September 28, 2011
Second, Short, and Catcher Review
This week, the crew of Value Picks will be looking back on the year that was in the Value Picks article series, reviewing the good and the bad in terms of our suggestions for fantasy teams. My format will be similar to that of my colleague Rob McQuown, who discussed his outfield selections yesterday. I will simply be breaking down my good and bad choices between first- and second-half selections. Let us take a look at what went right and what went (horribly) wrong in terms of VP suggestions this season. For each player mentioned, I will show his stats while he was on the VP column.
I discussed Avila as an AL-only or two-catcher mixed league option before the season began, but his hot start bought his way onto the big boy VP list on April 12. His stay only lasted two weeks, so his numbers were brief but still impressive, as evidenced by his .344/.400/.500 line. His time on the VP list was cut short not by performance but by impressive play; he had been on such a hot streak that his ownership had spiked up to 68 percent in CBS leagues by the time he left the list. Of course, he went on to have a stellar season, batting .298/.391/.512 and displaying the power (19 home runs) that made him an initial sleeper to begin with. While that batting average is not likely to stay as red-hot in 2012, you can bet Avila will definitely be on drafters’ minds in next season's drafts.
Espinosa spent two separate stints with VP, lasting three weeks and then about one month at the start of the season. In that time, he managed to impress and hit very well despite a faltering batting average. Espinosa was on pace to hit a bit more than 28 home runs in 600 plate appearances at the rate he was going while on the VP list, which would have been very worthwhile to fantasy owners for a second baseman off the waiver wire. The stolen base totals were a little on the small side (13 per 600 PA), but Espinosa's running game picked up in the second half, as he is likely to end the season with 17 steals on the year. Combine that with the 21 homers, and Espinosa delivered exactly what owners should have expected; good power and steals with a low batting average from an offense-light position.
Hanigan had a strong season in 2010, batting .305/.405/.429. Based on that performance and his main competition being the aging Ramon Hernandez, I suggested Hanigan at the start of the season as an NL-only pickup with some possibility of outplaying and gaining more playing time. Instead, he hit an awful .132/.233/.211 to start the year and was outclassed by Hernandez, who followed a somewhat luck-driven 2010 (.297/.364/.428) with a more level but still strong .283/.340/.448 in 2011. While Hanigan split time with Hernandez throughout the year, he didn’t perform as well as his backstop counterpart.
Bad: Every Colorado Second Baseman
This season, I never saw a Colorado second baseman I did not like, though I grew to dislike them all by the end of the season. None of the players that manned the keystone for the Rockies—including “prospects” Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson and veteran acquisition Mark Ellis—were worth the time and effort for Rockies fans or fantasy owners. As a group, they were awful, contributing below average marks at all aspects of fantasy baseball. Coors Field did not help any of these players perform well, and it did not help that Jim Tracy was not sure who to use on a consistent basis.
Second-Half Good and Bad
At the beginning of the year, Ramos was on an absolute tear, and fantasy fans were excited. VP jumped aboard just as he began his BABIP regression, and his initial one-month stint was marred by a .159/.260/.270 line. When Ramos was re-selected for the VP list in mid-July, owners had once again abandoned him. Unfortunately for them, they missed out on a .293/.348/.479 line with seven homers and 22 RBI in the second half. Overall, Ramos's slash line of .257/.323/.422 falls just a bit under his seasonal .269/.336/.448 line but would still have been worth the investment for fantasy owners in mixed leagues.
Saltalamacchia showed exactly what we thought we would see should the power he flashed in the minors resurface in the big leagues; he belted 11 homers between June 15 and the end of the season while batting just .227 thanks to an astonishing 34.7 percent strikeout rate. He had an otherwise reasonable .306 BABIP during that stretch but mustered a terrible batting average as a result. Still, the power and counting stats were there when he played, and that made him an attractive option for owners desperate for power from their backstop. Next year, Saltalamacchia should enter the season as the primary starter with a firm grasp on the job, but his strikeouts remain enough of a concern to give drafters pause in mixed leagues.
Bad: Chase D'Arnaud, Pittsburgh Pirates
D'Arnaud proved to Pittsburgh fans that he was not yet ready to take over at shortstop for the oft-maligned Ronny Cedeno. D'Arnaud showed up for a very short period of time in the majors, filling in for Pedro Alvarez and Cedeno at third base and shortstop respectively, but he showed very little with the bat. I mentioned that his good approach at the plate should get him on base often enough to muster steals, but he walked just four times against 36 strikeouts in 151 PA this year. It was a forgettable debut for a prospect who is running out of minor league time at age 24.
I should have known better than to trust a San Diego middle infielder. While both Hudson and Jason Bartlett spent significant time on the VP list, Hudson was more disappointing because he was expected to be better than this. The one interesting thing about Hudson's 2011 season was his propensity to steal; he stole a career-high 18 bags this season. Unfortunately, his batting average tanked as his steals went up, as evidenced by his .218 average during his stay on VP. He owes this problem to a drastically increased strikeout rate; after whiffing in 14.8 percent of plate appearances in his career before this season, Hudson struck out in 23.6 percent of appearances during his time on the VP list and 18.5 percent of the time overall. In the end, it was a second straight disappointing offensive season for Hudson and the owners who listened to my advice about his steals.
There were other names of interest that I neglected to mention, but overall I believe the VP list did a good job in pointing out the best available names for mixed and single-league formats. How do you think we did? Tell us about your favorite choices and pickups from the 2011 season.