June 1, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
Note: Statistics in bold are 2010 minor league stats
This is the second week of light changes for Value Picks, but the sole change in this week's installment is significant. While the departing Carlos Ruiz did not do anything to merit his demotion from Value Picks, his replacement in the portfolio is a very important addition. With June coming around, numerous top, young prospects are on the cusp of being brought up to the majors, once their teams are certain they will not qualify for Super Two arbitration status. One of those names, San Francisco's Buster Posey, was brought up recently, but by Sunday, he was already owned in 39.5% of ESPN leagues. However, another catching prospect, Cleveland's Carlos Santana, is likely to be brought up in the next few weeks.
When Santana does come up, he should face little problem at the plate. He is a career .289/.400/.494 hitter in the minors, basically blowing through every level with relative ease. This season's .313/.447/.566 line in the International League translates to a .296/.423/.538 according to BP's Davenport Translations. That translated line is good for a .329 TAv that would rank 12th in the majors this season. Even after the translation, Santana comes out with more walks than strikeouts, and his minor league career numbers reflect that level of plate discipline and strike zone recognition; for his career, he has walked and struck out in around 15% of his minor league PA. This is an promising note for his AVG, which should remain decent, especially compared to the average catcher, even with a below average BABIP. Santana's superb plate discipline is paired with solid power as well. In the minors, he hit 20.4 homers per 600 PA, and PECOTA projects similar production at the major league level, with his 50th percentile projection at 18.9 HR/600 PA. PECOTA projects a tempered ISO of .165 at the 50th percentile, but the .200+ upside of the 60th percentile and up matches what Santana has done in the minors.
This will all depend on whether Santana is brought up to the majors, but the odds are increasingly likely that the Indians will give him an extended look this season. Incumbent catcher Lou Marson, acquired last year in the Cliff Lee trade, has done his very best to lose the job, putting up a paltry .221/.276/.283 (.222 TAv) that has him currently at -0.5 WARP. Marson's backup, journeyman Mike Redmond, elicits the same sort of visceral, negative reaction for fantasy owners. With the struggles at the plate for the Indians' battery, Santana's arrival should be a matter of when, not if. When he does hit the big leagues, PECOTA projects a .253/..355/.424 line after adjusting for team and playing time. This seems like a good, conservative line for the 24-year old, but there is definite upside; PECOTA's weighted means projection has him at .262/.358/.461, and his 60th percentile and up projections have him at .289+ TAv, far exceeding the average for a catcher. He is a definite pickup in any league, and he may still be available in many, being taken in just 0.9% of ESPN mixed leagues.
The remaining players on Value Picks maintain their holds for the week. Ian Desmond was on thin ice last week, but adding a home run and run production numbers as part of a .278/.263/.444 week kept him on the list. Desmond's lack of walks is appalling but unsurprising, but as long as he contributes some power and the solid average, owners will take his production, which is right around the league average for shortstops. Reid Brignac had a nice .333/.364/.476 week in response to arriving on Value Picks. Felipe Lopez had a good week (.294/.400/.353) that was not rewarded with counting stats (two runs and two RBI for the week), but he remains a solid pickup. This is especially true given his dual eligibility at second base (last year's position) and shortstop (his primary position in 2010). Due to his impressive recent play and the struggles of Sean Rodriguez and Jason Bartlett, Joe Maddon is also giving Brignac more playing time at second base and shortstop, which can only mean good things for fantasy owners for the time being.
Brignac's teammate in Tampa Bay, catcher John Jaso, had his first off-week since being added to Value Picks (.250/.308/.250), but his job appears to be secure into the foreseeable future. With the struggles of Dioner Navarro, there is a good chance the Rays will keep Jaso in the majors despite his remaining minor league option and jettison Navarro when Kelly Shoppach returns from the DL. Ronny Paulino continued his hot play (.400/.400/.480 this week) and started in all but one of this past week's games. His BABIP is due for some heavy regressing, but his power and walk rates should creep up a bit as well, leaving about an average hitter and above average hitting catcher. He should continue to be a good play as long as platoon mate John Baker remains injured.