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June 28, 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
Pedro Alvarez PIT 38 0 3 5 0 .114 .158 .171 .236 .314 .415 0 10 0 +24 –71 2.65
Daric Barton OAK 335 4 34 30 0 .283 .390 .415 .259 .357 .411 76 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
Russell Branyan SEA 190 10 24 24 0 .263 .328 .491 .236 .344 .442 47 0 0 +33 –92 1.84
Ike Davis NYN 251 8 35 32 1 .265 .343 .435 .231 .301 .370 61 0 0 +24 –71 1.85
Travis Hafner CLE 243 8 24 28 0 .248 .362 .421 .261 .350 .423 0 0 55 +26 –77
Gaby Sanchez FLA 294 8 38 34 3 .307 .377 .479 .260 .337 .422 69 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Justin Smoak TEX 234 8 27 34 1 .227 .338 .399 .253 .348 .392 58 0 0 –4 +12
Danny Valencia MIN 46 0 4 1 1 .302 .348 .326 .256 .308 .410 0 13 0 –11 +40 2.65
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

Fantasy owners are finally catching up with Value Picks, forcing us to drop two good bats and putting another one on the brink. Fortunately, the end of interleague play allows the return of a designated hitter, while another third baseman surfaces in the shallow hot-corner talent pool. Let’s look at things position by position.

First Base: Gaby Sanchez has been one of the most consistent Value Picks producers since his VP list debut. Over the last four weeks, he’s gotten even better, hitting .427/.591/1.019, finally shooting his ESPN ownership past 24% this week and pushing him off the list. Similarly, Justin Smoak’s .298/.400/.512 line this month hiked ownership to the 23% level, leading to his VP departure, too.

Another first baseman on the brink of ex-VP status, Ike Davis has seen his ownership hover around the 20% cut line lately, and his skills have also been on the fringe. Since moving to the cleanup spot, his RBIs per PA have increased 42%, but his walk rate has plummeted from 15% to 6%, dragging down his OBP and denting his value. The RBIs are nice, but that more aggressive approach could continue eroding his other numbers, putting him on the VP bubble in two ways. Offsetting low-OBP guys like Davis is the other VP 1B, Daric Barton, whose 48 walks lead the AL. Barton remains solid, picking up 6 RBI this week, and his 20 doubles are only four off the league lead. Grab him before he’s gone, too.

Third Base: Because your league’s waiver wire may lack solid third-base options, I added Pedro Alvarez to the list last week, based on his prospect status and playing time. His production has been weak thus far: he’s struck out in nearly half his ABs. I’m hoping he’ll adjust to big-league pitching soon, and he remains on the VP list due to scarcity and potential.

A more well-balanced, if lower-profile, prospect than Alvarez, Danny Valencia joins the list. Though his tools are modest, Valencia’s the best third baseman in a Minnesota organization paper-thin at the position. After Nick Punto and Brendan Harris showed they couldn’t handle the hot corner, Minnesota is giving Valencia a chance to seize the role.

The Twins promoted Valencia to replace Michael Cuddyer when he hit the bereavement list, and many expected Valencia to return to the minors soon after Cuddyer’s return. But the Twins outrighted Brendan Harris this weekend instead. This happened partly because Cuddyer proved himself adequate at third base during interleague play; moving him freed up an outfield spot for Jason Kubel. It’s unlikely this move is permanent, however, since they’d have sent Valencia down instead of Harris if they didn’t intend to give him regular ABs.

As for his modest skills, Valencia showed a good 81% contact rate in the minors, where he hit .300/.354/.472. PECOTA reflects his moderate power with its 60th percentile projection, where his .269/.321/.444 line would provide replacement-level value in every area but OBP, but he shouldn’t crack the 20 HR barrier until his 80th percentile.

Like other young, streaky hitters, Valencia is going to hit rough patches, and a full-time gig is far from guaranteed. But it’s such a tough time to find a good third baseman that a part-time prospect who plays for the AL’s sixth-best scoring offense should be good for owners in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Designated Hitter: With interleague play over, we welcome back Travis Hafner, who’d been hot before riding the pine in NL parks, hitting in six straight games, including three homers and a double. He’s not likely to continue mashing like that, and his walk and strikeout rates for the season, while solid, are slightly depressed from his career averages. But he’ll deliver OBP and RBI along with a batting average that’s a bit below—and SLG that’s farther below—expected DH levels.

Russell Branyan’s trade to Seattle shouldn’t affect Hafner much, unless Matt LaPorta’s return provides more RBI opportunities or better protection to Hafner than a swiftly cooling Austin Kearns. Branyan, on the other hand, could be hurt by a move to the lowest-scoring offense in the AL, one of just three teams with a limper lineup than Cleveland.

There is upside for Branyan in the move, however. He’s hit .243/.357/.532 in his career at Safeco, more robust than his .251/.330/.509 line at The Jake in Cleveland. He faces similarly slugging-friendly venues in the AL West, with strong lines at Anaheim (.276/.377/.569), Texas (.213/.284/.525), and even .333/.429/.639 in cavernous Oakland. His splits at AL Central parks were nowhere near this favorable.

In addition to boosting his slugging potential, the move could help Hafner’s health, since he could get a day off at DH without Hafner clogging up the spot. Don Wakamatsu didn’t do that in Branyan’s last Seattle stint, possibly causing his injury-induced late-season fade, so let’s hope he learned his lesson. Overall, Branyan, who hit .333/.368/.611 last week, remains an excellent addition to nearly any fantasy roster.

Related Content:  Danny Valencia

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

BP Comment Quick Links

krissbeth

I'm last or second to last in wins, ERA and WHIP, due to drafting Scherzer, Vazquez, Haren and Shields. (I'm set in saves. Yay?) I've got Doug Fister available to be placed on my roster, now that he's off the DL. Should I keep him on my inactive list, release Bonderman to make room for him, or release both to make room for someone else?

11 team league, both AL+NL, 8 slots for Ps, with me having two bench slots devoted to Ps. Best SPs on waivers are: Jason Vargas, Jamie Moyer, Kris Medlen, Jon Garland.

Jun 28, 2010 09:55 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

krissbeth--

I'm gonna holler out to Bill Baer, our resident SP expert, for his help here. Personally, I'd lean towards Garland, but I'm betting Bill will have a better sense of the market here.

Thanks for the comment!

Mike

Jun 28, 2010 13:48 PM
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

I think the overall best option for W, ERA, and WHIP would actually be Jamie Moyer but I'm sure you've heard the fantasy baseball mantra "don't chase wins". So I'd go after the best overall ERA and WHIP guys and hope the wins fall in place.

Kenshin Kawakami may have saved his spot in the rotation in his latest start against the Detroit Tigers. That may mean that Kris Medlen goes back to the bullpen when Jair Jurrjens is activated from the disabled list. Of the pitchers you mentioned, Medlen would be my #1 option but the rotation situation is something to keep a very close eye on.

After Medlen, I would go with Jason Vargas. Fister, Moyer, Garland, and Vargas are all similar pitchers (low strikeouts, good to great control, mid-4's SIERA) but Vargas has the better control to go with a below average strikeout rate. Plus, he pitches in a great pitcher's park.

And after Vargas, I'd go with Garland (worse control but more K's in a pitcher-friendly park) and then Moyer (better control but less K's in a hitter-friendly park behind a great offense). Fister is very similar to Moyer. If you're deciding between the two, it comes down to preferring Fister's home park or Moyer's team's offense.

To sum it up:

1. Medlen
2. Vargas
3. Garland
4. Moyer/Fister

Hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if you would like more clarification.

Jun 28, 2010 15:05 PM
 
krissbeth

Is Vargas worth releasing Bonderman to get him?

Jun 29, 2010 08:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

It's really not a huge difference as they're very similar in K/BB, WHIP, SIERA, etc. I would say that Bonderman has more opportunities for wins but he is not much of an innings-eater while Vargas is.

Dropping Vargas for Bonderman is pretty much a break-even exchange as far as I can tell. Maybe you can get a Feng Shui effect going on your fantasy roster with a new face in there. :)

Jun 29, 2010 09:56 AM
 
OTSgamer

Take your pick... go after one of the value third baseman, or take another chance with Aramis Ramirez?

I'm leaning towards Ramirez now. I watched him twice this past weekend and he looked much better.

Jun 28, 2010 19:36 PM
rating: 0
 
friel27

Similar question to OTS, I have Kouz and ARam and don't really want to carry both.

Jun 28, 2010 20:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

OTS and friel--

With 3B being so difficult to fill right now, I'd definitely hang on to ARam over either Valencia or Alvarez. Valencia still doesn't have a full-time gig, and Pedro needs to figure it out. Unless it's a keeper league, I'd stick with ARam for now.

As for Kouz vs. ARam, I'd lean towards Kouzmanoff. He doesn't have the same power and BA potential of Ramirez, but Kouz is healthy and hitting consistently. If Ramirez turns around completely, he'll be better than Kouzmanoff, but I'm just hoping for adequacy right now from ARam. Kouz is a safer bet at this point, even if his ceiling is lower.

Thanks for the questions!

Mike

Jun 28, 2010 21:31 PM
 
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