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May 3, 2010

Fantasy Beat

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

by Michael Street

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
1B/3B/DH Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG 1B 3B DH vRH vLH Rng
Daric Barton OAK 108 1 11 8 0 .296 .442 .420 .259 .357 .411 25 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
Russell Branyan CLE 27 0 2 2 0 .250 .333 .375 .236 .344 .442 7 0 0 +33 –92 1.84
David Freese STL 83 2 6 15 1 .333 .388 .472 .234 .300 .376 0 21 0 –10 +23 2.65
Troy Glaus ATL 89 2 8 13 0 .221 .326 .325 .251 .347 .417 24 0 0 –1 +3
Brandon Inge DET 105 3 6 15 0 .255 .324 .457 .231 .315 .396 0 25 0 –24 +65 2.70
Andruw Jones CHA 71 8 12 11 4 .276 .408 .724 .223 .322 .408 0 0 4 –19 +40
Gaby Sanchez FLA 82 1 8 11 0 .261 .378 .406 .260 .337 .422 21 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Jim Thome MIN 57 4 7 12 0 .255 .386 .574 .237 .354 .463 0 0 12 +21 –60
Ty Wigginton BAL 80 8 13 14 0 .324 .413 .721 .280 .337 .445 2 6 0 –16 +37 2.56
Subscribe to Heater Avg for First Base .275 .359 .477   vRH = OPS v RH
Heater Magazine Avg for Third Base .269 .339 .434   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Desig. Hitter .263 .350 .468   Rng = Range

Value Picks shuffled the deck this week, adding one recently dropped VP, and dropping three I recently added. This isn’t waffling or an overreaction to small-sample weekly performances, but a result of performance plus team and market conditions. Players drop off the list for not producing, but also for producing so well that everyone’s noticed them.

Andruw Jones and Ty Wigginton fall into the latter category, both so blazingly hot that their ownership has shot up, necessitating their removal from the VP list. Since last Sunday, Jones hit .214/.389/.643 and played his tenth game in the OF; this production and roster flexibility drove up his ownership to 13% of ESPN and 51% of CBS leagues. Wigginton hit two solo shots and registered a .300/.417/.650 slash line last week, and he’s a great play everywhere he qualifies, undoubtedly why 40% of ESPN owners and 69% of CBS owners have already rostered him.

I dropped Russell Branyan, too, after he played in just 3 games and hit .167/.286/.250 last week. His 13% walk rate is a good sign, and he’ll return as a VP if he can prove he’s healthy and productive. In the meantime, there’s a much better DH Value Pick: Jim Thome. Minnesota signed Thome as a platoon DH because of his ugly LHP split, so his ceiling is 50-60% of full-time ABs. This limits his usefulness, along with a career 30% strikeout rate that drags his BA down. But his 17% walk rate makes him excellent for Scoresheet and OBP leagues, and his SLG is solid in just his 50th percentile.

Any performance increase over this will help your team’s saber ratios, though you’ll have to wait for his unlikely 80th percentile for above-average BA contributions. Despite his age, potential health problems and limited playing time, deeper AL-only leagues and saber-scoring or Scoresheet leagues can all get some value from Thome, if used judiciously.

David Freese dropped off the list last week because of his poor production and the looming threat of Felipe Lopez behind him; both changed this week, so he returned to the VP list. Lopez hit the DL with an elbow strain undoubtedly related to pitching during last week’s 20-inning marathon. In Lopez’s absence, Freese unfroze, with a .440/.481/.760 week that included 2 doubles and 2 homers and lifted his OPS over 200 points.

Freese’s .474 BABIP and 25% HR/FB rate over that span shows that his production will slip back to more expected levels, but this is a good hitter who could be turning a corner. He’s a potential ROY candidate, and last year’s ROY Chris Coghlan didn’t reach the majors until May, hitting .212/.354/.303 that first month. Now could be the time to get Freese on your rosters while you can; he’s still on the wire in 93% of ESPN and 69% of CBS leagues.

Troy Glaus also seems to have put it together, with a three-hit, four-RBI performance on Saturday and a two-hit day on Sunday. Glaus was hitting .194/.310/.292 before the burst, but he also had a .245 BABIP and a 13% walk rate. The former number says his turnaround should continue, and the latter shows his plate performance has been steady. His overall 28.6% strikeout rate, on the other hand, explains PECOTA’s modest BA projection.

As a first baseman, Glaus needs to beat his 90th percentile to deliver BA and power, though his OBP is nearly good enough at his 50th percentile. That makes him a decent Scoresheet play, and a good CIF option in most NL-only and deeper standard leagues. Many leagues retain his third base qualification, however, raising Glaus’ value considerably. His OBP is above average for third basemen at his 50th percentile and the whole package becomes well above average in his 60th. He’s only owned in 29% of CBS leagues and ignored by 94% of ESPN owners, so he’s very worthy of consideration in all 10-team leagues where he qualifies at third base.

As for the rest of the VP list, Gaby Sanchez had a down week, hitting .235/.350/.235, but his 15% walk rate kept his OBP strong, and his BA should follow soon enough. Brandon Inge, on the other hand, had a fine week, hitting .280/.296/.720, thanks to his first 3 jacks of the season and two doubles. Keep him on your roster as long as he stays hot, but have a solution in the second half, when his production will fall off a cliff. Lastly, Daric Barton’s fractured middle finger is a concern, but he’s managed to play through it thus far, with a .200/.273/.400 week that included his first HR of the season. He could still hit the DL or lose enough production to fall off the Value Picks list, so stay tuned.

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The Week in Quotes: Ap... (05/03)
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