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May 24, 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
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 54 6 10 14 1 .255 .296 .702 .263 .352 .476 0 14 0 –24 +64 2.55
Travis Hafner CLE 155 4 14 15 0 .276 .394 .425 .261 .350 .423 0 0 36 +26 –77
Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK 176 3 18 21 0 .257 .284 .353 .274 .327 .442 0 42 0 –11 +29 2.67
Andy LaRoche PIT 143 3 17 10 0 .256 .329 .364 .248 .330 .391 0 35 0 –19 +50 2.70
Gaby Sanchez FLA 162 4 20 18 0 .268 .358 .430 .260 .337 .422 40 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Luke Scott BAL 141 9 21 20 0 .273 .340 .547 .264 .347 .473 4 0 23 +20 –58
Mike Sweeney SEA 69 5 7 14 1 .290 .348 .565 .260 .323 .398 0 15 0 +29 –88
Jim Thome MIN 96 5 10 16 0 .241 .375 .494 .237 .354 .463 0 0 21 +21 –60
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

A few guys are on the Value Picks bubble this week, so we’ll bid one farewell and offer a warning to two others, while adding some hot bats to replace the hotter one who’s going away.

Andy LaRoche has disappointed expectations once again, responding to his VP invite by going frigid, with a .146/.205/.220 line and .211/.250/.316 this last week. That isn’t going to cut it, so we cut him loose. Luke Scott, on the other hand, continued his hot hitting after becoming a Value Pick. Last week’s .409/.500/.773 line included two home runs, two doubles, and a huge jump in ESPN ownership to over 40%, so we had to let him go, too.

Sometimes new Value Pick opportunities knock quietly; other times they lean on the doorbell. Edwin Encarnacion did the latter when returning from the DL to collect five hits in 17 ABs, all of them longballs, raising his TAv to 52nd overall, 6th among third basemen. He followed Friday’s 3-HR performance with jacks on Saturday and Sunday, but lest you write those up to Chase Field, hittrackeronline classifies all five as solid home runs in any park.

His line suggests Encarnacion’s an all-or-nothing guy, but his career contact rate is just under 80% and his career 9% walk rate went over 10% in the past two seasons. This projects him for a good BA, while his recent power surge adds to his value. PECOTA pegs him at well above average in every department, especially SLG, in his 50th percentile; you’ve got to drop down to his 20th before he falls below average for third basemen across the board.

The Scoresheet rating shows he’s a butcher at third base, but Toronto’s outfield is too crowded to move him there. It’s so crowded, in fact, that Toronto will face a tough call if Encarnacion and Jose Bautista both remain hot when Travis Snider comes off the DL. But his upside outweighs this and injury concerns, so I expect Encarnacion to be too popular to remain on this list for long. Take advantage of the fact that a shocking 97% of ESPN owners haven’t noticed him yet.

Last week, I considered adding Mike Sweeney, who followed his infamous Napgate rant by homering in three straight games, but wasn't sure it would continue. He convinced me by hitting .429/.452/1.000 over his past eight games. I hesitated because missing nearly 300 days in the past five years due to injury has earned Sweeney a pessimistic PECOTA line, where he’d have to exceed his 80th percentile to be a power asset at DH, and his 70th to bring above-average OBP, though he’ll bring BA value in his 50th.

Nonetheless, he could reach those higher peformance levels if he stays healthy and keeps improving with Seattle. Last year, he put up his best OPS since 2006 and turned around two years of diminishing platoon splits, trends he’s continued this year. His other peripherals are a mix, however, as his walk rate has risen to 7.2%, and his .271 BABIP shows his hits haven’t been lucky. But his 16.1% strikeout rate and 17.9% HR/FB ratio are both higher than usual, meaning a power correction is likely.

Sweeney’s playing time rose during Milton Bradley’s anger-issue timeout, but now that Bradley’s back, Sweeney started Sunday at 1B, where Casey Kotchman’s awful .228 TAv ranks third worst among regular first basemen. If Sweeney can stay hot, he’s definitely a plus on AL-only rosters, and qualifying as 1B would make him a good CIF mixed-league play. DHs are a shallow talent pool by nature, so ride him while he’s hot, but be aware of the probable cooldown and injury risk.

Speaking of injuries, a bum ankle and back have kept Jim Thome out of the lineup, so I’ll give him another week to heal. Gaby Sanchez had a tough week, hitting .100/.280/.150, but he’s been moved up to second in the lineup and should return to form once #3 hitter Hanley Ramirez does. Regardless, he can consider himself on notice, too.

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s .250/.250/.450 line last week doesn’t seem impressive, but he’s riding a six-game hit streak, and has only failed to collect a hit in four games this whole month. And Travis Hafner had an awesome .375/.423/.625 week that included three multi-hit games, three doubles and a home run. He has an eleven-game hit streak and has only gone hitless three times in May. Why he’s still available in over 98% of ESPN leagues is a mystery; expect that to change this next week, so get him while you still can.

Related Content:  Edwin Encarnacion

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

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friel27

Whats going on with Aramis Ramirez and Chone Figgins? Should I be worried?

May 24, 2010 06:06 AM
rating: 0
 
OTSgamer

I drafted Chipper Jones, but in a bit of a rash decision I dumped him and picked up Aramis Ramirez instead.

Right now I have Ramirez, but both Chipper and Figgins are available as free agents. What's the best play?

May 24, 2010 07:05 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I'll reply to both at once--I think OTS asked a similar question a few weeks back, and I still think that Aramis is a better play than Chipper in the long run.

But that is looking more and more like a choice between two unpalatable options. I've got both on various fantasy teams, and both have spent far more time on my bench than my starting lineups.

Chipper's old and isn't playing as much, and his value is largely tied up in OBP these days. His 21% walk rate would be a career high if he sustains it, while his .126 ISO would be a career low. That's most likely due to his age and nagging injuries, and this kind of decline is sadly predictable for a guy his age.

He's liable to have a good stretch of games in which he gets it going, but he's equally likely to continue getting plenty of rest on the bench and/or lose significant time when one of those injuries becomes more than nagging. To me, he's the most marginal play of the three, and the best one to cut if you're looking for roster space.

Aramis has been one of the huge fantasy disappointments this season, but his recent thumb problems might explain some of those struggles. Piniella says it's a bone bruise and he'll ride the pine for a few days to rest and recover. Once he's back on the field again, I'd give him another week or two before deciding to keep him or cut him.

I still think it's too early in the season to give up on him, esp. if he was a high-round/high-value pick. Unless there's a great replacement on the waiver wire, hang on to him for now. He's too young to suddenly go in the tank without a good reason (like this thumb problem).

As for Chone, he's both young and healthy, and seems to be hitting more balls in the air, at least in the first month of the season (46% FB). That's improved thus far this month (34%) but it's come at the expense of line drives (down from 17% to 14%). He's also been too passive at pitches in the zone, swinging at fewer than half of them.

Because of his youth and history, I'd give him more time to work things out, esp. since the Ms booted their hitting coach Alan Cockrell two weeks ago. I don't know how much he was messing with Figgy's approach, but this guy's got too much value to throw away just yet, esp. if you're in a league that needs his steals.

Figgins is the best of the bunch, and most likely to turn it around. None of 'em are great options to have, and the only good thing about cutting any of them is that they're so bad that they're likely to sit untouched on the waiver wire until/unless they turn it around. If you're the gambling type and in a shallower (or less attentive) league, you can try dumping them and watching their progress.

But I still say it's too soon to panic completely with Figgy in particular. Chipper's decline is expected, and Rammy seems to be a puzzle that nobody seems to be able to figure out.

Thanks for the questions!

May 24, 2010 09:24 AM
 
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