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August 8, 2011

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 8/8/11

by Michael Street

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It’s nice to see Value Picks perform up to VP standards (as most of them did this week), as former VPs like Hideki Matsui and Danny Valencia continue to justify my faith in them, despite weak early returns. Similarly, those VPs getting the axe this week should rebound eventually, while I offer some hotter-hitting options to replace them in the meantime.

Departures
Oakland traded for power-hitting Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 9%) then promptly demoted him, choosing to keep Conor Jackson (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 5%, CBS 11%) at first base, even though Allen has spent three seasons at Triple-A already and Jackson’s season line sits at .264/.331/.356 (although he has had a surge of .325/.366/.468 over the last month). Allen will get work in the outfield and first base and should return at some point this season, but he’ll remain in the minors—and off the VP list—until then.

Ups and downs are to be expected from a rookie, but Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0.7%, CBS 21%) has been more down than up. He broke out of a 2-for-21 slump this week by collecting an extra-base hit in two straight games, but he has still only hit .218/.283/.382 over the past month. He also has 24 strikeouts against just 6 walks in 93 plate appearances and has been sitting against southpaws. We have more enticing VP candidates this week, so I’m benching him for now, as should you.

Arrivals
As John Perrotto predicted two weeks ago, the D’backs promoted Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 9%, CBS 37%), a player scouts and analysts still don’t agree about. BP’s Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks both like Goldschmidt’s strength and power; Goldie has averaged a home run every 16.7 plate appearances in the minors, and nearly half (182) of his 373 hits have gone for extra bases. But Jason tempers his expectations with skepticism about Goldschmidt’s bat speed, while Kevin (writing last November) ranked Goldie tenth among Diamondbacks prospects, noting his high strikeout rates (23.7 percent in the minors) and mediocre splits against righties.

Scouts have also been divided on Goldschmidt, wondering if he could hit an inside heater, although they seem to agree on his superior mental makeup. Goldie erased some of these doubts Tuesday when he launched a Tim Lincecum inside fastball into the left field bleachers—a two-run, 433-foot bomb—nearly giving people riding the “Guzzler” Coke bottle slide something new to worry about.

If one hit isn’t enough to convince you—and why should it?—take a gander at PECOTA’s 50th percentile projections for Goldie: a .250/.307/.477 line that includes a homer every 19 plate appearances, a rate that would put him between David Ortiz and Brian McCann this season. That slash line climbs to a striking .286/.346/.545 in Goldschmidt’s 90th percentile, with a homer every 17.8 plate appearances.

Even if his strikeouts depress his batting average, his power is hard to find late in the season, meaning Goldie won’t be on your league’s waiver wire for long. Arizona has gone all-in on Goldie by trading away Allen and outrighting Juan Miranda; though the latter’s reversible, they’re clearly opening the door wide for Goldschmidt, as should you. He won’t stay at these ownership levels for long.

Sticking Around
Jesus Guzman (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 56%, CBS 19%) keeps raking, entering Sunday’s games with a seven-game hit streak and seven multi-hit games in his last nine. He playing is way over his head right now, as evidenced by his .378 BABIP and a fairly brisk 6.3 percent walk rate. Those homers will slip as he is putting just 38.1 percent of balls into the air with 15.6 percent of them leaving the yard. If and when he does regress, the Padres could replace him with Kyle Blanks (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 7%), who’s also heating up, while Anthony Rizzo (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 18%) is their first baseman of the future and will bump Guzman aside at some point. Get Guzman while you can, however, especially in CBS and ESPN leagues where he still qualifies at SS—a position he hasn’t played since 2008. Fantasy loophole or not, Guzman’s got great fantasy value until the inevitable cold front erases his scorching summer numbers.

Chris Davis (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0.4%, CBS %) hasn’t played since Thursday thanks to a sore shoulder, but an MRI Saturday showed nothing serious, and he could return to the lineup Monday. Since he has hit .176/.176/.412 in an Orioles uniform—expected performance from a high-strikeout power source—we’ll give him a longer leash to show he is healthy and productive.

It takes a watchful fantasy manager to maximize the value of Jim Thome (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 9%, CBS 7%), who has an eight-game hit streak in seven starts scattered over the Twins’ last twelve games. He has hit .424/.441/.727 over that span including career homers 597 and 598, but his owners should watch their lineups carefully since he isn’t in a strict platoon. The only non-injury downside to Thome would be a trade to an NL contender like Philly, where he’d be demoted to the bench.

The success of Casey Kotchman (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 9%, CBS 29%) remains a magical mystery, but whether he is stashing a leprechaun in the bat rack, using sublingual deer-antler spray, or experiencing the effects of uninfected tear ducts, his Magical Mystery Tour kept rolling this week, through Blue Jay Way and several of Oakland’s Fools on the Hill. Kotch hit in every game through Saturday, including his fifth jack of the season, for a .444/.545/.667 line. Fantasy owners remain unsure of whether to say yes or no to Kotch, which you can use to your advantage if you’re seeking low-powered average or OBP.

Mike Carp (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 4%, CBS 7%) achieves the rare VP promotion from single-league to mixed-league status after hitting every day last week, collecting 5 RBI and two doubles in the process. His .333/.364/.429 week is part of a .344/.373/.531 post-call-up stretch when he has picked up a hit in fourteen of sixteen games. This Carp has been swimming upstream, statistically speaking, with a .426 BABIP and 15 whiffs against three walks in those 67 plate appearances. In Japan, swimming upstream makes Carp a symbol of strength and individualism, but in baseball, that means a correction is coming. Ride this koi while you can. 

AL-only VP
While Alex Rodriguez nears a minor-league rehab stint, Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.4%, CBS 2%) has been solid as his fill-in, playing against most righties and hitting in each of four starts last week—including a dinger on Wednesday—boosting his overall line to .323/.389/.431 (.344/.364/.438 since returning from the DL). Chavez’s fragility and A-Rod’s impending return make him a short-term pickup, but he should help AL-only owners looking for a quick infusion of offense.

NL-only VP
Another VP to collect a hit in every start last week, Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0.7%, CBS 6%) extended his hitting streak to eight games while dividing his starts between first base and outfield, making him yet another player that Rob McQuown and I could share. That positional versatility and consistent playing time boost his value further, although he is a light hitter for a CI spot. Defying fantasy convention is one way to find value, however, and Rivera has delivered a strong .311/.353/.459 line since donning Dodger blue, making up for his home-run deficit with doubles and beating Replacement-Level Killer James Loney in all three slash statistics.

Playing Pepper
In
case you missed the news, Toronto called up top prospect Brett Lawrie (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 14%, CBS 51%), who’s already busted through Value Picks’ ownership ceilings in two out of three leagues and will surely continue to rise. Get him if you haven’t already, particularly since he qualifies at 2B on all three major fantasy league sites.

In his career, David Freese (Yahoo! 44%, ESPN 78%, CBS 56%) has been beaten up like a Tony Jaa stuntman, the latest damage being a pitch to the noggin from Clay Hensley. Daniel Descalso (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.3%, CBS 2%) would fill in if Freese doesn’t return Tuesday, but Descalso’s offensive skill set makes him a better single-league play.

The latest Duncan Yo-Yo brand should be the “Kyle Seager(Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 2%), as the prospect was promoted from Triple-A for the second time in less than a month when Chone Figgins hit the DL, although Seattle says they’ll still give most of the playing time to light-hitting veteran Adam Kennedy (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 3%, CBS 12%). Given how much time the Mariners have spent in rebuilding mode, you’d think they’d understand better how to do it.

At least the last-place Astros understand rebuilding, demoting former VP Brett Wallace and BP unfavorite Chris Johnson and recalling Dominican third-base prospect Jimmy Paredes (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 1%) from Double-A. While Paredes’s .279/.312/.406 minor-league line shows his light-hitting potential, he did swipe 113 bags in 149 chances over his 392 minor-league games, making him a potential stretch-run option.

Former VP Casey Blake (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0.9%, CBS 6%) is back from the DL—again. He can be productive, as evidenced by his three-hit night on Friday, but his fragility makes him best suited for single-league play.

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