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April 20, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop

by Michael Jong

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
C/2B/SS Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG C 2B SS vRH vLH Rng
Alberto Callaspo
KCR 50 3 6 10 1 .292 .320 .500 .302 .365 .427 0 2 0 –17 +40 4.17
Ian Desmond
WAS 40 1 4 7 1 .273 .351 .485 .242 .309 .384 0 0 10 –12 +29 4.75
Orlando Hudson MIN 60 1 8 4 0 .269 .356 .404 .285 .359 .411 0 13 0 –2 +7 4.30
Akinori Iwamura PIT 51 2 7 7 1 .250 .353 .432 .270 .349 .377 0 11 0 +15 –39 4.21
Cliff Pennington OAK 50 2 4 10 2 .256 .347 .512 .245 .325 .344 0 0 14 +15 –16 4.71
A.J. Pierzynski CHW 44 0 2 1 0 .171 .227 .195 .269 .313 .400 11 0 0 +16 –47 .73/.17
  Avg for Catcher .256 .324 .397   vRH = OPS v RH
  Avg for Second Base .274 .337 .409   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Shortstop .272 .329 .396   Rng = Range

As we move on in the regular season, we here at Hot Spots will continue to track a "portfolio" of Value Picks that may still be available in your fantasy leagues. There were a few changes since last week's Hot Spots in the Value Picks for the up-the-middle positions. Two players of interest last week faded a bit in the short-term. Chris Iannetta still remains the best of the three catchers mentioned in last week's article, but he is also the most likely to lose significant playing time. With his backstop partner Miguel Olivo raking at the moment (batting .345/.375/.652 in 24 PA) and Iannetta still hanging around below the Mendoza line (.167/.259/.417 at the moment), it looks like the time share at the catcher position in Colorado will remain. If you have the room to stash him behind a consistent catcher, you can still reap the rewards later when Olivo undoubtedly returns to Olivo form, but if you need a starter for your team, it would be best to pass on Iannetta for now.

Last week, Jeff Clement was mentioned as a catcher option who could put up a lot of playing time since he was actually playing first base. However, none of that can happen if he cannot hit, and this past week's 1-for-20 slide did not encourage the Pirates' brass in the hitting department. On Sunday, Clement was benched because of poor production, and a continuation of this trend could lead to more time off. Pittsburgh does have other options at first base, primarily moving Garrett Jones to first and starting outfielder Ryan Church in right field, so the team will not hesitate to make a move if Clement continues on hitless.

Replacing these two catchers in the Value Picks are two young middle infielders with defensive issues and playing time question marks. Alberto Callaspo had been primarily manning third base for Kansas City while Alex Gordon was on the DL, but Gordon's imminent return to the starting lineup will not threaten Callaspo's immediate playing time. Incumbent second baseman Chris Getz just went on the DL as Gordon left it, opening up second base for Callaspo. In the time Callaspo spent in the starting lineup, he excelled, batting .292/.320/.500 with three home runs to his name already. Most of that power production came from a recent two HR, six RBI performance that caught the eyes of many. Even without that, PECOTA likes Callaspo, nabbing him for a solid slash line and decent counting stats in limited playing time. Callaspo is a short-term option in any league, and he may have the benefit of positional flexibility of both third and second base, but his playing time may once again be crunched when Getz returns from the DL. For Scoresheet players, keep in mind Callaspo's below average glove as well.

Ian Desmond has been dominant since the tail end of last season, when his first September cup of coffee went very well at the plate (.286/.318/.561, .298 TAv). He has not slowed down, racking up a 291 TAv to start the year. At the moment, Desmond owns a .348 BABIP that is sure to go down, but the power numbers that were not really present in the minors have impressed so far in the bigs (.261 ISO in 115 major leage PA). Even if the batting average falters as the BABIP drops a bit, a sustained .200+ ISO could keep Desmond's fantasy value afloat. His speed (above the 60th percentile of major leaguers according to PECOTA's Player Profile) and groundball tendencies (above 50 percent ground-ball rate last year between Triple-A and the majors) should help offset some of the AVG difficulty from his somewhat high strikeout rate. His definitive status as starting Nationals shortstop should also remain if he maintains something related to this pace, even if his defense at the position leaves something to be desired. Scoresheet owners should beware of this factor; though his listed range factor is exactly average for shortstops, he has already committed three errors in 78 innings and is well known both in scouting and statistical circles as a liability on defense.

Cliff Pennington is in a similar boat as Desmond's on the AL side. He too has flashed impressive power without showing prior minor league tendencies. In just 50 PA, Pennington already has two homers to go along with a triple and three doubles. Those extra bases and .256 ISO are helping to make up for the meager .256 AVG. To improve on that AVG and .281 BABIP, Pennington may need to put the ball on the ground more and utilize his plus speed; Pennington has 14 fly balls and two popups to his name out of 33 balls in play. Once he gets on, Pennington's speed is good enough to threaten 20+ steals. According to our Heater expert Melissa Lockard, Pennington will receive the full share of shortstop playing time in the short-term, and with only one option behind him, that should stick for much of the season. Again, Scoresheet owners should watch his defensive shortcomings, as Pennington has committed four errors in 124 innings and has a below average range factor for a shortstop.

The remaining middle infielders are on their way up. The last 20+ PA have been good to both Orlando Hudson and Akinori Iwamura, and the uptick in AVG should continue as they approach their likely BABIP. Hudson's standing on a superior team makes him a better choice that is still available (owned in 13.4 percent of ESPN leagues). A.J. Pierzynski has been awful, suffering a similar slump as Clement's. However, Pierzynski's peripherals remain stable, and he should be afforded the playing time to fix his issues at the plate.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

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8 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

pruela

Can we do a fantasy beat soon for closers? I know you did one last week, but I'm looking for closers in waiting who are most likely to steal a job in the near future.

Just a suggestion - keep up the great work

Apr 20, 2010 05:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Every Thursday, Mike Petriello writes his "Hot Spots" column on relievers, targeting just the group you're looking for. So hang tight, help is on its way!

Thanks for the comment!

Apr 20, 2010 12:22 PM
 
BP staff member Mike Petriello
BP staff

Luckily for you, I've got a name or two in mind... see you Thursday!

Apr 20, 2010 16:17 PM
 
Jay Taylor

So I've got Jhonny Peralta sucking up at bats at short in my roto league. The rest of my guys are doing well enough that I'm still in the top three, but I hate to see this kind of "production" on my team.

Do you think I would be better off just weathering the storm and hoping Peralta has another 2008 in him, of should I dump him and try to ride the hot hand until I find a good full time short stop?

Apr 20, 2010 18:02 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Jay--

These kinds of questions always depend on your league depth and scoring system, esp. what talent you can replace Peralta with. Generally speaking, however, 50 PAs into the season is not the time to judge any player, good or bad.

This is especially true with Peralta, a slow starter in his career (his .662 OPS in Mar-April is his lowest monthly split). He's not going to be incredible, but if he can regain some of his lost pop, he could deliver some excellent value over the rest of the season. FWIW, in the small sample space, he's showing a higher BB% but typical K%, which suggests to me that he hasn't changed his approach much.

Unless there's some amazing talent at SS on your waiver wire (unlikely, as this is a traditionally shallow position), I'd wait until at least May before deciding whether to cut Peralta.

I make it a general rule on my teams not to cut guys (unless they're injured or not getting PT) until about a month into the season. Trust your draft strategy and resist the itchy trigger finger.

Hope this helps and thanks for the comment!

Apr 21, 2010 10:56 AM
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I should amend the above by saying "excellent value" from Peralta may be too high a ceiling, since he's a BA risk and won't swipe a bag unless his pants are on fire.

But he's still got too much potential to cut loose at this point, unless (say) Asdrubal Cabrera or Yunel Escobar (two of my fave SS) is sitting out on your waiver wire.

Apr 21, 2010 11:00 AM
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I can feel your pain, Jay. I have him "contracted" in an AL keeper league, where the contracted players can't be demoted.

I have to assume you're either talking a deep mixed league (20+ teams) or an AL league. If not, kick the bum to the curb in a typical 10-12 team mixed format like Yahoo or ESPN. :( He has value in being able to play both SS and 3B (and MI/CI), but since his great 2005 season, he's hit only .262/.326/.413 in 2638 PA.

But in a deeper league, playing time is definitely king, and Peralta doesn't appear to be in danger of losing his job. He's also been one of the healthier players in the game. I'd expect something like the post-2005 stat line of .262/.326/.413 from him. That's not terrible for a shortstop.

Apr 21, 2010 11:06 AM
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

Jay,

I'd echo the sentiment of my colleagues above me. Peralta is someone who should be held on to in deeper leagues primarily because the Indians don't have any other options at third. Still, I would consider either of the guys mentioned here if you have slots available. Pennington in particular should hold onto his playing time, and neither will be awful in the short-term.

Apr 21, 2010 11:36 AM
 
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Another Look: Remember... (04/20)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (04/19)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: When Sam... (04/21)
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