June 8, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
This week, Value Picks opts for the guarantee of playing time over the promise of stardom. Stepping down for now from the list is Indians top prospect Carlos Santana. While his plate prowess is unquestionable, his well-known defensive problems may keep him away from the majors for a little while. Of course, incumbent catcher Lou Marson isn't looking any better (batted just .087/.222/.217 in the last week), so this may be a competition of "who is the lesser evil," Marson's bat or Santana's glove. Expect Santana to be the last of the major top prospect callups.
Replacing him is a man in Cleveland who has less upside but more playing time. Jhonny Peralta is a season and a half removed from a fantastic 2008 campaign, in which he hit .276/.331/.473 with 23 home runs. Since then, however, he has proven that he is not that player anymore. His 2009 season was abysmal, as he his just .254/.316/.375 and hit just 11 home runs. Peralta also made the transition from shortstop to third base last year, making his future fantasy outlook even less relevant. However, for the time being, he remains an option because of his eligibility at shortstop. Peralta has essentially been a league average hitter for most of his career, sporting a career .265/.331/.424 (.264 TAv), and while average hitters come a dime a dozen, they are a rare breed at the shortstop position. While he may never flash the power he did a few years ago, double-digit home run totals are almost a given. Last season, Peralta picked up 11 homers on just a 7.9% HR/FB%, and this year that rate has fallen to 5.8%. He is no slugger anymore, but he is definitely in line for regression back up closer to his career 11.6% rate.
Combine all of that with Peralta's guaranteed playing time (Heater expert Brian La Shier has him getting 90% of the load at third base) makes him an excellent pickup. Peralta is unlikely to be available in your AL-only leagues, but he should still be a shortstop option for mixed leagues. Currently he is owned in just 8.6% of ESPN mixed leagues.
The remaining five players have remained on Value Picks for three weeks now. Reid Brignac has taken the full-time role at shortstop due to Jason Bartlett's injury. Bartlett is expected to return from his DL stint on Saturday. Meanwhile, Brignac continues to defy the odds for his projection, capping off a decent .292/.292/.417 week and remaining close to a .300 AVG. When Bartlett returns, it will be interesting to see whether Brignac takes on a bigger role at second base.
Bartlett's return from the DL also signals decision time for the Rays and their catching situation. Taking Bartlett's roster spot for now is catcher Kelly Shoppach, who was initially scheduled for a rehab stint. Now the Rays are carrying three catchers, one of which is Value Picks' own John Jaso. Jaso has lost catching time to Shoppach, but is expected to see time at DH, according to Heater expert Ricky Zanker. Jaso also got bumped recently to the top of the lineup, giving him more opportunities to succeed. By the end of the week, we should know whether Jaso will remain on the roster with a prominent role or not.
Ian Desmond's hold on his Value Picks spot was tenuous last week, but he responded with a .391/.391/.478 week, pushing his AVG up to .277. He is still walking that fine line, as his value is primarily tied to AVG and RBI, but for now he holds off other NL middle infielders for the spot. While his plate patience is unlikely to ever be above average, his walk rate (currently at 4.5%) is due for regression. He could help that cause by swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone; his 34.3% swing% out of the zone is well above the league average of 28.0% this year.
Ronny Paulino has been nothing if not consistent, riding a .320/.308/.440 week to his currently impressive .308/.331/.436 line. Paulino is unlikely to continue to bat .300+, but his consistently good contact rates have led to a drop in strikeouts this year, which has contributed to the rise in AVG. Sticking with Paulino in your NL league is advisable until John Baker returns from his rehab stint in the minors. Felipe Lopez had an average week but remains a good option in NL leagues at multiple positions. With David Freese's injury, Lopez has moved to third base; there is no threat for loss of playing time for the versatile infielder.