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July 18, 2011

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 7/18/11

by Michael Street

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With baseball’s midsummer classic now safely in the rearview mirror, players look to improve on their first-half performances as the specters of the trade deadline and late-season call-ups loom ahead. It’s hard to judge players based on a few post-break games, but difficult assignments are what motivate us at Value Picks.
 

Departures
Anthony Rizzo (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 3%, CBS 33%) was hitting poorly when I added him to the VP list, but I’d hoped that his strong batting eye hinted at a turnaround. Instead, Rizzo has continued flailing, collecting exactly one hit as a VP despite continuing to walk. As Rob McQuown pointed out, Kyle Blanks has been destroying the ball in Triple-A, so Rizzo’s major-league job could also be in jeopardy. While there are worse things he could do, this Rizzo is hitting more like a Pink Lady than a Padre and deserves the cold shoulder from fantasy owners too.
 

Arrivals
The 2011 Wheel of Arizona First Basemen has landed on . . . Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 15%), at least from the south side of the plate. With Juan Miranda turning from spicy Cuban mojo to chilly mojito, Arizona is opting for the powerful lefty they traded for in 2009. Allen has improved nicely since his acquisition, as you can see in the table below:

Year and Level(s)

BB%

K%

BA/OBP/SLG

2008 (A+ AA)

11.1

23.0

.278/.367/.555

2009 (AA AAA)

9.9

16.9

.298/.373/.503

2010 (AAA)

17.7

20.2

.261/.405/.528

2011 (AAA)

17.0

23.9

.306/.427/.579

In 2009, he changed teams and rose a level, mandating a shift in his approach, and he drew fewer walks while making better contact. After making the adjustment, he regained his patience, attacking hittable pitches for ever-improving results. This year’s Triple-A line is buoyed by a .373 BABIP that points to luck combined with the hard-hitting results of Allen’s improved approach.

Allen hasn’t shown extreme platoon splits in the minors, but that hasn’t yet translated to the majors.

Year(s) and Level

vs. RHP

vs. LHP

2009 (AAA)

.258/.408/.556

.271/.415/.475

2010 (AAA)

.316/.457/.593

.284/.352/.547

2009-2011 (MLB)

.252/.331/.472

.100/.270/.133

Since those 176 major-league plate appearances are scattered across three seasons (with just 30 coming against portsiders), Allen hasn’t had a chance to get into a groove. For now, he’ll have Xavier Nady to protect him against fellow southpaws, but Nady’s .257/.296/.371 overall line actually diminishes to .259/.304/.412 against righties—X-Man protection that even a happy Magneto on a good-hair day wouldn’t have trouble with.

Marginal improvement against lefties could lead to more playing time for Allen, especially if he brings his minor-league .220 ISO to the bigs. PECOTA recognizes this pop potential with a respectable .253/.341/.471 (.277 TAv) weighted mean projection, giving him 15 homers in 350 plate appearances; he’d push a .500 SLG above his 70th percentile. Strikeouts will depress Allen’s batting average, but the power he offers is always a premium, particularly this deep into the season. Allen should be an instant add in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues or for any owner needing a boost to power or OBP.
 

Sticking Around
The surprising Casey Kotchman (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 7%, CBS 23%) continues to fly under owners’ radars—in fact, he even flew under my radar last week, when I inadvertently left him off the list. That was doubly foolish after a week when Kotch hit .316/.381/.421, continuing a season of strong but low-powered performances in batting average and OBP. Kotchman returned from the break by ripping a 389-foot blast at Tropicana (appropriately, he has hit three of his four homers at home), collecting four hits in his first 10 post-break plate appearances. He’ll stay on the list as long as he keeps defying expectations and eluding the notice of your fellow owners.

Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 3%, CBS 27%) picked up three hits in his first nine plate appearances after the break, part of a .280/.269/.400 triple-slash line since returning from the DL. He didn’t play Saturday to rest his ankle, eroding his counting stats until he is fully healthy. Still, only LaPorta’s lack of walks show any warning signs in his small-sample post-break (and post-DL) numbers, so I’ll keep pushing LaPorta’s stock.

As expected, Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%, CBS 27%) returned to the lineup Thursday despite suffering a maxillary sinus fracture on July 7. He had a two-hit game on Friday and maintains a decent .244/.279/.415 overall line despite picking up the oh-fer on Thursday and Saturday. His sweet southpaw swing will keep him productive despite these rookie ups-and-downs; stick with him in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Jim Thome (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 9%, CBS 7%) missed the first post-break game with turf toe, then picked up a single in Friday’s game before sitting on Saturday against Jeff Francis. He’ll continue to ride the pine against lefties, especially after Jason Kubel returns. If Thome’s toe problems linger and diminish his calling-card power, he could find himself an ex-VP.  After all, a platoon player needs to produce more than full-timers to provide enough value.
 

AL-only VP
Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 6%) picked up his only two major-league hits last week, also collecting two walks and two strikeouts. He hits down in the order for a weak offense; that—and his youth—hold his value at single-league levels, but he has the talent and opportunity to help AL-only owners at a thin position.
 

NL-only VP
Two signs could point to the end of the VP tenure of Lucas Duda (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.2%, CBS 4%). After playing complete games in fourteen of fifteen starts, Duda was lifted for a pinch-hitter in each of his last four starts, three times for Nick Evans, who is hitting .125/.300/.333 on the season (though he has hit .250/.571/1.000 in 7 pinch-hitting appearances). That doesn’t speak well of Terry Collins’s confidence in Duda. Next, David Wright had his first rehab start on Saturday, and his return in the next week or two should push Duda to a part-time role. Still, Duda has hit .333/.412/.600 as a VP, so the Duda abides on the VP list until his situation changes.
 

Playing Pepper
Without Placido Polanco, the Phillies look to Wilson Valdez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.7%, CBS 2%) and Michael Martinez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 0%), but neither have impressive lines (either for the season or in PECOTA’s projections), so the increase in playing time means more to owners who use them in the middle infield.

Nolan Reimold (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) will be the Orioles’ main designated hitter as Vladimir Guerrero recovers from a broken hand. Reimold’s .253/.352/.467 (.310 TAv) season line is around his 70th PECOTA percentile, indicating that his performance is sustainable. His .222/.349/.333 line against fellow righties (more dramatic than his career 62-point OPS platoon differential) makes him a risk in those situations, but he should be a good short-term, AL-only addition.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) should return from injury this week, though he is more valuable as a multi-position fill-in thanks to a .249/.300/.365 50th percentile PECOTA projection that rises to just .289/.342/.423 in his 90th percentile.

Houston manager Brad Mills again suggested that Matt Downs (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.2%, CBS 1%) could get more playing time at third base, but Downs will miss the next several days for paternity leave, making any change that much further away.

Related Content:  Brandon Allen,  Espn

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