 .136 .238 4/1 0/0
Landon Powell 15 3 1 0 0 .200 .200 .267 5/0 0/0
Spring Training stats per Heater

 

Low-cost, high-OBP stalwarts Dan Johnson and Scott Hatteberg have carried the Moneyball torch since Jason Giambi, the last power-hitting 1B in Oakland, left in 2001. Until power-hitting 1B of the future Chris Carter is ready, Melissa Lockard of HEATER sees a panoply of talent keeping the spot warm for him.

The job initially belongs to Daric Barton, another Moneyball hitter, as you can see from the solid K% and BB% skills in his profile, along with a TB/H and PECOTA-projected SLG more suited to a MIF. Eric Chavez can chip in, but he’s an overpaid part-timer who hasn’t surpassed .800 OPS since 2005. And playing time is an issue for Landon Powell, who won’t see enough time at 1B and C to deliver value on his power-patience combination.

Jake Fox is the best power option, making up for his impatience with good contact rates and explosive TB/H results. The same versatility that could keep him from taking over 1B entirely makes him a sweet fantasy choice—he might even end up qualifying behind the plate. With so many places to fit, he could claw his way to even more than the 50% playing time you see here. PECOTA sees him crushing 30 HR with full-time action, making him a great late-round draft pick.

 

Cleveland

PECOTA

2007-09

Scoresheet

Short-Term PT%

First Base/DH

Age

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BA

OBP

SLG

K%

BB%

TB/H

vRH

vLH

Rng

1B

3B

DH

All

Russell Branyan

33

468

24

56

64

3

.241

.338

.469

19%

16%

1.74

+33

–92

1.84

75

0

5

85

Shelley Duncan

29

  

23%

9%

1.88

–18

+39

2.07

5

0

0

35

Travis Hafner

32

478

17

54

62

1

.259

.349

.433

18%

13%

1.70

+26

–77

*1.72

0

0

90

95

Jhonny Peralta

27

636

18

73

81

2

.268

.335

.422

21%

8%

1.60

–3

+8

2.64

0

90

5

95

Matt LaPorta

24

560

25

76

80

2

.264

.347

.477

19%

6%

1.74

–12

+29

*2.06

20

0

0

95

Heater team expert:

Avg for First Base

.275

.359

.477

17%

11%

1.74

vRH = OPSvR

Figures by Heater

Brian LaShier

Avg for Third Base

.269

.339

.434

18%

9%

1.61

vLH = OPSvL

New upgrade

 

Avg for Desig. Hitter

.263

.350

.468

19%

11%

1.78

Rng = Range

New downgrade

* = Range stats not available, or from alternate position

SPRING TRAINING AB H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG K/BB SB/CS
Russell Branyan ––– ––– ––– –/– –/–
Shelly Duncan 7 2 0 0 0 .286 .286 .286 0/0 0/0
Travis Hafner 10 2 0 0 0 .200 .429 .200 0/4 0/0
Matt LaPorta 3 1 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 0/0 0/0
Jhonny Peralta 15 5 1 0 1 .333 .375 .600 2/1 0/0
Spring Training stats per Heater

Health news led to a shift in Cleveland’s1B/DH situation this week, as Russell Branyan is suffering from a recurrence of back problems and Travis Hafner has looked strong after coming back from three seasons lost to a bad shoulder. Branyan broke out of a platoon to play nearly full time in 2009, leading to a career-high 31 HRs—and a season cut short due to a herniated disc. His TTO style will produce good OPS numbers, but only if he plays, something he has yet to do this season, which you can see from his Spring Training stats above.

HEATER’s Brian La Shier expects his fill-in to be Matt LaPorta, whose relatively rosy PECOTA projection comes from his .291/.384/.557 minor-league line and 80% contact rate. He’ll wind up as the long-term 1B, but LaPorta’s a better fantasy play at OF, while NRI Shelley Duncan is a long shot to even make the Cleveland squad, let alone your fantasy roster.

As Branyan’s expected DH playing time decreased, Hafner has looked healthier. He’s undervalued due to his diminished production between 2007-9, but that could all come from his injured shoulder, though it wasn’t identified until 2008. Pronk’s monster 2005-6 came with elevated HR/FB ratios that fell by half in 2007, indicating something more seriously wrong than just statistical correction.

After returning from surgery-related soreness in 2009, Hafner hit 318/.423/659 in his first 52 ABs, then hit .264/.337/.416 the rest of the way. La Shier and I agree that this could indicate a second-half slump in 2010 as much as PECOTA’s predicted return to mediocrity. This is worrisome, but 2009 had signs that he could beat that projection, as Hafner offset his worst walk rate since 2003 with a career-best 19.8 K% while also lifting his HR, FB, and TB/H rates. His downside is real, but it could drive his price low enough for you to bet on a possible rebound, while Branyan needs to show he’s healthy before you risk anything more than a late-round $1 flyer on him.

Related Content:  Aramis Ramirez,  Matt LaPorta,  Shelley Duncan,  Base 3

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The Week in Quotes: Ma... (03/15)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (03/12)
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