September 21, 2011
Second, Short, and Catcher for 9/21/11
Thanks to fellow VP author Rob McQuown, the up-the-middle edition of Value Picks will also feature the Value Picks Team Tracker!
Value Picks Team Tracker
This author makes no apologies for a strong batting line week; getting a collection of hitters that includes four catchers to bat .286/.320/.439 (an above average line given this season's run environment) is a nice feat. While two of the catchers did not perform to the standard, two others put in the good work and combined with Dee Gordon for a strong week. To this current group we add one more member for the stretch run.
Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 18%, CBS 14%)
Aviles is not someone who will garner a whole lot of playing time as a Boston Red Sox member, provided everyone is healthy and playing well. Unfortunately for the faltering Sox, Kevin Youkilis remains out with a sports hernia injury and Jed Lowrie has been both injured and ineffective, leading the backup infielder Aviles to receive consistent playing time at third base. Before the season began, he was considered a two-star option who could be counted on for double-digit home runs and steals and do a decent job in terms of batting average. Despite the horrific season—fueled in part by a BABIP 40 points below his career average—it turns out Aviles was not far away from what PECOTA projected and what many of us expected; despite accruing just 287 plate appearances due to a midseason demotion by the Royals, Aviles managed seven home runs and 14 steals—numbers that almost matched his 2010 marks in a little more than half the opportunities.
Aviles's Boston performance has certainly instilled confidence that the early 2011 struggles were not a permanent fixture. Yes, the .341/.353/.476 line is very heavily influenced by the .388 BABIP, but owners have to take that risk with a player like Aviles who lives and dies by balls in play. He has struck out a bit more in a Red Sox uniform (16.4 percent) than in his career (13.4 percent), but all of that stands to show that he can put up a good batting average with some light BABIP help. Since taking over at third base and making four out of five possible starts, Aviles has batted at the bottom of the order three times, meaning that his opportunities for run driving should be scant. At the same time, he could be a better run scoring option considering the immediate players behind him include top-of-the-order players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Aviles is a decent option for the final few games of the year as long as Youkilis remains out with injury and Lowrie remains in the doghouse, but that is subject to on-the-fly change, so he may be a better pickup for daily leagues.
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 4%, CBS 20%)
Doumit had another strong week in what has been a resurgent season for him. The Pirates will finish off the year with Cincinnati at home and Milwaukee on the road, and Doumit's performance has pretty much guaranteed that he will be present behind the plate for the majority of those games, so he should remain a good backstop pickup for the last six games of the season.
Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 44%, CBS 40%)
Gordon continues to tear through the National League since his return from injury. Gordon has hit a scorching .373/.390/.467 since returning on September 1, and all of those hits have afforded him opportunities to swipe bags as well. He stole nine bases this month in 12 attempts, yielding a passable 75 percent success rate. Given his history and top-end speed, owners may be in line for even more steals in the future. The Dodgers have a tough road in terms of pitching to end the season; they face the San Francisco Giants for three games at Dodgers Stadium followed by six on the road at San Diego and Arizona. While the Diamondbacks may not have much left to play for, it should be a bit tougher going forward with two strong pitching staffs and parks that Gordon will have to deal with, but at this point you should be happy with a passable batting average and just a couple more steals.
Nick Hundley, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 20%, CBS 34%)
Hundley's debut on the VP list was not as impressive as owners would have liked. While he mustered a catcher-acceptable .278/.316/.399 slash line, it was a line without much team support, as he was not able to drive in a run. The Padres finish up the season with six games at home after their current series in Colorado, so Hundley is a less attractive option than some of the other catchers featured here for the final week of the season.
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 2%, CBS 29%)
Ramos contributed the only home run from the Value Picks for the week and posted another solid week at the plate overall with four runs scored and two RBI. At this point, enough has been said about Ramos and his similarities with fellow VP-mate Jarrod Saltalamacchia here in this space. The longest-tenured VP member will remain for the last few games of the season as a viable mixed-league option, even with the playing time split.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 9%, CBS 46%)
Saltalamacchia has remained on the VP list since August 2, and since that time he has actually hit below the Mendoza Line at .191. Of course, that also has come with a .435 slugging percentage that includes six home runs and 20 RBI, which has made the terrible batting average easier to swallow. Since returning to the VP list, his BABIP has fallen dramatically, but for the season his .306 mark is actually quite believable. As a result, while his performance for the last month and a half has fallen below expectations, fantasy owners can look at his seasonal .240/.295/.466 line and project it decently into next season. The power looks plausible given his time in Boston, and he may be a cheap keeper option in AL-only or deeper mixed leagues.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 11%)
Perez was riding a nine-game hit streak before losing it on Sunday, but he promptly followed that with a three-hit game to pull his seasonal line up to .322/.357/.449. It is difficult to believe he can maintain such a batting line, but his skill set is best served avoiding strikeouts and hitting singles, which would at least keep his average good for fantasy owners. He has played well enough to guarantee himself some playing time next season for the youth-movement Royals, so Perez may be a good value in next season's AL-only drafts. The Royals will finish up against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins on the road, and neither team will be doing much other than testing out younger players, so competition should be a little lighter for Perez and the Royals this upcoming week.
Mark Ellis, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 5%, CBS 11%)
Ellis is fast becoming the only viable second base option in Colorado. His .357/.379/.500 batting line this week brought his Colorado line up to a very respectable .279/.320/.412. While that line may not shine brightly in a Coors-enhanced world, only fantasy owners in leagues with park adjustments would care about such intricacies. The rest of you NL-only owners have a week of road games against the lowly Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants to look forward to. The Giants matchup will be difficult, but Ellis could have some nice performances in Houston without anyone else to play second base.
Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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