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June 27, 2011

Value Picks

First Base, Third Base, and DH

by Michael Street

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None of the Value Picks did anything this week to merit removal, which is both good and bad news. A monster game usually leads to an ownership spike, and nobody experienced that, but all of the VPs produced enough to keep their hold on a spot, even if that hold is becoming tenuous. Some should leave the list soon, however, so I’m adding another VP in anticipation of those changes.


Jim Thome (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 11%, CBS 8%) was activated off the disabled list Friday, in time for Minnesota’s return to Target (and the allowance of the designated hitter) this week. With Justin Morneau remaining out of action even longer than expected, the Twins can use some of the pop Thome brings to their lineup. I touted Thome plenty last season, too, and his 25 longballs kept fantasy owners happy, helping produce a 3.4 WARP that was his best since 2007. As BP pointed out:

[It was] one of the greatest performances of his distinguished career, launching 25 home runs in just 340 plate appearances, becoming just the fourth player 39 or older (after Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron) to slug .600 or higher. It would be asking the impossible to expect more of the same from Thome this season, but it's clear that he still has some thunder left in his lumber.

Thome’s slugger-appropriate 24.4 percent career strikeout rate will hold his batting average down, and he’s only showing about half the plate patience he showed last season with a walk rate that’s fallen from 7.4 percent to 4.2 percent. The weakness of the aged hitter is apparent in both his diminished home run rate (13.8 percent against 20.4 percent career and 24.3 percent in 2010) and increased infield fly rate (his 19 percent is on pace to set a career high and is more than double last year’s 9 percent).

Still, PECOTA sees Thome hitting .241/.361/.477 with 13 home runs for the rest of the season, not a bad line for a fella his age and a decent fantasy return. With Morneau out, Thome should hit higher than sixth in the order, boosting his counting stats. Keep in mind that Thome has neither been in a strict platoon yet this season (70 plate appearances vs. righties and 25 vs. lefties) nor suffered from hitting in Target Field, where he’s batting .258/.410/.581 in a small sample of 39 plate appearances. He’ll help you with homers and OBP, though he could sandbag your batting average, and suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous age could lead to more missed time. He’ll still bring value, though, and should stick as a VP when others begin to fall off the list.

Sticking Around

Casey Kotchman (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 4%, CBS 16%) continued to defy expectations last week, extending his hit streak to seven games with a three-hit performance on Saturday, his second straight night with an extra base hit. Normally, that’s not much to crow about, but this is Kotchman we’re talking about. About the only bad element of his performance—other than the absent power—is the fact that he didn’t draw a walk all week. Regression is possible, but keep riding him while he’s hot.

In the new Jack McKeon era, Jose Lopez (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 18%, CBS 5%) got just one start at the hot corner, picking up his second hit as a Marlin. That’s not a great showing for his first week on the VP list, but given the tumultuous Marlins situation right now, I’m giving him another week to show his stuff.

Brent Morel (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.2%, CBS 8%) is also on the verge of a VP demotion, in his case to AL-only status. He started four of Chicago’s five games last week and hit in three of them, including a three-hit night on Saturday. That’s a decent but punchless .294/.278/.294 line from a player who has yet to draw a walk this month, a combination of skills that makes him best suited for AL-only and the deepest of mixed leagues.

As promised, Bob Melvin has played Hideki Matsui (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 9%, CBS 15%) in the outfield, and Godzilla acquitted himself well enough to start four games in left field, hitting .286/.450/.357. Even after interleague ends, that flexibility could help a team that just lost Josh Willingham to the DL and demoted a struggling Daric Barton to find his stroke. Having an extra outfielder could also help Matsui—who prefers to play the field—as well as his fantasy owners, who could use the outfield qualification. A .290/.465/.516 slash line over the past two weeks hasn’t budged Matsui’s ownership numbers much yet, so he should still be on your waiver wire, though I don’t expect him to be there much longer.

Juan Miranda (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0.6%, CBS 6%) seems to be past any lingering neck and wrist injuries as he picked up three hits in three starts last week, including a double and a 421-foot solo blast, his seventh of the season. Sharing time with an ineffective Xavier Nady diminishes Miranda’s value, and a recent rash of strikeouts (8 in his last 21 plate appearances) has dropped his batting average, but he’s still delivering that valuable power commodity.

AL-only VP

This should be the last week for Scott Sizemore (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) on the list as it’s going to be hard for AL-only owners to ignore a starter who’s hitting .327/.400/.449 with his new club. His ownership numbers haven’t moved that much since his VP addition last week, but I’m betting another week of solid production will push those numbers high enough to graduate him.

NL-only VP

The VP days are also numbered for Daniel Descalso (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.4%, CBS 4%), who faces a two-headed threat now that both Nick Punto and David Freese are inching closer to rejoining the big club. Descalso has done his best to make a case to remain at the hot corner, hitting .308/.471/.385 and playing solid defense, but a .254 TAv from third base just isn’t enough for a contending club. I don’t want to jump the gun and cut him too quickly—and neither should NL-only owners—but this is likely Descalso’s last week as a single-league pick, too.

Playing Pepper

Both Orlando Cabrera (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 31%, CBS 32%) and Adam Kennedy (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 7%, CBS 16%) will be their teams’ primary third basemen going forward, although both offer better fantasy value as middle infielders.

Toronto promoted former VP Eric Thames (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.2%, CBS 3%) as part of a plan to shift Jose Bautista to third base, but Thames will play mostly in the outfield, not at designated hitter.

As Casey Blake continues to suffer from an arthritic neck, Juan Uribe (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 14%, CBS 33%) has been the Dodgers’ third baseman. Uribe’s all-or-nothing swing is typified by this week’s line: four hits in nineteen plate appearances, including one home run and four strikeouts. He hits dingers in bunches, so he could be heating up.

Garrett Jones (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 28%, CBS 21%) has been stealing at-bats from Lyle Overbay, supposedly to allow Overbay to work on his swing. This could be a sign of things to come as there isn’t enough time in the season—or the decade, for that matter—to get Overbay’s swing up to first base standards.

I’m reminded of a balky engine coughing to life when I watch Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 3%, CBS 24%), who had a two-hit night Tuesday then went 0-for-8 over his next two games before cranking a three-run dinger on Friday. He’s figuring it out and should return to the VP list soon.

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

BP Comment Quick Links


Chris Johnson turning things around for a profitable 2nd half?

Agree with D. Descalso days being numbered, Freese should be available in most leagues.

Also, what's up with the stat service? I keep getting batters with no names.

Jun 27, 2011 07:57 AM
rating: 0

I'm getting only batters, but at least they have names...

Jun 27, 2011 08:08 AM
rating: 0

seems okay now.

Jun 27, 2011 08:09 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Chris Johnson was a near-unanimous pick among BP writers for a deflating 2010 season, and he's definitely lived up to those low expectations, at least over the first two months of the season, with a .216/.255/.364 line.

He's had a good June, hitting .300/.337/.489, which is weirdly similar to last year's final line of .308/.337/.481. Both are driven by high BABIPs, with last month's .377 a bit below last year's .387.

Judging from those numbers alone, I'd say that June was an anomaly (just as last year was), a one-stat judgement that's supported by his peripherals. His 23.3 K% and 3.2 BB% this year are pretty weak, and they're similar to last season's 25.1% and 4.1%. While the whiff rate could get closer to the 17.4% he had in the minors, his impatience is pretty close to his 5% minor-league average.

An impatient, high strikeout hitter whose .160 ISO (similar to his minor-league .152) just isn't a combination of skills I like in a third baseman, nor is it one that (combined with his BABIP) points towards a turnaround.

Johnson seems to be able to sustain a relatively high BABIP, so he could exceed expectations a bit, but I wouldn't bet on a turnaround from him in the second half.

Thanks for the question, Sarge!

Jun 27, 2011 11:52 AM

Hey good stuff Mike!

With the FA pool pretty dry and fantasy teams in need for some power production. Can you find someone who has shown little production thus far that will turn things around in the second half. Maybe a good buy low candidate that no one is talking about. Ownership doesn't matter much since buying low still provides plenty of value in the second half. Maybe do some digging and find a corner infielder & include him next week.


Jun 27, 2011 14:53 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Will do, Sarge!

Jun 27, 2011 15:10 PM

Here's one for y'all...this guy has 6 home runs in 98 plate appearances, a manager who said in the latest Yahoo update that he's going to find him more playing time, and a .280/.388/.598 line so far in 2011.

He was the 24th ranked prospect for his previous organization in 2009, but dropped out in 2010.

He hit .304/.352/.494 in A+ in 2008, with 17 home runs, and added 3 in a promotion to AAA that year.

In 2009, he hit .300/.340/.491 with 14 home runs at AAA (in 467 pa), then added one in his cup of coffee with the big club.

In 2010, he homered at the same rate in AAA, with 7 in 228 plate appearances, but lost 46 points on his batting average and 37 on BABIP, and again underperformed in his 109 major league plate appearances, with two clubs after a waiver claim.

He plays in a homer-friendly park and is owned in 0% of Yahoo leagues.

Over the last month, he's hit .333/.500/.778 in 36 plate appearances, with three home runs. His 2b eligibility adds value.

Any guesses who this is? ;-)

I'd also be interested in your thoughts on Lucas Duda, Jesus Guzman, and Adam Rosales.

Duda had 27 home runs across 3 levels last year, and has hit .297/.333/.405 over the last 30 days, Guzman hit .320/.375/.505 with 34 home runs in two AAA seasons and is at .308/.333/.577 in the last 30 days, and Rosales hit 7 home runs in 279 plate appearances in the majors last year, and is slugging .450 in the last month in limited duty.

And in on base leagues, there's Jack Cust, who has to hit more than one home run this year, doesn't he?

Jun 27, 2011 16:20 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Great comment, though the first part might be even better in Jason Collette's "Who Am I?" series. I had been looking at Matt Downs (the player you ID'd), both as a possible VP and as a response to Sarge's question about Chris Johnson. If he gets more PT, as Mills promises, he'd definitely be a guy to watch, for just the skills you outline.

To answer your other questions--

Lucas Duda: Also someone I've considered covering, and while he had a hot week (.467/.529/.667) it looks more like a blip than a trend when you consider his overall .228/.292/.316 line. I like his patience, and if he can start hitting like he did in the minors, he'll be a great find, but he's not producing enough just yet. He took two years to adjust to AAA and may need just as much time in the bigs.

Jesus Guzman: Getting PT in interleague play, he's got potential, but he may not stick thereafter. If he does, it'll be on the bench, as there isn't really a spot for him right now with the Pads. He'd be a fine bat if he can get more PT.

Adam Rosales: A utility player without a spot in a crowded OAK infield, but he doesn't have much potential even if he found a place to play.

Jack Cust: Covered in the PP sections of other columns, he's definitely got the OBP/SLG skills, but SEA looks to be moving in a different direction, as he hasn't shown much of either this season. When you're losing PT to Adam Kennedy at DH, that's a pretty awful sign.

Great questions!

Jun 27, 2011 16:45 PM

Thanks for replying! I just picked up Lonnie Chisenhall in both of my A.L. only leagues, so he may help at the hot corner too.

Dayan Viciedo, with 3b eligibility from last year, is apparently tearing it up lately in AAA, and may play outfield for the White Sox...he'd be another potential power source if/when he's promoted, as long as one's league doesn't count walks.

And for a longer shot, it seems like Chris Carter (the good one, not the Tampa Bay/N.Y. Met one) has potential, but like so many of these guys, has to get the PT. With Daric Barton demoted and 1b manned by Conor Jackson and Mark Ellis (!), and with a new manager, maybe there's hope.

But if he keeps missing foul pop-ups, maybe not.

Jun 28, 2011 04:15 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I like all those names, too, and all may be VPs at some point too (if not in my column, then in one of my colleagues'). Chisenhall got promoted too late for this week's column, but he looked great in his debut, and I think Carter's got more of a chance to stick than you think because of his prospect status (and the modest competition). He should play more with the return of the DH this week. And Viciedo has improved both his strikeout and walk rates, so he's definitely one to watch, too--Juan Pierre shouldn't be too much of an obstacle.

Great names, all!

Jun 28, 2011 09:34 AM

If I go on to win my A.L. only head-to-head league (I'm in 2nd now, 3 games back), I'll bet a lot of it will be the transaction I made today.

Picked up Danny Valencia, dropping Casey Kotchman :-).

Thanks in advance!

Jun 27, 2011 08:07 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

I think that's a great gamble, changing for a guy hitting above his head to one hitting below it. I just finished watching yesterday's Twins-Brewers tilt, and Valencia crushed two pitches to the fence, one of them turning into a triple and the other missing a dinger By That Much. I hope it turns out well for your team--you've got my vote for a shrewd move!

Jun 27, 2011 11:55 AM

idk... Batter - Season, sort by name ascending, view data and the first couple hundred have stats but no names.

Jun 27, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: 0
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