July 20, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
The most recent Value Picks list has only one minor change. With Jeff Keppinger over the VP limit after a solid .214/.353/.500 week, he leaves our list in favor of Oakland's Mark Ellis, a virtual AL-only copy of Keppinger. Ellis' fantasy value lies mostly in his guaranteed playing time; he remains Oakland's starting second baseman for as long as he is healthy, something that hasn't always been easy for Ellis. Ellis was out for some time this season with a hamstring injury, but has returned to full-time duty and played adequately, though not to his level.
Most of Ellis' peripherals this season are down, even as his AVG remains on the high side for his career. The .318 BABIP is believable, but likely to regress going forward. However, his strikeout rate this season is around his three-year average and is likely to be similar for the rest of the season. PECOTA's .267 AVG projection seems fitting, with the weighted average .278 AVG not out of reach. Even with a slight regression on AVG, Ellis' other peripherals are likely to increase, particularly his power. His .077 ISO for this season is well below his career standards (career ISO .133), and while he is not the power option he was in 2007 (19 HR in 647 PA at second baseman), he has reached double-digit homers in each of the past five seasons. PECOTA projects a very believable .124 ISO with six more homers this season, pulling him very close to double-digits. Ellis also has reached double-digit steals in the last two years, but does not appear to be attempting as many steals this season. He has only taken off in 5.6% of SB opportunities this year and has not seen much success. PECOTA projects five steals going forward, but even this may be a bit optimistic. Scoresheet owners should take notice that Ellis also plays as a true switch hitter with little to no platoon issues and is a classically good defender at the second base position as well.
Three players remain on notice for the week, with possible changes coming in the week ahead. John Jaso's playing time remains limited, even as his production remains decent. In just 11 PA last week, he scored three runs and drove another in, despite a terrible .125/.273/.125 line. Jaso's team is good enough to carry his counting stats even on bad weeks, but if he ends up with less than 60% playing time during the week, he may not be able to produce enough for your fantasy team in mixed leagues.
Skip Schumaker also produced in terms of counting stats while having another ugly week at the plate in terms of AVG/OBP. The bonus power (1 HR, 1 2B this week) was nice, but a rare occurrence for the typically punchless second baseman. Teammate Felipe Lopez hit a now typical .263/.391/.368 line this week, resulting in 3 R and 2 RBI for the week. Lopez has appeared to settle in right around where PECOTA projected him, and while the projected line is nothing like last season's .310/.383/.427, Lopez' guaranteed playing time still makes him a valuable NL-only player.
Bill Hall is on notice for his previous week's performance, going just 2-for-16 with a walk tacked on. He did salvage some worth by hitting a home run in that time span, but he has not been the best choice for VP so far. Since his June 29 debut on the VP portfolio, Hall is hitting just .216/.281/.431, bringing 3 HR and 8 RBI but also 16 strikeouts in just 57 PA. He is still a boon if you need the home runs, but weigh that against the hurting he will deliver to your AVG and adjust accordingly.
Neil Walker remains a great, underrated option at second base, owned in just 2.5% of ESPN leagues. He had another hot week, batting .412/.389/.529, driving in four runs and scoring three himself. The MO for Walker remains the same as it has been since he debuted on the list; he will not get on base as often as you would like, but the power numbers should more than make up for that. His AVG should fall as he returns to earth in terms of BABIP, but .270 is well within reach. Pittsburgh has liked what they've seen from Walker so far and have moved him to third in the lineup from second. The major advantage here is that they have placed Andrew McCutchen, the team's best and perhaps only reliable on-base option, back into the leadoff spot. Once Walker's power kicks in (PECOTA projects eight more home runs in 285 PA), there should be a few more runners for Walker to drive in by batting third.