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September 14, 2011

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 9/14/11

by Michael Jong

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Departures
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 3%, CBS 20%)

Altuve did not have a good week, batting just .143/.182/.238, and his departure from the Value Picks list is reflective of his struggles since his initial entry on the list. Since August 2, Altuve has hit .264/.285/.364, though that has been tempered by the addition of five steals in seven attempts. However, until he starts trying to take more bases or hits for a bit better average, his placement in the inept Houston lineup makes it unlikely for him to be worth a playing time consideration in anything but NL-only leagues.

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 14%, CBS 44%)
The Indians and their plethora of middle infield options gave Kipnis only three starts this week, and that simply was not enough to justify remaining on the VP list. With only a few more weeks to go before the season ends, the Indians may decide to continue to give Kipnis a light workload, and at this point fantasy fans cannot get excited about a player—no matter how good he is—if he is playing part time.

Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 35%, CBS 47%)
Yahoo! owners finally caught up to the rush to own Pennington, even though he had an uneventful .250/.300/.286 week. Pennington did add yet another steal to his resume, putting him at 13 on the season and showing a bit of the aggressiveness on the bases that fantasy owners are looking for in him.

Justin Sellers, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 1%)
Sellers chose a bad time to go on an extended hitless streak. Since September 1, he has just three hits and is batting .115/.207/.154 with only one extra-base hit. He did receive a decent amount of playing time even with the presence of Dee Gordon, receiving six of eleven starts since Gordon's return, but his recent difficulty will reduce his share of the playing time. At this point, owners should just cut him and wait to see how he turns out in September.
 

Arrivals
Nick Hundley, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 11%, CBS 28%)

Hundley's .290/.356/.481 slash line, especially in the environment of San Diego, would be extremely impressive and probably would have bought him more than a spot on Value Picks. Unfortunately, that extended run of good hitting has been peppered with injuries, in particular two month-long stints on the DL for an oblique strain and an elbow injury. Because of the inconsistent playing time, Hundley has been slightly overlooked.

His current performance is of course a mirage; no one sustains a .363 BABIP, but much of the rest of his game has remained normal. His eight home runs this season correspond very well with the eight homers he hit in the two prior seasons in similar playing time. He is still striking out in over 23 percent of his plate appearances with minimal changes in his swing and contract rates. Going into the 2011 season, PECOTA projected a .229/.293/.373 slash line that looked a little harsh given his career .242/.302/.398 mark coming in. Expecting him to return to a line similar to his 70th percentile projection of .244/.310/.397 seems perfectly reasonable, and expecting a homer or two the rest of the way also sounds acceptable. Unlike last season, Hundley has no competition at catcher and will command all of the playing time if he is healthy, which means mixed-league fantasy owners could muster a few more successful weeks for the stretch run before the season ends. Hundley's decent power (career .164 ISO) is at least worth a look.
 

Incumbents
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 2%, CBS 19%)

Doumit had a hot week, batting .474/.500/.842 with four doubles and a homer. The Pirates did not provide much assistance, however, as his extra-base hits still only got him three RBI, but it is intriguing to see how a regular starting catcher currently hitting .300/.351/.479 with a typical display of power can go unowned in so many mixed leagues.

Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 31%, CBS 38%)
Gordon rode a three- and four-hit night on the way to a .286/.310/.321 week with three steals. More importantly, he accomplished the decent batting average off of a .308 BABIP, making the week somewhat non-fluky in nature. Gordon continues to get full playing time at shortstop for the Dodgers and should be a good look for steals going forward in mixed leagues.

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 2%, CBS 29%)
Ramos had a solid .286/.500/.357 week, which helped him to maintain his impressive .261/.330/.429 season at the plate. Such a batting line would be barely noticeable from a mixed-league fantasy perspective, but as a catcher, Ramos is still more than a playable option for mixed leaguers. It helps that his playing time this past week was not curbed by Jesus Flores, as Ramos made four of the five available starts since last Tuesday.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 8%, CBS 45%)
One could copy and paste what I said last week regarding Saltalamacchia and it would be sufficient to describe his performance this past week. He made only four starts and picked up just three hits, but two of those hits were home runs. He also struck out in six of his 17 plate appearances. His continued difficulty with the strikeout will keep him on the low end of fantasy options, even if his power is still playable. His play is very reminiscent of fellow high-strikeout catchers with power like J.P. Arencibia and Chris Iannetta.
 

AL-only VP
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%)

At the insistent and proper request of Baseball Prospectus and Value Picks reader timber, Perez made the AL-only VP list this week after a strong start to his major league career. Despite being just 21 years old, hitting at the major league level, and playing the toughest position on the field, Perez has thrived by hitting .296/.327/.408 in his first 104 plate appearances. An early look at his peripherals point to a lot of results that make sense; his strikeout (15.4 percent) and walk rates (3.8 percent) seem like natural extensions of his minor league career rates (10.0 and 5.3 percent, respectively). His ability to suppress strikeouts in the minors led to a .285 batting average despite a career .302 BABIP, meaning that with some improvement we may expect Perez to be a high-average hitter with below average power.

Right now, Perez is boasting a high average, though that is due to an inflated BABIP. Still, it is a positive sign that he has been able to translate his skills decently into the majors at such a young age, and if he continues to hit through the end of the season, he could be in line to start next year for the Royals. Consider him an AL-only option for now due to his decent chance at an above average batting average and playing time, and also keep an eye on his status for AL-only keeper leagues.
 

NL-only VP
Mark Ellis, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%)

As BP reader hessshaun expected, Ellis has made his way back to the VP list. This time, Ellis makes it in as the NL-only member of the list following a .250/.294/.438 week including one homer and four hits. Before he left the VP list, I raised concern over Ellis losing playing to the plethora of other middle infield options the Rockies had. Since then, however, Jonathan Herrera has gotten hurt and Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. have fallen out of favor, once again leaving the veteran Ellis as the only man for the position. He has hit a barely fantasty-bearable .268/.312/.400 as a member of the Rockies, but with second base barren of available talent on the NL side, he may be one of the few remaining acceptable options on the waiver wire for NL-only owners. You can expect him to hold second base for the remainder of the season.

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:  Time,  A.J. Ellis,  Espn

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