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April 20, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Value Picks Paying Off
I received an e-mail earlier this week from a Baseball Prospectus reader congratulating me on the early-season success of my value picks from my Fantasy Tier Rankings. While celebrating the success of these players in April is akin to celebrating a new American Pie movie before experiencing the disappointment of actually seeing it (read: premature… see what I did there), it’s still kind of fun. And hey, combined, my value picks have accrued 669 plate appearances—roughly a full season’s worth of at-bats. So today, I’m going to take a (very early) look at which of my picks are panning out and which aren’t.
I’m going to ignore the Four- and Five-Star Value Picks because, well, most of them weren’t really values. Everyone knows that Albert Pujols is a good player, so I’m not going to bother going over him. Instead, I’ll focus on the one-, two-, and three-star guys that you likely acquired on the cheap. These are going to be the moneymakers of a fantasy team, the guys that you’re hoping to make big profits on.
Also, keep in mind that this list ignores players that I really liked but who didn’t get the Value Pick label. For example, I talked about how much I liked Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold as one-star American League outfielders, but Raul Ibanez got the VP sticker (both Scott and Reimold are off to great starts while Ibanez has been merely decent).
That said, let’s see how my guys are doing:
Overall, this group of guys has done quite well. They’re not setting the world on fire, but they are doing a lot of things that can benefit a fantasy team. According to our Player Forecast Manager, that Per 650 PA batting line would be worth close to $10 for a mixed league outfielder and in the high-teens for an AL/NL-only outfielder (more for scarcer positions). For a bunch of guys that didn’t cost anywhere near that, that’s pretty good. It’s also interesting to note that the line improves if you weight a player’s contributions by his tier (i.e. three-star players count more than one-star players). After all, picking the one-star guys is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so we shouldn’t expect them to produce exceptionally well.
The Early Winners
Edwin Encarnacion is a guy I’m really excited to see succeeding. He was the three-star Value Pick for both first and third base, and he’s doing exactly what I expected of him.
Love, love, loving Jon Jay. Showing moderate skills across the board, which will provide massive value for NL-only owners (I have him in three such leagues). Once Rafael Furcal or Carlos Beltran gets injured, he’ll add a heaping helping of runs to your plate as well.
The Murphy gamble paid off, as he’s secured full-time at-bats against righties in Texas’ outfield (and there’s a chance he gets some starts against lefties if he keeps hitting well). I never bought into the Rangers using Craig Gentry or Julio Borbon in the outfield while Murphy remained the fourth outfielder; he’s just too good for that, and I’m glad to see the Rangers giving him his due.
Despite spending some time on the DL, Chipper Jones is still having a great season. The injury-proneness drove many potential owners away, but as long as he just has nagging injuries and occasional short DL stints, he’ll receive enough at-bats (and do enough with them) to be well worth what he cost on draft day, particularly for NL-only owners.
The Early Losers
Part of doing these rankings is having to start them incredibly early so they’re out by the time readers are drafting. That means calling someone like Johnny Giavotella a value pick even though he started the year in the minors. I didn’t see the demotion coming, and he’ll be up at this point, but he gets a great big goose egg thus far.
Ryan Doumit was selected before Justin Morneau told the team he wanted to play DH most days, which limits the spots Doumit can fit into that lineup. The team has worked him in behind the plate and in right field, and he’s started eight of 11 games, so at least he’s still getting work. All it will take, however, is an injury to Morneau, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, or Denard Span for Doumit to start every day. I still like him as an undervalued catcher option. Few catcher-eligible players have his power upside, and fewer still have the chance to amass the kind of at-bats he could get.
Mike Carp played just one game before landing on the DL, but I expect good power from him when he returns (which should be soon).
Jed Lowrie, similarly, spent a lot of time on the DL. Not that this comes as much of a surprise, but he could still be worthy of a two-star value pick label as long as he can log 450 at-bats.
Brandon Belt has played sparingly and poorly when he is on the field. His inclusion as a value pick was merely as an upside gamble for mixed leaguers. As I said then, “upside [at first base, at the end of the draft] is more important than the consistency you’ll get from someone like Todd Helton.” Given what has transpired with Belt thus far, you can pretty safely cut him in mixed leagues and pick up a guy like Helton or another high-upside gamble, if you so choose.
Callaspo hasn’t impressed thus far—in part due to lack of at-bats—but at least the Angels seem to be souring on Mark Trumbo at third base. That was the whole reason Callaspo made the list, so if Trumbo’s starts at the hot corner come sparingly, Callaspo should make good on his VP upside.
Next week I'll take a look at how the pitchers are doing.