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August 16, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
With MLB roster expansions coming up, Value Picks expands its list by one, recognizing some marginal performances by some VPs and an influx of talent from midseason callups. Two callups already on the VP list are Danny Valencia and Brett Wallace, who have had mixed results. Wallace continues to stroke the ball, hitting .308/.357/.385 for the week, with a strikeout rate near 30% as the one warning sign. He’s a rookie and 39 PAs is a small sample, but it’s a trend that bears watching.
Valencia, on the other hand, was happy to be home after hitting .122/.159/.146 on a 10-game roadtrip, not surprising from a guy who’s hit .426/.466/.500 at home (58 PAs) and .258/.311/.351 on the road (106 PAs). Those, too, are small samples, and the Twins' upcoming homestand will test the splits further. But even if he slumps, Valencia’s job seems safe, since Justin Morneau doesn’t look like he’s close to returning.
Morneau’s injury initially gave playing time to Jim Thome, this week’s return VP, but then Joe Mauer’s shoulder problems pushed Thome back to the bench. When Mauer went back behind the dish last week, Thome returned as DH, a spot he’ll keep sharing with Mauer and Jason Kubel, generally hitting against righties. Thome’s robust line over the last month (.277/.411/.682) shows that he’ll produce when he starts, and he remains an excellent power and OBP source for owners who can either platoon him or handle his reduced counting numbers. He’s tied for the lead in dingers among VPs, but he’s still out there in 98% of ESPN leagues, so he’s probably available in yours.
Thome’s tied with Branyan for that HR lead, though Branyan had hit only one longball in nearly a month before last week. Hovering at my cutline, Branyan redeemed himself with a home run Saturday, part of a week when he picked up a hit in four straight games, two of which went for extra bases; then, he walked three times on Sunday. That seems to indicate that his back and batting eye are is healthy, though if this week’s rebound proves short lived, he won’t remain a VP.
Matts Joyce and LaPorta also homered last week, though LaPorta followed it with an 0-15 slide. Since he whiffed just once, that’s more likely a product of bad luck than bad skill. The Indians head out on the road this week, where LaPorta‘s OPS is 134 points higher, so he’s got one more week to get his swing back, or he’ll join the ranks of ex-VPs, since his .230/.296/.345 line last month just isn’t cutting it. Joyce, however, continues to turn it around after a slow start, even if his .257/.444/.786 week wasn’t enough to draw more than 2.3% of ESPN owners. He’ll keep starting, producing, and improving—pick him up for some valuable late-season power.
Another bad week came from Edwin Encarnacion, who hit .143/.250/.214, but it followed an excellent week, so his .257/.333/.543 split over the last two weeks remains robust. Even better, his 86% contact rate over that span is a good sign. EEE also cleared waivers, so a trade to a team—perhaps Atlanta—could be in the offing. This means AL-only owners may not want to exercise the patience that a streaky EEE deserves, though everyone else should ride out the rough spots unless his secondary stats slip, too.
On the Bubble
Josh Bell continues to flounder, even as the Orioles around him excel under new skipper Buck Showalter. He followed a three-hit night on Wednesday with a 1-3 night on Thursday, but he’s still fanning at an alarming 36% rate. He’ll have to correct that, or offset it with some power, before achieving VP status.
Former VP Mark Teahen returned to the White Sox on Friday, only to find third base occupied by Omar Vizquel, so he started in RF and at DH. It’s too soon to tell how healthy he is, and he hasn’t played since May 30. If he picks up the playing time, and justifies it with offensive production, he’s likely worth adding to your roster.
Kila Ka'aihue is expected to be Kansas City’s future 1B/DH, but he’s got to earn that designation. You can see his production here in the Rotolympus playing card, and Royals fans have nothing to get excited about just yet.
Losing Chipper Jones means the Braves turn to Brooks Conrad, who’s had a fine year in a limited role. But that line is well above his 90th PECOTA percentile of .231/.314/.394. Expect his production to diminish with increased exposure.
Last week, Pobothecat asked about the time share between Jorge Cantu and Mitchell Moreland in Texas. Moreland has excellent potential—.313/.383/.509 overall in the minors—and could push Cantu further if he can stay hot. He’s worth a flier in deeper leagues and is someone to watch in most other leagues.