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September 16, 2011

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 9/16/11

by Michael Street

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Owners go two different directions in the final weeks of the season (actually, three, if you count those who are now obsessed with fantasy football, but they’re unlikely to be BP readers). One, they can throw in the towel and look to the future in keeper leagues; two, they can press on and try to finish in the money. You’ll find players for both directions in this week’s Value Picks list.

Departure
Jim Thome (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 10%, CBS 9%) has been a productive and long-time Value Pick (.264/.341/.471 as a VP), but the return of Travis Hafner (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 15%, CBS 28%) from the disabled list will diminish Thome’s playing time quite a bit. If you’ve got both Indians’ designated hitters and can keep on top of daily lineup changes, they’d make a fine fantasy platoon, but individually, each is worthy of a roster spot in deep single-league teams only.
 

Arrivals
With Dusty Baker acknowledging that Scott Rolen is likely done for the season, Juan Francisco (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) will continue as the Reds’ starting third baseman. Since his call-up, Francisco has started nine of twelve games, hitting three home runs, including two last week. Monday’s blast left Great American Ballpark entirely, while his two-run shot on Saturday “only” hit the second deck in Coors Field.

That’s the kind of power Francisco brings to the plate, although his powerful swings also induce mammoth whiffs—so far in September, he’s struck out 28.9 percent of the time. But his overall plate discipline appears to be improving, at least in the small MLB samples he’s displayed over the past three seasons. This year, his swinging-strike percentage has dropped to 14.2 percent while his contact rate has risen dramatically both inside and outside the zone, even though he’s swinging at more strikes and balls. This suggests he’s making better contact despite swinging even more freely, which suits his more aggressive style (he’s only been walked unintentionally once in 38 plate appearances this month).

This power-hitter skill set is what we’ve come to expect from Francisco: high strikeouts, low walks, and plenty of power. That power will be helped by Great American Ballpark in the near future as Cincinnati doesn’t head back on the road until next Friday. So, if you need a few more home runs to put you over the top in your fantasy league or want to gamble on a future power hitter, look no further than Francisco.
 

Incumbents
Nick Evans (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 9%, CBS 5%) was very consistent last week, picking up a hit in four of five games, though only one—a double—went for extra bases. He didn’t walk at all and hasn’t taken a free pass since August 26, however—a span of eighteen games—and he continues to strike out nearly a quarter of the time. Those wouldn’t be so bad if he delivered some power, but Evans needs to boost his extra-base hits to offset those ratios. Still, he’ll get the playing time to find that power, so he’s worth sticking with down the stretch for competitive owners, but he holds almost no keeper cachet.

Mike Moustakas (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 5%, CBS 40%) rebounded nicely from a tough week to pick up a hit in every game since my last column, including multi-hit performances on Friday and Wednesday and picked up just his second homer of the season on Tuesday. That .438/.438/.750 line made his owners happy, and he should continue to reward both competitive and keeper owners over the season’s final weeks.

Extremes are to be expected from the free-swinging Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 3%, CBS 16%), who broke out of a six-game hitless streak by picking up three hits (two of them doubles) combined on Tuesday and Wednesday. Oakland fans can beat the heat with the stiff breezes from Allen’s 34.6 percent strikeout rate with the Athletics, which has accelerated to 45.0 percent in 49 September plate appearances. His redraft and keeper owners will feel equally cool when one of those tremendous hacks makes contact.

Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 9%, CBS 37%) had a nice contact streak going when he went four straight games without a whiff before fanning four times on Wednesday. That’s to be expected from a rookie with a 31.2 percent strikeout rate this season, especially one who skipped Triple-A, but anyone who watches him can see his balanced, professional approach. Goldie’s a great September roster addition, particularly for those in keeper leagues.

Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 4%, CBS 13%) has been spelled against fellow southpaws by Alex Liddi, an Italian import who hit 30 homers in Triple-A this season. Expect a similar platoon in the next two weeks, cutting into Seager’s value somewhat, but he’s a good add at a traditionally thin fantasy position, even if Liddi has the long-term edge at the Mariners’ hot corner.

Owners are waking up to Scott Sizemore (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 12%, CBS 13%), whose ownership rates have risen each week since returning to the VP list, graduating him to a mixed-league VP. A grand slam on Saturday helped sound the fantasy alarms and rouse those drowsy owners, a jack that also pushed Sizemore into double-digit dingers for the season. As this minor milestone indicates, Sizemore’s power is modest for a CI player, and his value is further undercut by his 31.2 percent strikeout rate this season (27.3 percent with Oakland). He’s been hitting fifth against lefties, which should beef up his RBI total, and he shouldn’t hurt your batting average too much at this point in the season. He’s only a keeper option in AL-only and the deepest of mixed leagues.

Another third baseman makes the jump from single- to mixed-league relevance as Jimmy Paredes (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) continues to hit around .300 with a respectable .422 SLG. He dropped down a brilliant bunt against Roy Halladay to load the bases on Wednesday, just one aspect of his broad—if punchless—repertoire. Chris Johnson has been starting against lefties, suiting Paredes far better to NL-only and deeper mixed-league usage, and Paredes’s low-power skill set also diminishes any keeper potential.
 

AL-only VP
Since taking the reins from an injured Jack Hannahan, former VP Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 18%) has shown why he’s a top prospect for the Indians. After going hitless in his first two starts after Hannahan went down, Chisenhall has picked up nine hits—including four home runs—in his last 28 plate appearances for a .321/.321/.786 line.

His 3.4 percent walk rate shows a lack of patience, and half of his six total walks were collected in a single game on July 30; he hasn’t drawn a free pass since then. That will lead to batting average volatility, and Chisenhall will most likely sit against southpaws when Hannahan returns. That makes Chisenhall better in AL-only leagues, but he’s worth a mixed league flyer to see if he can stay hot and deliver some hot-corner power; he also makes a good keeper choice in deeper mixed leagues.
 

NL-only VP
The Marlins’ third-base picture has been muddled by an injury to Donnie Murphy, an anomalous season from Greg Dobbs, the last gasp of Wes Helms, and a flirtation with Jose Lopez. All along, Florida saw Matt Dominguez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%) as their third baseman of the future, but a broken elbow early this season helped lead to this muddle. That same morass of Marlins mediocrity has opened the door again for Dominguez.

While his .258/.312/.431 Triple-A line this season doesn’t look all that impressive, Dominguez did improve each month:

Month

BA/OBP/SLG

BB%

K%

May (43 ABs)

.186/.286/.326

11.8

22.4

June

.287/.336/.455

7.3

15.6

July

.221/.281/.404

6.3

10.8

August

.308/.328/.523

3.0

13.4

Walk rates and strikeout rates falling in tandem with improved results suggests a player learning—and learning to dominate—his level. Considering he’s just 21 and is spending his first season at Triple-A, these are promising trends, indeed. Kevin Goldstein ranked Dominguez as the Marlins’ top prospect heading into this season and the 80th overall. As Kevin points out, however, those ratings come mostly from Dominguez’s glove, rated among the best among minor-league third basemen.

His less impressive offense performances in the minors may be a lack of talent or a surplus of youth, both of which explain why Dominguez has just single-league value at this point. Thus far with Florida, he’s hit just .261/.346/.261, mostly towards the bottom of the Marlins’ batting order. Sim leaguers will definitely want to take advantage of his top-notch defense, while NL-only owners can take a flyer on the Fish’s current and future third baseman, though he doesn’t bring enough offense yet to merit a keeper spot.
 

Playing Pepper
Chris Marrero (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) has started 16 straight games for Washington, picking up a hit in 12, including six of his last seven. Only three of his 19 hits have gone for extra bases (all doubles), leading to his limp .311/.348/.361 line.

Former VP Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 1%, CBS 18%) returns from Triple-A to erase his Quad-A label, but his lackluster .234/.300/.394 MLB line thus far and a timeshare with Carlos Santana minimizes any potential fantasy impact.

Apparently upset at his VP demotion, Brent Morel (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%) has hit .289/.413/.711 since leaving the list, including 5 of his 7 home runs this season (four of them in a pair of two-dinger games) and 8 of his 16 walks. He’s worth a flyer to see if this hot streak holds, but his mixed-league keeper value is minimal.

Justin Smoak (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 24%, CBS 40%) can’t seem to buy a break. After hitting .326/.396/.465 since returning from the DL on September 2, he left Wednesday’s game with a groin strain.

It looks like the shoulder of Chris Davis (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%) is healthy. Starting against righties, he’s hit .286/.375/.536 in seven games this month—including a double and a homer on Wednesday—and is worth rolling the dice on in all leagues to see if he can keep mashing.

With Logan Forsythe done for the season after meniscus surgery, James Darnell (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) becomes San Diego’s starting third baseman. As I’ve mentioned before, Darnell is the more interesting prospect of the two, and he has hit .250/.333/.500 in six games as the Padres’ starter, including two doubles and a homer. His 50th percentile PECOTA projection of .252/.334/.395 indicates he’s patient but unlikely to set the world on fire in the next two weeks—or the next ten years.

Not to be confused with pop-rock band Parmalee, Chris Parmelee (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) has been starting at first base for Minnesota now that Morneau is suffering from family and concussion problems. Parmelee’s .286/.400/.333 line thus far, his .266/.355/.436 career minor league line (through Double-A), and PECOTA’s .272/.352/.415 90th percentile projection all spell fantasy irrelevance for Parmelee, however, despite the increased playing time.

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The Prospectus Hit Lis... (09/16)
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