August 24, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
Not much in the way of changes this week, as fantasy players begin finalizing rosters for their upcoming playoff runs. Dropping from the list J.P. Arencibia, the young Toronto catching prospect. Arencibia was not able to match his ridiculously hot opening game, and now it appears the Blue Jays will not be giving him an extended look over incumbent John Buck, who recently returned from the DL. Though Arencibia still warrants a hold in keeper leagues for his future power potential at a premium defensive position, he wil not do much stuck behind Buck and backup Jose Molina.
Ian Desmond had a week full of base hits, batting .455/.520/.500 on the week and upping his season batting average to .276. He continues his torrid streak for the month, now batting .375/.423/.528 in August, with 10 runs scored and five RBI. While Desmond won't hit at this clip going forward, you have to at least be happy about his five walks this month; he drew those five walks in 80 PA, which is not impressive until compared to his 12 unintentional walks in his previous 339 PA. This slightly better plate discipline may in turn lead to a couple more steals going forward, with a decent shot at a 20 SB campaign. However, because he has been on such a tear, he has driven past our VP cutoff, as he is now owned in 35.6% of ESPN mixed leagues.
Eric Young Jr. is the lone new entrant into the Value Picks fold (props go to BP reader batpig for mentioning Young in the comments last week), and he follows the "base-stealers" trend of recent weeks in this edition of VP. While some of the recent steals suggestions have succeeded (Cliff Pennington) while others have faltered (Adam Kennedy), Young Jr. seems to be a sure-fire bet for steals. Just last week, starting each of Colorado's games at either second base or left field, Young swiped three bags in his 31 PA. In his extremely young career (just 134 PA total in 2009-2010), he has taken off in 17 out of 49 stolen base opportunities, a very large 34.7% clip. This year, Young has stolen eight of nine bags, and in his minor league career, he had a 77.7% success rate in 403 attempts, meaning his speed will probably translate decently at the major league level. The only question would have been one of playing time, but with the Rockies essentially out of contention for a playoff spot, it seems they are interested in seeing what the son of a former Rockie favorite can do. Expect a full slate of plate appearances for Young in the weeks to come.
The rest of National League VPs struggled last week. Felipe Lopez is on the chopping block again with yet another mediocre performance, At the beginning of the season, I intimated that with an above average BABIP, Lopez would be someone to check out in terms of fantasy, given playing time. He still has that playing time, but despite patience and power peripherals in line with his career marks (10.2%/10.1% career BB%, .111/.111 career ISO), his .290 BABIP is sapping his batting average and leaving him on the brink of dropping out of VP status again. Chris Snyder picked up four hits in 16 PA this past week, but only one went for extra bases (a double) and he did not draw a walk either. Snyder and the Pirates will be finishing off a series with St. Louis at home before heading to Milwaukee, a perfect situation for any ailing hitter. The Pirates are likely to miss Milwaukee's ace Yovani Gallardo, which means they will most likely see the likes of Chris Narveson or Manny Parra during the three-game set.
On the AL side, Cliff Pennington had a below average week at the plate, batting just .250/.318/.350. However, he was also able to pick up two runs and three RBI along with two more steals, putting him at 20 on the season. As long as Pennington continues to get on base at an average clip, his steals should continue to accumulate. which helps to bring value to an otherwise league average bat. Oakland will be on the road this week, heading to Cleveland and Texas, which gives A's batters like Pennington some reprieve from their own cavernous park.
One More to Watch
Fantasy players are hoping not much has changed with John Buck since he went on the DL with a lacerated thumb, other than a clean bill of health. Prior to Buck heading to the DL, he had been hitting pretty well, batting .316/.333/.461 since the start of July. However, his primary claim to fame, his home run power at the catcher position, had not been on display; he had only one home run in those 78 PA. Rather, his line was assisted by a .377 BABIP, a stat which has been on Buck's side all year long. With a career .288 BABIP, Buck's current .341 mark looks like it is in for some regression, and with his traditionally high strikeout rate (23.9% career), a batting average even in the .260-.270 range seems implausible. Luckily, Buck's home run power this season does not seem to be out of line, as he is hitting homers in 14.3% of fly balls with the Blue Jays this season as compared to a career 12.5% mark. Beware the time split, however; though Buck is the significantly better hitter going forward, he is not known for his defense and has a Molina brother backing him up. Combined with a recent DL stint and you have the trappings of a 50/50 split in playing time.