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August 2, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter

by Michael Street

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
1B/3B/DH Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG 1B 3B DH vRH vLH Rng
Daric Barton OAK 445 5 45 38 3 .274 .379 .395 .259 .357 .411 101 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
Russell Branyan SEA 257 13 32 34 1 .259 .324 .487 .236 .344 .442 51 0 12 +33 –92 1.84
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 231 10 29 29 1 .240 .303 .442 .263 .352 .476 0 60 0 –24 +64 2.55
Matt Joyce TB 99 5 13 18 1 .232 .364 .512 .248 .338 .449 0 0 9 +23 –78
Matt LaPorta CLE 242 5 27 23 0 .249 .318 .373 .262 .344 .462 48 0 7 –12 +29 1.85
Danny Valencia MIN 109 1 10 12 1 .384 .440 .485 .256 .308 .410 0 29 0 –11 +40 2.65
Dayan Viciedo CHA 63 2 12 6 1 .333 .333 .524 .238 .287 .369 2 19 0 –11 +40 2.65
Subscribe to Heater Avg for First Base .275 .359 .477   vRH = OPS v RH
Heater Magazine Avg for Third Base .269 .339 .434   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Desig. Hitter .263 .350 .468   Rng = Range

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.

Related Content:  Dayan Viciedo,  Danny Valencia

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

friel27

Cut bait on Aram? He cannot play baseball with a sore thumb

Aug 02, 2010 16:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

friel27--

A-Ram has hit a rough patch in the past few games, but he's in the starting lineup tonight. I've been close to writing him off at several points this season, most recently when he reinjured the thumb on July 4. Ready for the worst, I was prepared to drop him . . . and then he went on to hit .378/.413/.838 with 9 HR in his next 18 games.

This has made me much slower on the trigger with him, so I'd give him a chance to see how he does. If he's still skidding (or sitting) after a few more games, then it might be time to cut him loose.

Thanks for the question!

Mike

Aug 02, 2010 17:02 PM
 
theguarantee

Speaking of cutting bait on struggling 3rd basemen, has anyone tried to figure out Kung Fu Panda's struggles? Best I can tell he has basically hit for a higher avg. with a higher slugging at every level, his K rate seems roughly in line, but his other numbers are all down.
I have seen him a few times over the past few weeks and he just looks like a mess at the plate. His timing seems way off and he's falling all over the place. From the right side of the place it seems even worse.
I admit an East Coast bias and never really watched much besides highlights before this year...so what gives? Obviously there was that situation back home, so maybe it's mental? Doesn't seem right to me though...
So what gives? Is Panda going to get hot the rest of the way or is he just not going to do it this year?

Aug 02, 2010 20:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

The collapse of KFP has been one of the big mysteries of 2010, and I agree that most of his core skills seem to be in line with last year. His .296 BABIP is a bit low, and his 4.8% HR/FB is about half of 2009's (he didn't go yard once last month). Both suggest he's not getting good contact on the ball, if not suffering from a bout of bad luck.

The best clue to Sandoval's awful 2010 comes from the pitches he sees in the zone: his 37.8% is the lowest in MLB. Pitchers, knowing that he swings at everything in the general ZIP code of the strike zone, aren't letting him see any pitches. That was true last year, too, but he was less aggressive outside the zone and more aggressive inside the strike zone.

Will that approach change this year? I think that major changes in approach this late in the season will more likely happen in the offseason, although I think finalizing his divorce might help him focus a bit more. Pitchers certainly aren't going to pitch him differently until he makes some adjustments himself.

I've got KFP in a keeper league, and I'm waffling about whether he remains on my roster. Mostly, I'm too stubborn to cut him because I kept him from last year. But it might be time to see if someone else is out on the wire. 3B is a tough spot, but depending on your league, you might find tastier options on the waiver wire. I'd expect a bit of a bounceback, but I think that this is a sophomore slump that's more likely to linger than go away.

Thanks for the question!

Mike

Aug 02, 2010 21:49 PM
 
theguarantee

Very insightful answer and the stat about seeing few strikes / swinging at lots of balls seems right in line with what I have observed.
Personally, I recently picked up Edwin Encarnacion (for approximately the 17th time this season) but it sure would be preferable to see KFP get hot.
Thanks.

Aug 03, 2010 08:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I've had EEE on and off my fantasy rosters, too; he's got too much talent to stay down for long. I watch lots of NL West games, so I'll see how KFP looks now that his divorce is behind him. He, too, seems too talented to be doing this poor.

Thanks right back atcha!

Mike

Aug 03, 2010 15:12 PM
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

Mike Sweeney could be a good pickup for those of you in need of a first baseman in deep or NL-only leagues. He was just acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies, who will use him as a replacement for Ryan Howard at least for the next two weeks, likely longer.

Sweeney, when he hasn't been injured, has hit rather well this year in a limited sample of plate appearances. A move from Seattle to Philadelphia should provide a boost to his numbers as well.

Aug 04, 2010 14:28 PM
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I saw that swap, too, Bill, though I'm a bit skeptical. Sweeney's a career AL hitter moving to a new league and playing a position he hasn't manned regularly (in his case, no more than 13 games) since 2005.

If he stays healthy (another problem when he's playing the field, as you point out) and can make the adjustments, he could bring some value. He'll certainly bring veteran leadership--something now lacking in Seattle--but I'm not sure how well he'll do in Philly.

He doesn't make a bad gamble as August pickups go, and (as you say) appropriate for deeper leagues, but I'll wait before giving him my (or VP's) stamp of approval. Excellent thought, however, which is always appreciated from you--thanks!

Aug 04, 2010 20:18 PM
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

So the Phillies are starting Ross Gload tomorrow against the right-handed Chris Volstad. There's been nothing official outside of speculation from a couple of the beat writers, but that would indicate that a platoon is more likely than originally reported. It was reported earlier today that Sweeney would be the everyday first baseman.

Aug 04, 2010 20:54 PM
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Thanks for the Phillies intel--let me know how you think Gload looks, since he could be a potential light-hitting BA/OBP pickup. Gload approaches replacement value in his 50th PECOTA percentile of BA, but doesn't offer much value otherwise. Sweeney's definitely the better option on paper.

Aug 05, 2010 15:38 PM
 
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