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August 9, 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
Russell Branyan SEA 283 14 33 35 1 .245 .319 .466 .236 .344 .442 51 0 18 +33 –92 1.84
Edwin Encarnacion TOR 251 12 34 32 1 .252 .315 .478 .263 .352 .476 0 65 0 –24 +64 2.55
Matt Joyce TB 121 5 14 20 1 .210 .347 .450 .248 .338 .449 0 0 9 +23 –78
Matt LaPorta CLE 272 6 31 25 0 .251 .324 .383 .262 .344 .462 55 0 7 –12 +29 1.85
Danny Valencia MIN 140 1 12 14 1 .344 .400 .438 .256 .308 .410 0 36 0 –11 +40 2.65
Dayan Viciedo CHA 71 3 13 7 1 .310 .310 .521 .238 .287 .369 3 22 0 –11 +40 2.65
Brett Wallace HOU 22 0 2 3 0 .278 .409 .333 .254 .322 .412 5 0 0 +24 –71 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 first fringe VP candidate reaches the list this week, and we’ll offer a rundown of the other bubble options, who haven’t yet shown the skills or the playing time to add. Making room for our latest addition means releasing Dayan Viciedo, due to his own diminishing skills and playing time.

As Ozzie Guillen tries to keep his Sox atop the AL Central, he’s given most of the playing time at third base to Omar Vizquel, not Viciedo. With Mark Teahen returning soon, Viciedo will see even less time, assuming he’s not demoted. And when he has started, Viciedo has shown a love for the longball but an utter disdain for the walk (0 in 71 PA). His 85% contact rate balances that lack of patience, as does his .211 ISO, but without the playing time to swing the lumber, develop his eye, and deliver counting numbers to fantasy owners, he’s not valuable enough to keep.

Replacing him is Brett Wallace, whom Houston immediately promoted to the majors after acquiring him and trading away Lance Berkman. Small wonder, as Walrus matched his .302/.365/.505 line with Triple-A Sacramento in 2009 by hitting .301/.359/.509 at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2010. Stunningly, he registered nearly identical 21% strikeout rates and 6% walk rates during both seasons.

So far, Wallace hasn’t accumulated enough PAs to draw firm conclusions about his MLB performance, though he’s collected a hit in every August start. His power hasn’t emerged yet, as just one of those hits went for extra bases, but that only proves he’s not overswinging, and he certainly looks comfortable at the plate. Wallace began as a third baseman, so he retains that eligibility in most leagues, and the Astros could still use him there, once Chris Johnson’s .422 BABIP comes down to earth. Either way, however, Wallace should soon gain eligibility at both CIF positions, driving his value higher.

PECOTA’s 50th percentile is a bit underwhelming, but he becomes a respectable third baseman if just his 60th percentile, and a good first baseman in his 70th. His talent and playing time make him a great add in all but shallow leagues, and he’s a must-add in keeper leagues. He’s available in more than 98% of ESPN leagues, but that will change sooner rather than later, so get him while you can. He’s the kind of hitter who can make a difference in your fantasy team down the stretch.

Other VP members can make a similar difference, starting with the hottest hitters, Matt LaPorta and Edwin Encarnacion. LaPorta hit .269/.367/.462 last week, a spell that saw EEE swat .389/.450/.889. LaPorta’s playing time is unchallenged, while Encarnacion’s smoking bat has kept him on the field despite Toronto’s crowded outfield. If EEE starts to tank, that could change, but for now, he’ll play and deliver excellent value. Surprisingly, LaPorta’s available in 92%, and Encarnacion in 98%, of ESPN leagues.

Fantasy owners have also been slow to recognize the success of Matt Joyce and Danny Valencia, both of whom are now regulars. Joyce sits occasionally, and his .111/.273/.167 line last week won’t help that case, but he’s remaining patient, so his batting line will turn around. Valencia, on the other hand, is starting every night, despite cooling off after a smoking start to hit just .207/.258/.276 last week. He could sit when Justin Morneau returns—which should happen soon—but Valencia’s performed well enough for Gardenhire to keep playing him there.

Also cooling off is Russell Branyan, who missed time due to back spasms, but he returned to the lineup last week full-time, only to collect 2 hits in 22 PAs. One of those hits was a solo HR, so his back doesn’t seem to be affecting his power. If his back is healthy, his .158/.256/.289 line over the past two weeks doesn’t inspire much confidence, putting him close to the cut line.

If he does depart the VP list, there are plenty of emerging post-deadline options. Highly regarded prospects 3B Josh Bell of Baltimore and DH Jordan Brown of Cleveland have earned their chance to show their stuff. Bell’s .171/.171/.195 in 41 PAs needs work, however, and Brown’s .250/.286/.350 has come in just 20 PAs, making it too early to draw conclusions. Both, however, are good hitting prospects, with Brown expected to deliver BA while Bell should bring power.

Jose Guillen’s release allowed the promotion of Kila Ka’aihue, who should offer decent pop and a good batting eye that will bring OBP more than BA. Dan Johnson, who’s filling for an injured Carlos Pena, could bring punchless OBP, while Carlos Delgado’s recent signing by the Red Sox might bring the whole triple-slash package—if he’s healthy enough to play.

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

BP Comment Quick Links


Brett Wallace has impressive looking stats, but all of Brad Emaus, Mike McCoy, Aaron Mathews, Danny Perales and Jarrett Hoffpauir have higher batting average and/or OBP. A mirage in the desert, perhaps. And the chances of Houston using him at 3B are non existent.

Aug 09, 2010 04:17 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

It may be that the other players' stats are a result of the desert air, though Las Vegas is generally considered more of a pitcher's park than a launching pad. Either way, Wallace's amazingly consistent production (in primary and secondary stats) both there and in Sacramento should show that his line isn't the result of park effects.

I'd meant my comment about shifting Wallace more as a snub at Johnson, who's hitting way over his head. But I never say never in baseball, and see little reason why Houston would *never* shift Wallace across the diamond to a position he played throughout his minor-league career. But I'd agree that such a swap is highly unlikely, even after Johnson comes down to earth (and perhaps sinks below it).

Thanks for the comments!

Aug 09, 2010 14:16 PM

Dan Johnson --- "punchless"?

Aug 09, 2010 12:57 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Yup--punchless. His MLB SLG peaked at .451 way back in 2005, and has been around the .420 level ever since. He displayed excellent power in the minors, but that never seemed to translate to the bigs.

PECOTA agrees and doesn't see him as even an average 1B in his 90th percentile, where he'd hit .260/.357/.469. A 50th percentile of .238/.331/.415 and weighted mean of .246/.337/.434 are similarly uninspiring, except in the OBP department.

Aug 09, 2010 14:20 PM

Quick question 'my team' question ... a quick scan of 50% PECOTA shows little difference between Jordan Brown and Mitch Moreland. Are we assuming 4-5 starts a week for both? Any reason to strongly prefer one over the other for the remainder of the season? (Also have Dan Johnson and am judging him to be a notch more useful then either. No?)

Aug 09, 2010 13:06 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

From a talent perspective, Brown and Mitchell Moreland (had to use the full name for the BP link to appear) are fairly similar, though Brown has a bit more polish from more years of development (this was MM's first year in AAA, while Brown was in his third).

PECOTA's ceiling gives you a better idea of what each guy brings, talent-wise, as Moreland offers more SLG in his 90th percentile, while Brown gives more BA/OBP.

More importantly, however, Brown is getting a tryout in Cleveland, a team in the cellar, while Moreland is playing for a contending team. That makes Moreland's leash a lot shorter (even if his potential production is bigger with a better team), while Brown is going to get plenty of chances to make his mark.

Reflecting this, HEATER expert Joey Matschulat gives Moreland 50% of the PT at 1B, while HEATER's Brian LaShier gives Brown 85% of the PT between DH and OF.

To me, that makes Brown the better bet for counting stats and (due to his advanced development) better ratios, while Moreland could bust out with more power (esp. in the Texas summertime), but is more likely to capture less PT, and possibly fall off the depth chart altogether if he falls into a funk.

As for Dan Johnson, see my comment above. He's also in a time-share situation, but with a much lower level of expected production; his only advantage is MLB experience.

Thanks for the question and comment, pobo!

Aug 09, 2010 14:35 PM

Thank YOU for the really useful feeback. Good point on Brown's leash. Picked him on two deep-league teams on your recommendation.

As for Dan Johnson --- thanks for the cold water. I do tend to fall in love with the random lesser-guy. However --- there's something about his combination of factors that I'm liking here. A guy who hit 15 and 18 in big ol' Oakland, both with 494 or fewer AB's, has shown markedly better power in the two years since (yes, vs. lesser competition), learns to play some OF, and gets called up to a team that's famous for asking players to do what they already do well. He's needed, mature, and comfortable on a team that will find at bats for guys who produce ---- and he's been in the lineup every night since his call up. Waaaaaay too squishy an assessment for BPro, I know, but short short term --- thru September, say --- I think I'm still liking me some deep-league Dan Johnson. Just a bit less than I did a day ago. Thanks again.

Aug 10, 2010 16:41 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

My pleasure, pobo. Let me know how DJ (and Brown) works out. I'll be watching them, too, but it will be interesting to see how the moves affect your teams.

Aug 10, 2010 20:36 PM

What's up with Cantu? He's in a time-share, yes? His platoon splits this year are nigh-identical, but he's been missing time.

Aug 10, 2010 10:00 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

According to Washington, it's a time share but not a strict platoon. Texas wanted a right-handed bat, but they also want to see Moreland, and Cantu's numbers had been sliding (he hit just .216/.261/.291 between June 15 and July 29, when he was traded).

If Moreland struggles, Cantu's PT will increase, and he's also been used at 3B. Some owners may have given up on him, and his value's definitely taken a hit, but he's not a bad gamble to pick up more (and maybe much more) than 50% of the time down the stretch. The lack of a strict platoon makes it hard to predict when he will play, but you can still leverage his value with careful usage.

Thanks for the question!

Aug 10, 2010 14:56 PM

And notice how much better a team Houston has become since Brett Wallace replaced Berkman? Cause or coincidence, I don't know. I'm just sayin' ...

Aug 10, 2010 16:47 PM
rating: 0
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Premium Article Overthinking It: Judgm... (08/09)
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