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August 9, 2011

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 8/9/11

by Michael Jong

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Departures
Mark Ellis, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 11%)

Ellis is hitting poorly (.179/.200/.179 since the start of the last road trip on July 22) and, more importantly, is ceding playing time once again to bench players in Colorado's never-ending quest to find a consistent player to man second base. Ellis lost two recent starts at second base in favor of Chris Nelson, and if he continues to struggle, expect Jim Tracy to make a change yet again.

Jeff Keppinger, San Francisco Giants (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 4%, CBS 13%)
Keppinger continues to hit as he always has; he is now hitting .308/.343/.354 in San Francisco after batting .307/.320/.436 in Houston to start the season. Despite a .370/.400/.370 week at the plate, however, the Giants plated Keppinger only three times. In fact, Keppinger has only come around to score in 21 percent of his times on base while with San Francisco, well below his 29 percent career mark and the 36 percent rate he mustered with an equally poor Houston offense. The Giants' inability to bring him home is hurting a big part of his fantasy value as a counting stat machine. Still, he is not leaving VP for performance but rather because I feel he has been discussed enough on the VP list.

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 37%, CBS 48%)
Well, one figured that a top-notch prospect like Kipnis could not remain hidden for very long, and indeed it did not take much time for Kipnis to establish himself as an offensive threat and for fantasy owners to notice. To be fair though, a .321/.406/.786 line for the week including four homers will usually get any fantasy fan interested. He is obviously not this good, but the spike in ownership will be justified even after regression, so make the pickup while you still can.
 

Arrivals
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%)

Doumit returned last week from a long disabled list stint, having been on the DL since May 29 with a sprained left ankle. What is difficult to remember is that Doumit had been hitting pretty well before the injury, batting .269/.333/.441 before succumbing to injury. At the time, however, Doumit's playing time was limited due to the presence of Chris Snyder, who was also hitting decently and taking up backstop time. Now Doumit has much of the catching floor to himself with Snyder on the 60-Day DL.

In Doumit, PECOTA sees a league average hitter (.260/.321/.414, .260 TAv), and fantasy owners should see that as an opportunity to pick up a player who has reasonable skills and qualifies at the talent-scarce catcher position. Doumit's current 15.4 percent strikeout rate, 7.7 percent walk rate, and .301 BABIP do not stray very far from his career marks or his PECOTA projections, meaning there is a very good chance of continued success. Expecting something a tad less than his 2008 to 2010 mark of .277/.333/.445 with 12 homers every 400 PA would be acceptable and more than worthy of a waiver wire pickup.

Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 18%)
Giavotella finally received his call-up following very high profile promotions of fellow Royals farmhands such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.  While his call-up was quieter, Giavotella did not disappoint, batting .455/.500/.909 with his first major league homer and two doubles in his first week of play. Whereas his (more) pint-sized brethren Jose Altuve—last week's inclusion to the Value Picks list—made it to the bigs on the back of intrigue and potential, Giavotella makes it with similar skills and a track record for consistent play. In Double-A in 2010, he hit .322/.395/.460, and he has followed that up with a very similar .338/.390/.481 slash line this season at Triple-A. He is a career .305/.375/.437 hitter in the minors, accomplished with the help of a .331 BABIP and 10.8 percent strikeout rate. The strikeout rate, much like Altuve's, should help him maintain a decent batting average in the majors without the help of an inflated BABIP, which should provide immediate value.

The difference between Altuve and Giavotella lies in the potential for power. While Altuve flashed it, Giavotella has never had it in his career, having never topped nine homers in a season in the minors. He has topped 30 doubles in two straight seasons, but Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein mentioned in his review of the Royals' system that Giavotella and his small frame “[offered] little projection.” While his patient, contact-heavy approach at the plate may yield success in the majors, it may not directly translate into great fantasy numbers. Expect a decent batting average (PECOTA projects a .274 batting average on a modest .311 BABIP) and the occasional steal, but there is less upside with this prospect than there is with others for fantasy owners.
 

Incumbents
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%)

Altuve's prospects have not changed much since last week. He hit .273/.333/.273 this past week, including two walks (versus two strikeouts) but failed to accumulate a single extra-base hit. Altuve is still swinging at more than half of the pitches he sees (54.5 percent) and making contact with a good majority of them (12.2 percent whiff rate), which should translate to a continuation of his decent batting average.

Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 9%, CBS 41%)
Bartlett had an impressive .304/.404/.435 week that included one homer and a steal (with two caught stealings). He actually did much of his damage at home versus the Los Angeles Dodgers early this past week, but he and the Padres will continue their road trip with visits to New York and Cincinnati this week. Neither team has a particularly strong pitching staff (20th and 21st in ERA and 21st and 27th in FIP respectively), so Bartlett should remain a decent play over the next week.

Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 12%)
Directly following Guillen's showboating showdown with Jered Weaver, he went on a hitless streak before picking up a single on Sunday. It is still too early, however, to tell anything about Guillen's current condition; he had a hot first week, a lukewarm second week, and an empty third week. Fantasy owners should continue to keep watch for other options in case Guillen's age and injuries have caught up, but he still remains a decent play.

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 3%, CBS 31%)
Ramos hit just .222/.300/.222 in his 20 plate appearances this week, bringing his season line down to .248/.322/.405. Nothing during the week has changed his status as primary starter in Washington, and his numbers and improvement at the plate have been sustained through much of the year, showing the upside a lot of owners hoped for in the 23-year-old. He is on the border between a regular mixed league choice and more of a deep-league candidate, but he should still be a player to keep an eye on.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 17%, CBS 54%)
Salty hit .143/.250/.429 during the week but added a broken-bat home run and five runs scored to make up for the poor batting average. Salty's accomplishments in 2011 are similar to those of Ramos in that both are seemingly beginning to figure out major league pitching. The improvements Salty has made have been primarily in the power department as his strikeout and walk rates in 2011 almost exactly mirror his career marks. The biggest difference in how these two players have emerged in 2011 may very well be connected to their teams and parks, as Salty is more than benefitting from home cooking (.273/.311/.484 in Boston in 2011 compared to .231/.333/.435 on the road).
 

AL-only VP
Jesus Montero, New York Yankees (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 0%, CBS 36%)

It may not be realistic to pick up Montero in anything more than shallow AL-only leagues quite yet, and his position as this week’s AL-only VP is representative of the fact that he has yet to be called up. His time may be coming soon, however, with the demotion of Jorge Posada from the designated hitter position. Right now, the Yankees will go to Eric Chavez as their DH, but Montero may make it to the majors sooner than previously expected with Posada reduced to a bench role.

If Montero does arrive, he will arrive with a little less luster than he had at the end of 2010. Montero is still striking out and walking at similar rates to his career levels, but his power has tapered off slightly in his second stint at Triple-A (although it has picked back up after the All-Star break). If the Yankees do bring him up, PECOTA projects a healthy .287/.330/.471 slash line that sounds very similar to his career Triple-A line in 891 PA. That reasonable estimate makes him a player to watch for in August as opposed to the previous estimate of September. Stash him if you have the extra bench spot to wait for the call-up.
 

NL-only VP
David Ross, Atlanta Braves (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 4%, CBS 9%)

Ross hit .158/.238/.316 in his second week of full duty with Brian McCann on the disabled list. He did add a home run, but he also struck out six times in 21 PA, giving you a microcosm of what to expect from him regularly. Ross provides home run pop and has had a recent history of high BABIPs in Atlanta, but expect a middling or low batting average and solid power numbers moving forward.

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

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