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July 26, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
Graduation is always a proud moment in Value Picks—it means other owners have finally caught up with us. Five weeks ago, Pedro Alvarez made the list despite hitting just .077/.200/.154. But if you followed our advice, it paid off handsomely, as he’s put up a .282/.345/.534 triple-slash since then, including two 2-HR games last week. ESPN owners pushed his ownership over the 20% VP threshold, leading to his VP graduation.
VP alumnus Edwin Encarnacion replaces him, though Encarnacion spent just one week on the list in June before an HR explosion also drove his ownership through the roof. Then, Toronto demoted him after an even longer frigid spell, although Christina Kahrl points out that this swoon owed more to luck than skill.
EE (actually EEE, since his middle name is Elpidio) proved her right by clubbing .438/.486/.781 in Triple-A, earning his way back to the bigs. Since returning, he’s hit .323/.333/.484, walking just once in 63 PAs, but his 84% contact rate shows he’s not flailing. Encarnacion’s 50th PECOTA percentile is better than average in every area but BA, but the greater concern is playing time, thanks to the return of Travis Snider later this week, creating a logjam for Toronto.
Snider, Adam Lind, Fred Lewis, and Jose Bautista are all corner outfield and DH options, and Bautista can also play third. EEE could lose time to Bautista, or Toronto could trade Bautista or Lyle Overbay to clear the jam. That issue, plus Encarnacion’s streakiness, creates downside risk, but his power potential makes him worth adding in all but shallow leagues; he’s available in 98% of ESPN leagues.
Last week, Dayan Viciedo joined the list, replacing VP Danny Valencia, who wasn’t getting enough playing time for VP status. As if in spite, Ozzie Guillen gave Viciedo just one at-bat last week. According to HEATER (and BP’s) Rob McQuown, this resulted from Viciedo’s miscue against the Twins, which opened the door to a four-run inning, ultimately losing the important divisional game.
“Ozzie has zero tolerance for that, while he has almost a reverence for Vizquel,” according to Rob. He adds that Viciedo should continue to get starts, especially against lefties, until Mark Teahen returns, when Viciedo should return to Triple-A. Neither the playing time nor the return are certain, and Viciedo was reportedly part of a Prince Fielder deal where he’d have become Milwaukee’s starting first baseman. This gives him enough upside to keep him around for at least another week, but he needs to improve his defense if he hopes to remain in Ozzie’s lineup or—mine.
As for the rest of the list, Russell Branyan missed most of last week due to back stiffness. He should avoid the DL, but you may need to bench him this week. Daric Barton remains the poster child for undervalued 1B talent, with ownership remaining below 5% despite his strong BA and OBP. An improving Matt Joyce hit .273/.385/.727 in four games last week. His at-bats will increase as his production does, so get him while you can—fewer than 1% of ESPN owners have noticed him on their waiver wires. Fantasy owners can’t decide if they like Matt LaPorta, as he’s bobbed above and below the 20% mark despite a .400/.438/.400 line last week. He won’t stay on this list once your league’s owners catch up with VP.
VP Trade Deadline Analysis
With Dan Haren’s departure, Arizona’s most tradeable commodity becomes Adam LaRoche, who’s holding Brandon Allen’s spot. Allen needed more patience to augment his powerful all-or-nothing swing, which he’s accomplished this year. His 26% strikeout rate is complemented with a 19 BB%, creating a great .253/.399/.503 Triple-A line. PECOTA gives him just .246/.313/.423 in his 50th percentile, but his power becomes quite formidable above his 70th percentile. Given Arizona’s cellar-dwelling status in a strong NL West, this is the deal (and the player) to watch.
Any Prince Fielder deal would allow the promotion of Mat Gamel, unless the Crew get a 1B in return. Shifting across the diamond would be perfect for Gamel’s awful glove, and he’s heated up after a slow start in Triple-A, hitting.366/.458/.732 over his last ten games to lift his 2010 line to .290/.380/.472. PECOTA’s weighted mean of .249/.326/.427 for Gamel shows that he’s better suited as a fantasy third baseman or CIF.
Recent rumors link Cleveland’s Jhonny Peralta to several teams, opening up 3B for Jayson Nix or Andy Marte. Neither is terribly inspiring, but Nix’s hot streak filling in at 2B give him an unexpected .253/.306/.505 overall line, while Marte’s luster has faded with another subpar .188/.267/.338 season. In such a tough 3B market, a Peralta deal could put Nix on the VP list—or your roster.
If Florida moves Jorge Cantu, who becomes a free agent next year, they’ll likely shift Chris Coghlan back to the infield and promote Logan Morrison to play LF. Coghlan’s .266/.334/.382 this season has disappointed, but 2009’s ROY performance was driven by his .372/.423/.543 second half, and he could have a similar bounceback to provide good 3B value.