August 26, 2011
First, Third, and DH for 8/26/11
Now appearing on Fridays, I’m back to prepare you for your weekend fantasy games. Several developments have happened in the ten days since my last column, and I’m jumping to adjust the VP list accordingly. Fortunately, many hot corner infield commodities are available to help your fantasy squad.
The twenty-game hit streak of Mike Carp (Yahoo! 44%, ESPN 94%, CBS 54%) shot his ownership rates through the VP ceiling like Willy Wonka’s great glass elevator, only without the lifetime supply of chocolate. Carp’s .431 BABIP over those twenty games shows that his.305/.363/.500 line may be from a world of pure imagination and may not be your golden ticket to a fantasy championship, but he’s certainly delivered fantasy value.
Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) resumes a reserve role with the return of A-Rod, unless the slugger’s sprained thumb keeps him out longer than another day or two. That’s too thin a hope to keep him on the VP list, although Rodriguez owners might hang onto Chavez until the slugger’s prognosis is clearer.
If there can be only one Athletics first baseman, it should be Allen, as demonstrated by his Yankee Stadium upper-deck golf shot, one of his two longballs that night. While he has yet to go yard in his new home, all five of Allen's homers this year were 400-plus-foot jacks that would have cleared the Coliseum’s fences.
Allen’s plate approach remains in extreme Three True Outcomes territory: 45.9 percent of this year’s 74 plate appearances have ended in a strike, walk, or home run—well above his 38.1 percent minor-league average. Breaking this stat down into its constituent parts shows Allen’s evolving skills:
He found patience without losing his contact skills in the minors, all while maintaining his power stroke, registering an ISO around .270 for three of those four seasons. In his brief major league stints, however, Allen has done more whiffing than homering.
Thus far this season, Allen’s overall swing rate and swing rate on strikes are better than ever, resulting in a career-high MLB contact rate. If he can maintain both his patience and improved contact, he’ll beat PECOTA’s 50th-percentile batting average projection of .252. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll still bring much-needed longballs, making him an immediate add in all leagues. Grab him now—if he keeps mashing, his ownership rates will push him off the VP list faster than a Peter Bourjos tater trot.
Lucas Duda (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 6%, CBS 22%) is also scorching, hitting in five of his last six starts and finally showing his power. He has homered four times in the last ten games, more than doubling this season’s home run output, and HitTracker rates all four as the real deal. Capitalize on his power and playing time or we’ll make you listen to Duda’s eponymous song.
Another powerful VP, Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 9%, CBS 38%) homered in back-to-back games last Wednesday and Thursday, one of them off Cliff Lee. He hasn’t picked up a hit in 15 plate appearances since, but the newly acquired Lyle Overbay shouldn’t present too much competition, and Arizona will stick with Goldie. So should you.
Rumors are swirling around Jim Thome (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 10%, CBS 9%), who has been claimed off waivers and could be moved to the Indians by the time you read this. With Travis Hafner out for the year, a trade would still leave Thome with a full-time job—or as close to full-time as he’s capable of playing. He continues to mash for the Twins, picking up career home runs number 599, 600, and 601 since our last VP. PECOTA projects him for five more longballs, so he’ll keep adding to that total—hopefully with your fantasy squad.
Following in Carp’s footsteps (or fin-steps?), Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 4%, CBS 12%) leaps from single-league to deeper mixed-league VP after lifting his batting average thirteen points this month and nineteen since donning Dodger blue. Hitting .328/.392/.453 this month in the middle of the Los Angeles batting order has also given Rivera 15 RBI. He’s more valuable as an outfielder, and if I were a nicer guy, I’d let Rob McQuown have him. Fortunately, you can use him at either position in deep mixed leagues for batting average and RBI.
And hot is what Seager has been, picking up multiple hits in six of his last eight games, homering twice and clubbing five doubles (three in one game). Six of those were away games, and all but thirteen of the Mariners’ remaining games are at home. That, and Seager’s .452 BABIP during his latest callup, point towards regression. But this latest hot streak has boosted his overall line just above his 60th PECOTA projection, so that regression may not be too severe. Seager is worth a flyer for AL-only owners needing batting average and counting stats down the stretch.
It’s hard to draw too many judgments from just 80 MLB plate appearances, but Paredes’s 5.0 walk rate and 23.8 strikeout rate are a bit weak, though similar to his minor league rates of 3.8 and 17.0 percent, respectively. His speed—113 steals in 149 chances in the minors—will help maintain his batting average, and he’s 2-for-4 in steal opportunities with the Astros. After skipping a level, Paredes remains an enigma, but he’s performing right now and has a clear starting role, making him worth an NL-only roster spot in the final month of the season.
Jose Lopez (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 15%, CBS 4%) has started all around the Marlins’ infield this month, hitting two home runs and lifting his batting average 25 points—not hard when it began at .187—making him a potential pickup in deeper leagues.
Derek Carty did a nice writeup of Jake Fox (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, 0%),who could pick up playing time at first base or DH for the Orioles. Like Derek, I see Fox as a longshot for either playing time or productivity, but both together will bring power, making him a decent AL-only gamble.
The Rockies acquired and promoted Kevin Kouzmanoff (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%), having grown tired of the lackluster offense of Chris Nelson (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%). Coors is as good a place as any to resurrect Kouz’s power, and he’ll get the chance to find it.
With Pronk likely done for the season, the Indians will spread the DH role among Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 2%, CBS 22%), Shelley Duncan (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%), and Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 19%)—unless, of course, they complete a trade for Thome. Duncan’s just a lefty-masher, but Chisenhall—who has fallen out of favor with Acta—might find his stroke if he only has to wear a batting glove.
The titanic power of Wily Mo Pena (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%)—only one of his six homers this season traveled less than 420 feet—are matched by his titanic whiffs, both evident in his lopsided .194/.194/.478 season line. He’ll share Seattle’s DH spot with Ichiro and Casper Wells, but Justin Smoak’s impending return will cut into Pena’s playing time even further, making any fantasy impact rather slender.