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December 20, 2010

Fantasy Beat

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

by Rob McQuown

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One of the quirks of playing “replay” simulation games, such as Strat-O-Matic, is that when players are codified into “cards” based on the previous season, it's a lot easier to acquire “lefty bashers”.  This is especially true in league formats which don't use 30 teams (which is most of them, as with fantasy baseball).  Well, Neal Huntington and the Pirates aren't playing Start-O-Matic. But their lineup is starting to look like a “Strat” lineup, with all the lefty bats (lefty bats being coveted in sim games, because, well, it's often trivially easy to acquire platoon players to hit lefty pitching). But while Huntington isn't playing sim games, he's clearly looking at data, both simulated and real. PNC park suppresses righty homers, but is essentially neutral for lefty power. With Doumit (who bats lefty most of the time as a switch-hitter), Overbay, Walker, Alvarez, and Jones, the Pirates are building a lineup to match their environment. As with Carlos Pena in Chicago, Overbay is a good defensive first baseman who cannot hit lefties (career .259/.308/.402 against Southpaws). With all the lefties in the lineup, however, he should play virtually every day, especially since some of the other Bucs bats are even worse against lefties (Garrett Jones hit .220/.261/.360 vsL in 2010, for example). Even at age 34, it seems likely that Overbay will turn in his best season since his career year in 2006.

 

Yours truly shamefully admits to taking some amount of pleasure in the flop of the Seattle Mariners in 2010 – mainly based on the “we're smart and everyone else is not” attitude assumed by some of their fans on the Internet – admittedly, very petty on the part of this author. But even being petty, it's hard to argue that GM Jack Zduriencik isn't a good GM. The signing of Hideki Matsui to DH in Oakland is a minor example of this. Matsui has hit .281/.366/.474 the past four seasons combined (TAv of about .291). He'll be age 37 in 2011. Billy Beane, Inc. is paying him $4.25 million for his services in 2011. That's not so bad, you say, and what does this have to do with the Mariners? Well, see, the M's signed the guy the A's had playing DH before – for $2.5 million – and he's hit .247/.381/.457 over the past four seasons (in much tougher parks – for a combined TAv of about .301). Oh, and Jack Cust will be only 32 years old in 2011. So, the M's got the better, younger, hitter, and get $1.75 million to spend on a reliever (just guessing). Don't expect Matsui to match his 4-year totals, as Father Time beats on him for another round, and the ballpark does what it does to hitters (and for fantasy purposes, the lineup won't do him any favors, either). Long gone are his Iron Man days of playing every game, as well. He's still a good hitter, lest all the warnings give another impression, but he's nearing the end... and nowhere near as good of a “value” as that guy who will be playing in Seattle now.

When Ty Wigginton homered on August 9, 2010, it brought his season line up to .262/.336/.461, with 18 home runs and 60 RBI in 438 plate appearances. Considering his career batting line of .267/.326/.446, this was hardly newsworthy, and he even made his first All-Star game and was getting mentioned in rumors of contending teams looking for offensive help for the stretch run and playoffs. With the ability to play second base (poorly), third base (less poorly), and first base, he would have been a nice bench piece, but the Orioles didn't make a deal. That may have been a blessing in disguise for the teams which didn't trade for him, as he faltered down the stretch – hitting just .221/.261/.323 after that point.

In some ways, “Wiggy” does the same things as the other offseason pickup for the Rockies, Jose Lopez – both play second base and corner infield, bat righty, have power, and don't walk much. Mike Jong covered Lopez, as he's likely still able to play second base and might be in the mix for a starting job. Wigginton will likely get drafted for his second base eligibility in leagues where he's drafted, but he's here because, well, the Rockies have a lot of other middle infield options ahead of him on the depth chart. As with Lopez, Wigginton is likely “depth”, yet another power bat in the mix for a team which plays in a great home run park. With Lopez around, Wigginton's versatility will be less important, but his career-long tendency to have a platoon split will be important. He's hit a nifty .275/.351/.465 against lefties in his career. That's valuable for a team with lefty batters on both corners. And, while Todd Helton's past heroics and paycheck suggest a star-level player, it's even possible - not likely, but possible - that he'll be pushed aside by Wigginton at some point. Helton hit just .240/.345/.343 in road games last year, stats only Casey Kotchman would be happy about.

For fantasy purposes, the Ten-Year Trends graph shows that Wigginton clearly has the ability to hit for power, and obviously the move to Colorado won't hurt. He's entering his age-33 season, so he should have a couple good seasons left. In the thin air of Colorado, both his power and batting average will be aided, and if he wins manager Jim Tracy's favor in spring training, he could be one of the best bargains around, and a rare source of power among second base qualifiers

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  Lefty

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

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pobothecat

Jose Lopez and now Ty Wigginton. Not great big votes of confidence for Ian Stewart, are they?

Dec 21, 2010 15:33 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I have to think that Wigginton is more writing on the wall for Helton, who is in the last year of his deal (well, the team has an option for 2012, but it's $23mil vs. $4.6mil buyout). I do think that the team has no confidence in Stewart's ability to hit left-handed pitching, though. It's funny, because he's been quite good at it - which could mean that Tracy has done a great job of spotting him, or that he's actually pretty much okay against lefties. I don't think we'll find out, though.

I think the guy getting the vote of no-confidence is Chris Nelson. I thought he was a good pick in the final Scoresheet draft last year, as you can keep rookies in that format without using one of your 13 keeper slots. But now, with Young and Lopez in front of him on the depth chart, he almost has to start in AAA.

Dec 21, 2010 18:07 PM
 
pobothecat

And if Chris Nelson is getting the no-vote, what's Herrerra getting? Gotta figure they consider moving at least one of 'em, no? If not in the offseason, sometime in April or May.

Great point about Stewart's L/L numbers. Hadn't realized. Also, your larger point about there being issues at both corners. Amidst all the lineup juggling, is it just goofy to think they might try Stewart at 1B?

Dec 23, 2010 00:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Interestingly, all 3 of Wigginton, Lopez, and Stewart throw right-handed. I think that means that Stewart stays at 3b. They are happy with his defense there, from everything I've heard and read. If Stewart was the only lefty thrower among them, I think they'd be more likely to try him there.

Dec 23, 2010 13:37 PM
 
Patrick

Stewart would have been at 1B or in the OF already if he threw left-handed. I can't imagine trying to play 2B or 3B and not throwing with your right hand.

Dec 25, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Rob, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on Juan Miranda and Mike Morse. Do we have confidence that Brandon Allen wins the job in Arizona? And am I missing something in Washington --- who else is there to step in at 1B for Dunn? Thanks.

Dec 21, 2010 15:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Alright, these are entirely guesses, mind you, based on previous behavior by the organizations:

- I think Xavier Nady plays almost every day. I plan to write him up as a first-baseman next time.

- I have a hard time seeing Juan Miranda as a starting MLB player, but both Brandon Allen and Gerardo Parra bat lefty, so he could end up effectively platooning with one of them, with Nady shifting positions as needed.

- Parra is reportedly a very good fielder, and the metrics agreed with that in 2010. I think if Allen hits enough in spring to win at least the big portion of the 1b platoon, Parra will end up as a 4th OF, albeit an oft-used one, like Endy Chavez or Fred Lewis when they were younger.

I think if I was participating in an NL draft right now, I'd expect Allen to end up at AAA, posting great numbers, but not getting called up due to the strikeouts. I'd expect Parra to get tried against both types of pitchers, unless he had a bad spring. But I do think that Gibson will pay a lot of attention to spring performances, so everything could change.

Dec 21, 2010 17:59 PM
 
pobothecat

Totally missed the fact that they'd picked up Nady. Thanks for the update. Confuses me, though. If, as you posit, Allen returns to Reno, that leaves two RH bats at 1B and a Parra/Gillespie platoon in LF. Given all the moving pieces, it looks like Plan A might be Nady in two semi-platoons, with Parra in LF and Allen at 1B, and Miranda or Conor Gillespie as RH bench depth. Reasonable guess, y'think?

And again, a comment on Mike Morse please. ESPN depth-chart shows him as the Nats' only 1B. Looks to me like a darned useful bat in deep keeper leagues. Am I missing something here?

Dec 23, 2010 00:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

- Agreed that it's very possible that Nady ends up essentially in 2 semi-platoons.

- Sorry, I'm sort of waiting on Nats, since I have been expecting to read that they have signed LaRoche any day now. :> Of course, it could be Derrek Lee, instead... but they will probably sign someone. Branyan might not be a bad play, though he's rumored to go to SD now.

Dec 23, 2010 13:33 PM
 
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<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: De... (12/20)
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