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April 13, 2012
Second, Short, and Catcher for 4/13/12
The first week of Value Picks is all about staying your ground with regards to a lot of players. Even guys in the Value Picks range struggle compared to their expectations in the first week of the season, so it is difficult to judge them based on a sample of just 10 plate appearances. For those rooting around the waiver wires early on for treasures, do not expect the guy who is tearing it up to suddenly be available. A lot of the dumpster-diving goodies available right now are the guys who were among the players reviewed in this offseason's Preseason Value Picks.
We discussed Mark Ellis (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 2%, CBS 7%) in our last outing, stating that he is a useful piece who is going to get something similar to full-time play at second base. He excels in no categories, though PECOTA projected him to have 10 home runs and 12 steals in 2012. His batting average fell precipitously in 2011, but that followed a fortuitous BABIP mark in 2010 that was equally unrepeatable. He still strikes out at a small rate (career 13.5 percent) and thus should provide a league-average batting average, even if it is low for the typical fantasy second baseman.
As always, the importance of playing time will be key, and it seems for now that Ellis has the second base job in hand. He started in four of five games for the Dodgers so far, so they must want him in that position for the time being. For a middle infield spot, you could do worse, though you should keep in mind that there is little upside with Ellis.
Willie Bloomquist (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 4%, CBS 6%) is not a good player. This is Baseball Prospectus, so we know this to be generally true. Last season, however, Bloomquist hit a respectable .267 and stole 20 bases in 381 plate appearances. In 2009, the season in which he logged the most plate appearances of his career, he hit .265 and stole 25 bases. In other words, if Willie Ballgame gets enough playing time, he basically plays very similarly to hitters like Alcides Escobar (career .251 hitter with 19 steals per 600 PA). Escobar is owned in 10 percent of ESPN leagues and 43 percent of CBS leagues, and right now Bloomquist seems to be the only player the Diamondbacks will go to at shortstop while Stephen Drew continues to heal up from last season's ankle injury. With Drew likely out through at least April and possibly May, Bloomquist should spend lots of time at shortstop around a decent offense in Arizona (tied for seventh in projected TAv in the National League according to PECOTA). He may not hit anything in the way of home runs, but being surrounded by sluggers should help score enough runs to make the stolen bases and passable average worth playing in deep mixed leagues.
Cliff Pennington (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 7%, CBS 24%) was discussed in an offseason edition of The Keeper Reaper, and he was described as a shortstop with good potential for 20-plus steals and a .265 batting average. PECOTA has him projected for just a .253 average, but the 25 projected steals will certainly help provide some value for deeper mixed leagues and AL-only affairs. None of that has really changed over the offseason.
Right now, owners are dropping him because of a slow first week in which he hit .158/.200/.211. He still managed to steal a bag, which is a positive note, but was otherwise useless. Of course, this is coming off a strong spring training, so these two small samples may cancel each other out (if you’re one to pay attention to them at all). Instead, focus on Pennington's career body of work and expect him to hit somewhere close to his career .258/.322/.368 line while stealing plenty of bases.