September 1, 2010
Hot Spots: Outfield
September Scramble: Mike Petriello accurately assessed that Desmond Jennings is unlikely to get playing time. But he's being added as a Value Pick anyway. Why? Loving the obvious answer here, he stole 37 bases in 458 plate appearances in AAA (with just 4 times caught). Combining all his minor-league time, Jennings has pilfered 171 bags in 1831 PA.
Combine Jennings' tremendous speed with the facts that Sean Rodriguez is hitting .257/.309/.405, right fielder Ben Zobrist has started four of his past 6 games at second base, incumbent center fielder B.J. Upton is hitting just .234/.321/.413, Dan Johnson is hitting under .200, Matt Joyce is hitting .222, and it's unclear what Brad Hawpe will do in the AL. Well, what the Rays have is a team that could find a use for a good offensive player... enter Desmond Jennings. Jennings is a great defensive center fielder, but the team has played him in the side fields in preparation of exactly this moment. His rate stats don't wow, with a mediocre Davenport Translation (DT) of .240/.313/.330 (.238 TAv). But with the abundance of lefty bats, he should start the majority of the games against left-handed starting pitchers. He should also get a lot of opportunities to pinch-run and/or play defense for some of the slower guys. The bottom line, however, is that whether or not he performs well at the plate, he's very very fast, and Joe Maddon likes to have his players steal bases. Few freely available players have the potential to impact a category in September the way Jennings does.
While on the topic of speed, Gregor Blanco has stolen 10 bases in 172 plate appearances so far this year. He won't see Jorge Posada (Blanco had 3 steals against New York on August 13) again, and has only three more games against A.J. Pierzynski's White Sox (2 SB on August 22), so the pace is due to drop off some. And – unlike Jennings – he has no notion of hitting for power, ever. His minor-league groundball percentage, career, is over 61%, and while that's been reduced to under 53% in the majors, that's still a very high rate. But he does have a career OBP of over .350, and 25 steals in his 739 PA. Given a full slate of playing time, he could help fantasy teams in need of speed.
Not So Fast: Kevin Goldstein tipped people off to Lucas Duda's killer AAA stats a week ago, noting that you can't call his stats “fluky” anymore, with as many plate appearances as he's had. Baseball America contributed this pun on his name when he was taken in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, explaining why he dropped so far in the draft: “Duda, highly regarded out of high school, remained a dud as a college hitter, batting a career .275 and just .278 this spring with a team-high six homers.” Yours truly admits to some personal bias, having drafted him in the 12th round of an ultra-deep Strat-O-Matic league (150-man rosters/30 teams) back in 2008, right in between Emmanuel Quiles and Kraig Binick. And, honestly, if Duda is good in September, it will be somewhat of a surprise, even though the power potential appears to be there. His PECOTA isn't very good for a first baseman-turned-outfielder, and really all he has going for him is half a season of raking in the IL. Yet, his DT comes out at .264/.331/.498 (.279 TAv), good for 5th in TAv among all players with even 134 at bats or more (Carlos Santana, Dan Johnson, Neil Walker, Barbaro Canizares were ahead of him). The Mets traded Jeff Francoeur, and who knows how much time Jason Bay (possibly out for season with concussion), Angel Pagan (hand injuries are always worrisome), and Carlos Beltran (always an injury risk) will miss? He may have to beat out Chris Carter, it depends on how the Mets want to treat him. The team has 17 games remaining against the Nats, Brewers, Pirates, and Lilly-less Cubs, so there's opportunity for good pitching matchups despite 12 games against the Braves, Phils, and Marlins.
Roger Bernadina: While fully endorsed due to the playing time opportunity on the Nats and his great speed and moderate power, a .300/.344/.600 week with two home runs, two steals, four RBI, and seven runs scored was more than anyone could have hoped for. He remains a very solid, nearly-ubiquitous waiver wire option.
Updates: Both Cameron Maybin and Felix Pie played full-time last week and were sub-par, despite each collecting a home run. Both are available in most leagues still, and both are facing tough pitching matchups for the month of September. Maybin plays most of his games against the Braves (2nd-best pitching in NL), Mets (4th), and Phillies (6th, plus they added Roy Oswalt). Felix Pie might be facing easier pitching, with seven games against the Tigers, and the six against Toronto being easier with Morrow shut down, but 12 games combined against the league-best Rays pitching and the Yankees won't help his stats any. For now, going week-by-week makes the most sense, and Maybin has seven games next week, with four in Philly and three at Washington, making him the better option of these two.
The “No Play” Club: Rick Ankiel is batting .262/.326/.484 against right-handed pitching this year, which isn't awful. And he's only starting against righty pitchers. Yet, a few bad games against some pitchers he's supposed to be hitting – such as Esmil Rogers and Chris Volstad - recently reduced his August stat line to a paltry .215/.311/.329. Expect his rate stats to pick up to resemble his “vs R” line to date, but his utility in mixed-league fantasy formats is limited at this point. As noted last week, Lorenzo Cain has become an easy cut. He has struggled at the plate (15 AB, .267/.313/.267 the past week), Hart's back, Gomez is raising a stink about not starting, and Mat Gamel is around to leech at-bats. He remains a tantalizing fantasy talent due to his speed (he stole two bases despite the bad week), but he really needed to have a white-hot week to lay claim to enough September playing time to be significant.