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August 23, 2011

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 8/22/11

by Michael Jong

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Departures 
Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%)
Guillen loses his spot on the returning Value Picks list due to a wrist injury suffered a few days after his inclusion in the VP column from two weeks ago. The Tigers have turned to Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn to fill in, but with the better Raburn getting slightly less playing time, neither player should be of interest to fantasy owners except in NL-only leagues. 

David Ross, Atlanta Braves (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 3%)
Ross was the main starter with Brian McCann injured, but he did not deliver like the VP list thought he would, batting just .241/.313/.328 despite an astronomical .361 BABIP. He struck out 21 times in 67 plate appearances during that time. Now that McCann has returned, the VP list will look elsewhere for NL-only candidates. 
 

Arrivals 
Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%)
Flowers was on a lot of fantasy radars the last two seasons because he appeared to be the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago. After being acquired from the Atlanta Braves as the prized prospect of the Javier Vazquez trade, Flowers dominated in 2009, batting .297/.423/.516 between Double- and Triple-A. After the season Pierzynski had in 2010, one would think Flowers would steal the job outright, especially since the incumbent was entering free agency. Unfortunately, as bad as Pierzynski was in the majors, Flowers was just as poor in the minors, batting just .220/.334/.434 in his first full year in Triple-A. 

This season, however, a slew of breaks and a rediscovered success have led Flowers to the starting job for the Sox. In his third stint in Triple-A Charlotte, he put up a more than respectable line of .261/.390/.500. Continued his Three True Outcomes game that he has always displayed, he struck out 31.2 percent of the time, walked 14.5 percent of the time, and hit homers in another 5.6 percent of his plate appearances. His BABIP was once again a very high .350, but it matches his pre-Triple-A mark of .347, and his combined mark of .323 in 801 Triple-A plate appearances does not seem out of line in comparison.

If his strikeouts and walks translate equally to the majors, as PECOTA more or less expects, then the power would have to carry Flowers in both real life and fantasy. For what it is worth, PECOTA expected 16 homers in 472 PA—good for a 20.3-homer pace over 600 PA. Since 2009, only 12 catchers with at least 600 PA (41 catchers in sample) averaged at least 20 homers per 600 PA, so Flowers's projection would be in decent company. It also helps that he will be hitting in a relatively home run-friendly park in US Cellular Field (Patriot five-year regressed park factor of 1.13). He certainly has flaws, and in fantasy baseball his strikeouts and subsequent low batting average will hurt his value more than in real life. Right now, his best comparison is Chris Iannetta, who is a borderline mixed league candidate but has impressive power and a great hitter's park to play in. Treat Flowers similarly. 
 

Incumbents
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 6%, CBS 24%)

Altuve's situation has not changed since we last discussed him two weeks ago. He is still hitting an impressive .322/.336/.400, but in this last two-week stretch he is batting just .265/.265/.382 with only two extra-base hits. One of those hits was an inside-the-park homer which displayed both his gap power and his speed, but he has yet to show much outside of the ability to hit singles in the big leagues. 

Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 17%, CBS 48%)
Bartlett has had a disappointing two weeks at the plate, batting .175/.195/.200 and not attempting a steal over that span. Given that all of Bartlett's value comes from his speed, weeks like these tend to convince owners to drop a player, even while playing a shallow position like shortstop. Combine that with the fact that Bartlett is a well-known commodity, and this may be the last week he remains on the list. 

Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 2%, CBS 18%)
The ownership numbers for Doumit are all over the place; Yahoo! owners are convinced that the 147 PA he has shown thus far justify a roster spot while ESPN owners have been slow to pick up on Doumit, and CBS owners remain skeptical as well. It is difficult to say that Doumit's numbers are fluky when they very closely match up to his career numbers, but it is understandable given Doumit's 2009 and 2010 struggles. The Pirates finish up a run through the NL Central until the end of the month, so you can at least expect some easier pitching matchups against Houston, though the rest of the matchups appear challenging. Doumit has no competition for the catcher job for the time being, but his playing time remains limited due to his consistent health concerns; since returning to the lineup on August 4, he has made 10 of 15 starts at catcher. 

Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 10%, CBS 20%)
Giavotella is batting a respectable .267/.302/.417 in his brief 63 plate appearance sample in the majors thus far. He has been a pleasant surprise on the bases, attempting a steal in 42.9 percent of his opportunities and converting four of six attempts. Otherwise, his early returns have been little to write home about. This does not mean he is not worth keeping on your roster, but so far he has shown to be vanilla enough to be more of an AL-only option, especially with second base eligibility only. Keep an eye on his baserunning, however, to see if the influence of Ned Yost will rub off on his steals attempts. 

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%, CBS 28%)
Ramos has hit a fairly unexciting .238/.238/.429 since August 12, including his 10th homer of the season. With lackluster performance came less-than-ample playing time (just 22 PA in two weeks), and it seems Washington is intent on keeping his workload down in order to preserve his body. With little change in his status, his spot on the VP list may be in jeopardy as well. 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 8%, CBS 46%)
Saltalamacchia had just about the same outcome as Ramos did the past two weeks. He has batted .174/.174/.348 since August 12 with the only highlight being a home run as well. He too is limited in playing time by veteran captain Jason Varitek, but he remains the guy with slightly more playing time. The playing time factor is holding both players back from higher ownership, but this appears to be the case for both catchers going forward, so they will remain just borderline choices for mixed leagues. 
 

AL-only VP
Jesus Montero, New York Yankees (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 35%)

At this point, it looks like the Yankees will be content calling Montero up in September, meaning Posada's benching from two weeks back made no change in the Yankees' plans to call up their top prospect. With September approaching, it is time to stash Montero if you have yet to do so, as he should get decent playing time at designated hitter once he does arrive. 


NL-only VP
None for this week, as I simply could not condone the choices available to fantasy players at the time. If you guys would like to suggest someone for this spot, I would be happy to entertain ideas, but this week NL owners will have to go without a great idea for their Value Pick.

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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