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June 29, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop

by Michael Jong

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
Mike Aviles KCR 179 2 29 11 1 .314 .341 .390 .277 .309 .399 0 35 8 –12 +29 4.75
Reid Brignac TBR 186 2 22 24 2 .272 .339 .385 .255 .307 .385 0 37 27 +33 –99 4.72
Ian Desmond WAS 256 4 27 33 6 .249 .289 .376 .244 .298 .384 0 0 70 –12 +29 4.75
Bill Hall BOS 148 5 20 17 3 .234 .333 .406 .234 .304 .379 0 8 4 –33 +68 --
John Jaso TBR 176 3 20 25 3 .271 .398 .396 .262 .351 .395 41 0 0 +23 –67 .62/.22
Felipe Lopez STL 178 4 18 17 4 .242 .322 .389 .262 .337 .374 0 16 20 –4 +11 4.27
Ronny Paulino FLO 209 3 24 28 0 .309 .354 .428 .268 .325 .374 50 0 0 –23 +48 .67/.28
Skip Schumaker STL 279 2 39 18 2 .261 .325 .337 .275 .337 .359 0 64 0 +48 –158 4.22
Neil Walker PIT 120 3 16 12 2 .295 .325 .464 .267 .323 .441 24 0 0 –4 +11 --
  Avg for Catcher .256 .324 .397   vRH = OPS v RH
  Avg for Second Base .274 .337 .409   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Shortstop .272 .329 .396   Rng = Range

The Changes

Last week, a few Value Picks members were on notice, and one of them will be leaving us today. Reid Brignac has the benefit of playing with a great Tampa Bay team, but he also happens to be caught in a playing time crunch involving himself, Sean Rodriguez, and Jason Bartlett. With Bartlett back from the DL and Rodriguez still on fire, Brignac's playing time has dropped a bit. It has not helped that he has begun to regress towards the mean; his .272/.339/.385 line is a product of a .355 BABIP that has been steadily dropping for the last two weeks. Brignac does not flash enough power or walk often enough to make up for a 23% K%, so his AVG should fall out of fantasy consideration as that BABIP continues to tumble.

The other two players are leaving on somewhat better terms. Mike Aviles got the callup again, as he regraduates from VP after more than a few ESPN fantasy owners picked him up this week. Those who did nab him again this week ended up with a nice .333/.368/.389 line. Aviles' value goes as his AVG/BABIP go, and right now he is doing well in those categories. If he is still available in all but your shallowest of mixed leagues, he is worth a look, if only for the consistent playing time and the one-category help. Neil Walker is continuing to impress in Pittsburgh, the brightest spot of the team's recent minor league callups. A .313/.278/.624 line, including his third homer of the season, ended in bad news however, as Walker collided with teammate Ryan Church on Friday and suffered a mild concussion. He has not returned to the field since and could be going on the 15-day DL, so for now we bid him farewell. On his return, make sure you snap him back up for second base in your leagues.

Joining us on Value Picks is a familiar name. After Ian Desmond finally graduated from VP, he immediately went into a tailspin, batting just .170/.228/.264 since June 9. Much of the loss was in BABIP, and Desmond's speed should help in that department. However, the other concerns are still quite real. He still cannot draw a walk (3.9% unintentional BB%) and he still swings at quite a few bad pitches (34.3% swing% outside of the strike zone), so his plate discipline leaves much to be desired. Once he does get on base, he can provide a bit of assistance to your steals, upping his value slightly. Right now, Desmond is a solid buy-low option, especially for NL-league teams ravaged by the Troy Tulowitzki injury. Count on his AVG to climb back up a bit and let him reach a respectable level for a shortstop.

Just as Walker is a temporary drop for VP due to injury, Bill Hall is a temporary VP pickup due to injury. Dustin Pedroia's recent foot injury may not require surgery, but he is still likely to miss six weeks after fouling a ball off his foot. Replacing Pedroia at second is Hall, who can play almost any position around the diamond but will find himself entrenched at second for a little while. This would not be noteworthy if it were not for the fact that Hall is undergoing a bit of a career revival. He has had a torrid June, batting .269/.387/.442 for the month, including a wicked 16% UIBB%. In the past, Hall has had a penchant for tearing up one month in particular, but this season his value has come from an increased walk rate and the best contact rate on pitches (76.4%) that he has had since his breakout 2005 season. Hall's downside is that his strikeout rate, currently at 28.3%, should remain high; PECOTA's weighted means projection has him striking out in 26.9% of his PA. This should keep his AVG low, but with consistent PT and a Boston lineup that suddenly looks loaded (Boston is among the league leaders in TAv as a team) and a ballpark friendly to hitters and Hall looks significantly better as a short-term option for AL-leagues. If his power sticks and the walk rate stay at around 10%, owners should be in for acceptable counting stats and a small bonus in steals.

Skip Schumaker was one of the first players that made it into the Value Picks list, as he was a speedy second baseman that had value in the AVG department and batted in front of one of the best #3/#4 combinations in baseball in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. However, Schumaker started off a dreadful slump, hovering around a .210 AVG at the end of April and early May. However, he has made his regression known, continuing a steady climb that has brought his line all the way up to .261/.325/.337, a far cry from his .214/.306/.286 from May 4. For the month of June, Schumaker has actually hit .309/.351/.382, unsurprisingly similar to his 2008 and 2009 slash lines. With pitch contact rates quite similar to 2008 and 2009 as well, expect him to continue at the .290/.350/.360 pace to which Cardinals fans have been accustomed.

The Incumbents

With three changes this week, only three incumbents remain from last week's list. Of the three, Felipe Lopez remains in the most perilous of positions. Lopez had another poor week at the plate and continues to struggle with strikeouts and a low AVG. Though he has flashed better power this season (.143 ISO), he holds little to no value in terms of home runs. His best bet is playing time (which he has) and an AVG that will put him on base enough to score a lot at the top of the Cardinal's lineup. He is once again on notice this week.

John Jaso continues a steady descent into normalcy after his ridiculous start this season. Still, given the way Jaso has avoided the strikeout this year (9.1% K%), his AVG is actually right on cue given an expected below average BABIP. And because of the huge number of walks (16.5%) drawn, his OBP is more than passable and should lead to plenty of runs, especially batting leadoff for the Rays. If anything, playing time and solid plate discipline should provide some above average production for a catcher in AL-only or deep mixed-leagues.

Ronny Paulino has been the model of consistency, as his slash line has barely budged for the past three weeks. He continues to be undervalued by ESPN mixed leaguers, taken in only 7.6% of leagues despite an impressive .277 TAv. The AVG will fall at some point, but Paulino should make up for it with a small increase in power and walk rate back to his career levels. He remains a great NL-only option if he is still available.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

Related Content:  Reid Brignac

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