June 21, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
The Value Picks had another good week, but a few adjustments are in order nonetheless. As the Indians hit the road for interleague play, Hafner’s only going to be used as a pinch-hitter, so he gets benched, despite a .333/.467/.583 performance this week that included his sixth homer of the year. The Indians start a six-game homestand on the 28th and Hafner is hitting .323/.436/.583 in Cleveland, so he’ll return next week.
An Aramis Ramirez DL stint led to a Jeff Baker-Chad Tracy platoon, and I recommended Tracy, figuring the Cubs would let A-Ram work out his kinks for a little longer. As it turns out, his adjusted grip is making his thumb feel good enough that Chicago expects him back on Tuesday. Tracy hit .200/.429/.400, which isn’t too bad, but he’s headed either to the bench or back to Triple-A when Ramirez returns. Either way, he’s off the VP list.
Part of the reason for adding Tracy was the incredibly shallow 3B talent pool, a pool that saw some changes this week. Injuries to Maicier Izturis and Erick Aybar give Brandon Wood another chance to prove he belongs with the Angels. He’s played shortstop as well as 3B since returning, picking up a hit in three of his first four games, thanks to a retooled swing. Wood could be worth adding, but I’m going to give him a bit more time to show he’s for real this time around.
Another former VP fell on hard times as Toronto sent Edwin Encarnacion to Triple-A to work on his swing. Jarrett Hoffpauir, recalled to replace him, could pick up some playing time, but Jose Bautista is more likely to play third. If Encarnacion turns it around, or Hoffpauir gets hot, they could be worth a look, but the situation’s too volatile right now. [Update 6/21 5:00 PM PT: The Jays have released Encarnacion; let's see where he surfaces next.]
The Pirates are doing what they can to deepen the talent pool by promoting prospect Pedro Alvarez, who does get a VP vote this week. The long-term expectations for Alvarez are high enough that he’s already gone in keeper leagues, but he remains available in over 90% of all of ESPN leagues. The problem is that he’s still raw—this is just his second year as a pro—and he’s picked up just one hit in his first five games. PECOTA’s prediction reflects this, with the weak 50th percentile you see above. But his line jumps to .248/.331/.451 in just his 60th percentile, where he’d crest 20 HR. The difference comes partly from his minor-league numbers: his 22% strikeout rate should dilute his BA, while his 13% walk rate should boost his OBP, and his juicy .240 ISO is a premium at the hot corner.
So if you can support that low BA and need the power, he’s a good gamble, especially in deeper leagues. His higher profile means he may not be out there for long, so roll the dice on Alvarez if your team is struggling; he’s one of the best hitting prospects to come along this season.
Earlier this season, another prospect drew lots of attention, but most owners have jumped off the Ike Davis bandwagon since then, keeping him right around the 20% ESPN ownership line we use as our Value Picks benchmark. As first basemen go, he’s not a great power source, and his batting average is rather pedestrian, so his relative unpopularity isn’t terribly surprising.
That predicted slash line isn’t terribly surprising, either, after he struck out 23% of the time in the minors, where his overall SLG was a paltry .467. The Mets rushed him to the bigs in hope that the power would develop, something hinted at by his .565 and .636 SLG in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively (the latter in just 42 PAs).
Thus far, he’s exceeded power expectations and holds the fourth-best TAv among Mets’ regulars. His 27% strikeout rate to date matches PECOTA’s weighted-means forecast, however, so his lower BA may be here to stay. But his overall 11% walk rate is in line with his minor-league levels, so OBP leagues can still find value with him. And despite his lower SLG, hitting in the Mets’ cleanup spot will bring some good counting stats. Lastly, Davis is hitting .305/.407/.505 at home, making this week’s six-game homestand a good time to see if he can sustain his production. Take him in deeper leagues of all kinds as a good CIF.
As for the rest of the list, Daric Barton’s 0-11 skid over the weekend broke up an eight-game hitting streak, leading to a weekly .200/.238/.200 line. Whether you want to write that up to normal statistical variation or venturing out into unfamiliar interleague territory, he’ll rebound. Gaby Sanchez hasn’t come down to earth yet, as his 350/.435/.400 line this week makes him .381/.426/.619 over his last ten games; enjoy the ride while he's hot. Branyan exhibited his usual all-or-nothing ways, as his .182/.250/.455 included one HR in his two hits, while Justin Smoak went yard twice and doubled once, for a .300/.364/.650 slash line that vindicates our faith in him. And, as ever, nearly all of these guys remain available in 94% or more of ESPN leagues (Smoak, the exception, is still out there in almost 90%).