June 13, 2011
First, Third, and DH
Saying goodbye is never fun, but it’s time to bid farewell to two Value Picks, one for good reasons, the other for bad. Unless it’s just roster-churning for the sake of it, turnover is healthy for your roster, so get ready for a shot of fantasy penicillin. Wait, that sounds wrong . . .
Ty Wigginton (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 21%, CBS 38%) remains hot, hitting in 14 of his last 17 games with a triple-slash of .276/.329/.500 since becoming a Value Pick. His ownership rates have increased nearly every week since, pushing him over the 20% threshold, so I hope you got while the getting was good.
On the other hand, Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 4%, CBS 28%) has faltered, hitting so poorly that Ron Gardenhire sat him down for a few games. Then, Gardy hinted that Valencia had better step it up or he might be demoted when Tsuyoshi Nishioka returns. That warning could wake up Danny’s bat, which is vital, since Valencia has hit .200/.240/.316 over the past month–too low to remain on the VP list.
In the mess that is the White Sox hot corner, Brent Morel (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN <1%, CBS 9%) is finally standing out. He has started eleven of the past thirteen games at third base, hitting .326/.341/.371 thanks to a .389 BABIP. He has shown improvement since last season’s brief debut, like a contact rate that has risen from 73.5 percent to 81.1 percent.
As BP 2011 points out, contact is key to Morel’s aggressive approach, which is shown by his 6.6 percent minor league walk rate. This season, he has shown the impatience of a kid hopped up on Christmas Eve hot chocolate, collecting just one free pass in 155 plate appearances. That will obviously suppress Morel’s OBP, but his 50th PECOTA projection still gives him a .273 batting average, cracking .300 around his 90th percentile. His power comes mostly from doubles (PECOTA sees 9 to 11 homers), but he’ll still bring a .415 SLG in his 50th percentile. Most importantly, Morel is starting, providing sufficient value for deep mixed and AL-only leagues.
Hideki Matsui (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 9%, CBS 13%) returns to full-time work in the three-hole as part of Bob Melvin’s new regime. Platooning Matsui never made much sense as his career splits have been fairly even (.287/.373/.479 against righties and .284/.345/.459 against lefties). Those two moves alone should allow him to deliver more counting stats, and the boost of confidence and better communication from Melvin might help Matsui turn around his flagging season.
As I’ve written about before, Matsui may be a slow starter, and his secondary stats indicate better days are ahead. His 7.3 percent walk rate and 18.1 percent strikeout rates are on pace to be career worsts, but both point to a better batting average than his current .219 mark. His .248 BABIP explains some of this diminished performance, as does a shift in his batted ball profile: his 34 percent fly ball rate would be the lowest since his rookie season, but that hasn’t eroded his line drive rate, which sits at a very nice 20.9 percent (also right behind his rookie season for tops in his career). This solid line drive rate combines with his low BABIP to point towards a turnaround. This and his increased playing time makes Matsui a good gamble going forward.
As I indicated last week, Casey Blake (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 3%, CBS 17%) was hitting above his head, but he continued to perform well this week with a .267/.313/.400 slash line that included two doubles and 5 RBI. His age means his power numbers will stay low, but his supporting ratios are still in line with his career numbers, keeping Blake a VP.
Juan Miranda (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN <1%, CBS 10%) went 4-for-4 last Tuesday, a performance surrounded with doughnuts—he has put up an 0-fer in every other June game (21 plate appearances). Still, that night is an indication of what he can provide when he is on his game and undoubtedly means his neck is in good shape. Expect more ups and downs like this from the rookie slugger with more of the former than the latter.
Speaking of ups and downs, Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 6%, CBS 40%) kept up his roller-coaster season, breaking a 1-for-11 slide with a two-hit performance on Friday. Manny Acta gave him two starts at designated hitter, which had more to do with Travis Buck’s car accident than any attempt to rest LaPorta, but it seemed to help. Keep believing in LaPorta, who provides value despite the Indians’ recent losing skid.
Travis Buck (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN <1%, CBS 1%) missed time due to a taxi wreck heading to Yankee Stadium on Friday (it’s really amazing that this doesn’t happen more often). Buck is expected to return to the lineup on Monday, so it doesn’t seem serious, but it may dilute his production. I’ll give him another week to see if he is healthy, but the return of Travis Hafner in the next week or two should spell the end of Buck’s time as a Value Pick either way.
Although Matt Carpenter took some starts from him shortly after Carpenter’s callup, Daniel Descalso (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN <1%, CBS 5%) returned to a starting role at third base this week, hitting in all three of his starts. He got a two-RBI double coming off the bench in another game, too, so keep riding him while he is hot.
It’s likely too late to pick up Mike Moustakas (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN 48%, CBS 67%) in your league, and BP readers shouldn’t need me to tell them to pick him up. Owners can still benefit from the players that other owners have cut to make room for him or Anthony Rizzo, however, so check your waiver wire anyway.
Last week, pobothecat asked about Josh Harrison (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%), who has been the Pirates’ main third baseman lately. Pedro Alvarez hit a snag in his rehab, meaning Harrison will pick up even more playing time, and I’m always rooting for any player shorter than I am. PECOTA doesn’t give him much love, though, with just a .298/.322/.397 slash line in his 90th percentile, but deep NL-only leaguers can get value from Harrison just because he is a starter.
With the return of Brandon Inge (mononucleosis) still uncertain, Don Kelly (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) has been the Tigers’ primary third baseman. Like Harrison, this means more to single-league owners as Kelly’s 50th PECOTA percentile is just .269/.309/.369.
Seattle is using Mike Carp (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN <1%, CBS 4%) more often as a designated hitter of late, which is mostly significant in that it diminishes Jack Cust’s value since Carp is not expected to do much himself (.248/.321/.412 in his 50th PECOTA percentile).