August 2, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
The trade deadline opened up lots of interesting Value Picks possibilities, providing pressure for some VPs in danger of being cut. One VP in a prolonged slump, Daric Barton, hasn’t been providing enough value for him to remain on the list. Over the past month, Barton has hit .241/.341/.342, unacceptable first-baseman production, even one with the OBP skills indicated by a 13 BB% and 18 K%. A .302 BABIP in July shows this hasn’t been a result of bad luck, so Barton’s an ex-VP until he figures out this skid.
Replacing him is another ex-VP, one dropped for lack of playing time, not lack of production. After Justin Morneau hit the DL, Ron Gardenhire didn’t start Twins prospect Danny Valencia, instead turning to either the gloveless Michael Cuddyer or the punchless Nick Punto. I cut Valencia, waiting for his opportunity to shine—that time came last week when Punto hit the DL, forcing Gardy to play Valencia regularly.
The young third-sacker responded by hitting .565/.615/.826 in six games, including back-to-back four-hit games, part of a stretch when he hit 14-19 over a four-game stretch. Clearly, he won’t keep hitting that way, but he’s shown good core skills in 2010 (9% BB% and 12 K% in 109 PAs) and PECOTA likes his power, which becomes better than average in his 60th percentile.
With Morneau’s return still uncertain and Punto out until at least mid-August, Valencia will start for the foreseeable future; if he can stay hot, he could push Punto to a utility role. Valencia’s out there in almost 95% of ESPN leagues and is worth an add in AL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues, as well as keeper leagues of all sizes.
I'd replaced Valencia with Dayan Viciedo, in a week clearly sponsored by the letter “V” and the position “3B.” In further similarities, Viciedo also had a part-time role, one that dried up to a no-time role as punishment for a game-changing error. Vicideo found himself back in the White Sox lineup this week, hitting .571/.571/.857, with four doubles among his eight hits.
Viciedo has yet to walk in the bigs, but his name was bandied about in trade talks, a further indication of his worth, especially when Chicago didn’t want to part with him. His days in the bigs in 2010 may be numbered, however, since Mark Teahen is on the mend in the minors, and his return could lead to Viciedo’s demotion. He’ll stick with the VPs for now, but you should begin to look for other options.
One of those options is fellow VP Edwin Encarnacion, though his playing time may also be in peril. Instead of clearing their outfield logjam with a trade, Toronto stood pat, leaving Encarnacion in a time share with Bautista at 3B. Heater’s Marc Hulet still sees EEE with 80% of the playing time, but that could change if Encarnacion goes into a tailspin like he did earlier this year. He hasn’t done that yet, but he hasn’t dazzled, either, hitting .231/.259/.231 last week and .295/.311/.409 the past month. We’ve kept him because of the shallow 3B talent pool and his 83% contact rate, but that won’t be enough if he doesn’t start showing life at the plate.
I’m also putting Matt LaPorta on notice for his .167/.214/.250 week and .284/.348/.407 month. He’s still trying to work out the kinks at the major-league level, as evidenced by a 24% strikeout rate in July. He’s got playing time in his favor, as injuries have left the Indians with few other options, but that’s only half the picture—he needs to turn it up ASAP.
At least Russell Branyan can explain his numbers with the back spasms that held him out of the lineup until this past Tuesday and kept him out of another game Thursday. He picked up a hit in three of the four games he did play in, but he still just hit .235/.235/.353. I’ll watch to see if this lack of power is just a temporary swoon or if those back problems will persist in 2010 the way they did in 2009.
Tampa Bay’s failure to trade for a bat shows that they’re confident that Matt Joyce will continue to produce, and so am I. Joyce had an awesome week, smacking three dingers and picking up a whopping 10 RBI, and is still out there in 99% of ESPN leagues, but that will change soon when other owners wake up.
With so many VPs on the bubble, all the trade activity provides plenty of potential replacements. Topping the list are Josh Bell, who slides into the Orioles’ 3B role vacated by Miguel Tejada, and Brett Wallace, who fills the hole left by Lance Berkman’s departure. Both players are too new to assess, and you should expect some bumps along the way—Wallace is only in his third year of pro ball, while this was Bell’s first season above AA. They’re worth a flier in keeper leagues, and I’ll be watching them for VP status.