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July 27, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop

by Michael Jong

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
Mark Ellis OAK 241 2 25 25 3 .272 .346 .343 .251 .315 .355 0 54 0 +2 –6 4.33
Bill Hall BOS 224 10 28 28 4 .228 .314 .431 .228 .299 .404 0 26 5 –33 +68 --
John Jaso TBR 235 3 29 33 3 .268 .387 .366 .261 .359 .395 56 0 0 +23 –67 .62/.22
Felipe Lopez STL 280 6 37 27 5 .268 .341 .408 .274 .349 .402 0 16 20 –4 +11 4.27
Cliff Pennington OAK 364 4 40 34 2 .281 .336 .390 .259 .339 .375 0 77 0 –40 +94 4.26
Skip Schumaker STL 337 3 46 23 5 .262 .325 .341 .282 .346 .381 0 79 0 +48 –158 4.22
Neil Walker PIT 198 3 24 21 2 .301 .338 .443 .266 .326 .439 0 42 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

Re-entering the Value Picks portfolio is a familiar name from a long time ago, Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington. Pennington's line is much worse now than it was since his initial VP graduation, but his major appeal in his second appearance here is in his steals. Pennington was the only player within our VP criteria of ownership with over ten steals this season, and his success rate (15 steals in 17 attempts, 88.2%) is indicative of his skill at taking an extra base. He is not likely to kill you in AVG/OBP, with PECOTA projecting rates approaching average. Pennington would be a good selection if you are in need of steals, and his consistent playing time and decent play in other categories make him a worthwhile pickup in mixed leagues.

Departing from the list is Skip Schumaker, who has disappointed ever since reappearing on the list. Since returning to the list on June 29, Schumaker has hit just .264/.328/.358, which for most fantasy fans would barely be worth their time, especially with a lack of contribution in other categories.

The Incumbents

It seems John Jaso has settled into a usual playing time and performance, as his slash line from last week remained unchanged through this week. As a consistent OBP presence in the Rays lineup, he remains a decent pickup who is still available in over 98% of ESPN mixed leagues. At this much playing time, however, he'd be best only in deeper leagues or in AL-only affairs. Bill Hall hit two home runs over the week and maintained his poor AVG and mediocre OBP, meaning his status remains mostly unchanged as well. Mark Ellis hit .208/.345/.250 but remains a decent option in AL leagues due to guaranteed playing time and average rate stats.

Felipe Lopez saw a similar week to Jaso in that his slash line from the previous week barely budged. Lopez remains a full-time starter with David Freese still injured, and he has the additional flexibility of qualifying at three positions. Neil Walker remains a widely available option, and he had another excellent week to pressure fantasy owners to acquire him. Walker hit .393/433/.536 in the past week, with four doubles, two runs, and five RBI. Walker is not going to hold a .300+ AVG, but once again, PECOTA's optimism is tied to power that he has yet to flash much of at the big league level. Pirates and fantasy fans would like to see some of those fly balls turn from doubles to homers; Walker's current 4.7% HR/FB% is lower than what is expected given his minor league power.

VP Trade Deadline Talk

The trade deadline is approaching, and it may very well open up opportunities for players to gain or lose playing time. Teams looking to move players are likely to offer time to new players off the bench, and readers should be aware of the situations for the positions up the middle. Here are a few names that could move in the trade deadline:

Chris Snyder: Snyder was a part-time resident of the Value Picks earlier in the season due to the injury to Arizona Diamondbacks incumbent catcher Miguel Montero. With Montero back from injury, Snyder has been relegated to a timeshare on the position, but the Diamondbacks have been more than interested in trading him. The team seemingly most interested is Boston, who is still dealing with the injuries of Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek. Snyder would only be a temporary starting option going to Boston, but it would afford him more playing time than he is currently receiving with the D'backs. Snyder is good for a The loser in a potential Red Sox/D'backs deal is Kevin Cash, who is not much of an option for fantasy. PECOTA's team-specific projection of .216/.321/.398 seems very low, but you would expect he would perform a bit better playing full-time; his 60th percentile .244/.349/.442 line with home run power would be a very good short-term fantasy option.

Kelly Johnson: Snyder's teammate Johnson is having a resurgent year, currently hitting .279/..368/.504 (.297 TAv). Johnson remains under team control for 2011, making him still a valuable trade option for an acquiring team. Possible teams considering Johnson include the PhilliesRockies, and Cardinals, all of whom would install Johnson as their full-time starter, replacing such luminaries as Jonathan Herrera and Schumaker. Replacing Johnson for the D'backs would be Tony Abreu. Abreu's weighted mean line of .272/.311/.433 would be an acceptable from a second baseman, and he will have the assistance of playing in Chase Field in his home games.

Dan Uggla: Uggla is increasingly unlikely to move, but the Rockies and Cardinals have been mentioned as suitors before. The Marlins are looking to sign Uggla long-term, but if a trade seems appealing, the Marlins will move Chris Coghlan to second base to replace Uggla and promote Logan Morrison to play left field. As VP colleague Michael Street mentioned yesterday, Coghlan's .268/.335/.383 line is disappointing given his BABIP-loaded 2009 season, but an above average hitter (.263 TAv) at second base would be more than playable.

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

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Cracking the Pitch Seq... (07/27)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (07/26)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Serving ... (07/28)
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