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September 7, 2011

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 8/7/11

by Michael Jong

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Departures
Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%)

Flowers was not completely terrible in his final week as the starter, tacking on another home run en route to a .118/.200/.353 week. Unfortunately, it was his last week as the starter in Chicago as A.J. Pierzynski returned from the disabled list and was reinstated as the primary catcher. Without playing time, Flowers will have to wait until 2012 to see if he can earn significant starting time to show off what he displayed this season.

Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 4%, CBS 16%)
Giavotella had a .250/.273/.406 week which included a homer and eight RBI, but he has struggled in his first go-around in the majors and could use some seasoning in the minors before once again assuming a starting role in 2012. He remains the second baseman for the Kansas City Royals, but he has shown enough struggles in his first 120 plate appearances in the majors for him to be dropped from the Value Picks list down the stretch.
 

Arrivals
Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 7%, CBS 29%)

Gordon returned from injury last week and immediately resumed his position as starting shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did it in striking fashion as well, batting .429/.429/.571 with nine hits and three doubles in 21 PA. He also contributed in the steals department, swiping three bases.

As a repeat visitor of the Value Picks list, Gordon comes this time with many of the same considerations that he brought with him when he first arrived on the list on June 21. Here is what I had to say about him before:

Gordon has already taken off in 25 percent of his stolen base opportunities this season, and with his known skills, the Dodgers should allow him to continue to run wild. Even with a paltry .246/.278/.302 projection at his 50th percentile, PECOTA still sees Gordon stealing 33 bases in 505 plate appearances, which could yield you almost 20 steals by the end of this season. Consider him a strong NL-only and deep mixed league option for now, and keep an eye out in more general mixed league play.

It should not surprise you that none of that has changed. Even after the hot week, Gordon's batting average is only up to .265 with a .318 BABIP—both believable but a bit higher than PECOTA's expectations. Of course, the perhaps slightly fortuitous turn of events on balls in play have translated to stolen bases, and Gordon is not hesitating to steal at any opportunity afforded to him; he has attempted steals now on 35.3 percent of possible opportunities. As always, expect a plethora of steals and a low-to-acceptable batting average from Gordon with a lot of playing time since the Dodgers have nothing to play for in 2011 and are trying out their young middle infielders for 2012.

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 16%, CBS 46%)
Kipnis is back from the DL after spending time on the shelf with a strained oblique, and fantasy owners could not be happier. After one of the best debuts of the season (.279/.347/.603 with six home runs in 75 PA), the strained oblique took the wind out of Kipnis's sails, but it seems he will get his “rehab assignment” in the major leagues this season.

Unfortunately, that may be the only thing holding Kipnis back from being a complete fantasy windmill slam for owners.

"Kipnis is basically rehabbing at this level," [Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta] said. "In any other scenario ... he would've gone down [to the Minors] and would've stretched himself step by step. That's what he's going to do here. I don't think it's fair to run him out there every day right off the bat."

Much like Kipnis's initial week in the majors, when he had to split time with the departing Orlando Cabrera, it sounds like he will not play everyday at the tail of the 2011 season because of his recent injury. The Indians have plenty of second base depth, ranging in options from the awful Luis Valbuena to the slightly better Jason Donald to the barely acceptable Cord Phelps, but none of them bring the pedigree and skill that Kipnis has to offer. At the same time, with the Indians well out of the playoffs, there is simply no need to rush Kipnis off of this injury to contribute, so while the move to limit his playing time may be smart for the team, it will hurt fantasy owners looking for an impactful name to add late in the year.
 

Incumbents
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 1%, CBS 18%)

Doumit went on an absolute tear this week, batting .455/.478/.636 with four doubles. Despite that, his counting stats were merely acceptable—just three RBI and one run scored from his outburst. Nevertheless, the streak has brought his slash line up to .291/.344/.457 for the season, and while that may be a bit over his head, it still is not outside reasonable expectations. Fantasy owners who are still in need of a catcher may still consider Doumit in any league.

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%, CBS 26%)
It is difficult to pull a player when he hits .500/.500/.750 with four doubles, even if his fantasy counting stats struggle. Ramos continues to hit well and keep his head on the VP list despite concerns about his playing time. He did cede three of seven starts since last Tuesday to Jesus Flores, however, who has hit .275/.341/.450 since the start of August. The situation warrants careful watching, and Ramos owners should pull the plug if the playing time split becomes more even, as the Nationals catcher needs all the plate appearances he can get to maintain mixed league value.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 8%, CBS 45%)
Salty had yet another Salty-esque week with a home run added to nine strikeouts in 18 plate appearances, en route to a .235/.278/.471 slash line. Since the beginning of August, Salty has five homers and 31 strikeouts in 85 plate appearances, yielding a strikeout rate of 36.5 percent. This sort of absurd rate is very reminiscent of earlier days in his career, and the fact that he has not changed his approach at the plate (still swinging at over 50 percent of pitches seen and whiffing on around 30 percent of those pitches) means that he could still yet be buried under strikeouts. For right now, though, his power is shining, and that will help his fantasy value.
 

AL-only VP
Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 38%, CBS 50%)

ESPN mixed league owners reacted drastically to Pennington's hot .333/.412/.533 week, which contained a homer and three stolen bases. If Pennington is ready to return to the steals threat he represented last season, then fantasy owners will be happy to see this change occur, but a .429 BABIP week does not a fantasy superstar make. Until we see consistency in his desire to swipe bags again, Pennington cannot be counted on to be a great fantasy option. Still, at this point he has an outside shot at double-digit home runs and 20 steals which, as a shortstop, would make mixed league owners take notice.
 

NL-only VP
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 6%, CBS 22%)

The more I watch Altuve, the more I want him to break out. He has posted an okay .190/.190/.429 slash line—including a triple and a home run—since Tuesday. That also included just three strikeouts in 22 plate appearances, however, continuing to showcase his penchant for contact, which should continue to keep the batting average afloat. The home run was the first of Altuve's major league career that left the park, though it did so over the short left field fence in Minute Maid Park; ESPN Home Run Tracker had the ball traveling a true distance of just 339 feet.

Since his hot start in late June, Altuve has cooled significantly, but his 133 plate appearances since the start of August have been nothing to scoff at from a fantasy perspective. In that time, he has hit .276/.292/.386 with two homers and five stolen bases along with the counting stats you might expect from a player in Houston.  That’s worth your middle infield spot in most mixed leagues.

Justin Sellers, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 2%)
Sellers had a poor fantasy week, batting .250/.333/.313 with just one extra-base hit and two runs scored. More importantly, Gordon's return had a trickle-down effect to Sellers's position in the starting lineup, as he split starts at second base with Jamey Carroll. Right now, he remains an interesting NL-only option due to the power mentioned last week, but that is dependent on consistent playing time. Casey Blake is out for the season at third base, opening up a possible slot for Sellers in case veteran Aaron Miles struggles. This next week should determine whether Sellers continues to be an option.

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

Related Content:  Sellers,  Time,  Espn,  Jose Altuve,  Head-to-head Stats

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