July 31, 2012
First, Third, and DH for 7/31/12
The non-waiver trade deadline is almost upon us, and the most predicted corner infield swap doesn’t look like it will come to pass, but there’s been plenty of other action on my Value Picks beat, even if it has erased more VPs than it created. Take last week’s significant hot corner injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Pablo Sandoval, for example. Kung Fu Panda’s replacement will be Marco Scutaro, who’s more valuable as a fantasy middle infielder and who moves to a park that will hurt his production, and VP Eric Chavez actually graduates from the list due to A-Rod’s broken wrist. The trades of Chris Johnson and Ryan Roberts aren’t all that significant either; neither player is a good VP, for reasons you can read about in Playing Pepper. Fear not, however, since the list had a fine week, and there are still other options to help your fantasy team as the final two months of the season begin.
A-Rod’s injury made Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 8%) into a VP tweener—too well-known and widely owned for single-league value but not productive enough to bring value in all but the deepest of mixed leagues. Chavez’s overperformance—mentioned last week—began to correct itself this week too, as he went hitless in 15 plate appearances. AL-only owners can be happy with him, but everyone else can find third base value elsewhere.
That precipitous fall from grace came due to his inability to translate his minor-league success to the majors, much of it due to his plate approach:
As he became more aggressive in the minors, he made better contact and posted higher batting averages. But in the majors, that aggressiveness worked against him, leading to astronomical strikeout rates and weak stats in all three slash categories. He seems to have found a balance in 66 plate appearances this year; his whiff rate is acceptable for a power hitter, and his much-improved patience has paid dividends in power.
Initially tabbed for a platoon role with Brandon Moss, Carter has begun to squeeze out his suddenly cold counterpart, starting at first base against Phil Hughes and at designated hitter against Tommy Hunter on Saturday. Thus far this season, Carter has hit better against fellow righties (.333/.419/.889) than southpaws (.207/.343/.552), a reverse-platoon split that’s unlikely to continue. And while his absurd 42 percent HR/FB ratio also suggests a power correction, his .212 BABIP could help mitigate any damage to his batting average. Still, he’s a great talent and a worthy addition to any team looking for power—always a scarce commodity this deep in the season.
Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 13%) picked up a hit in each game he played in last week except Sunday; one of those hits was his 12th double of the year. He also had his first two-strikeout game since June 15, indicative of the great 87 percent contact rate underlying his batting average. His 27 percent line drive rate is sixth among hitters with more than 200 plate appearances and first among third basemen in that same group. Unfortunately, his .085 ISO is fifth-worst among those same third basemen—undoubtedly the reason he’s so widely available. Take him for batting average and be happy with it; you won’t find a more consistent hot-corner hitter on the waiver wire anywhere.
Cracking into double digits in home runs with his ninth and tenth longballs last week, Travis Hafner (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) reminded us of why he’s still a valuable fantasy commodity. One of those shots came against Justin Verlander, just sneaking over the right center field wall, but it still counts the same way in the scorebook. Pronk even started against lefty Scott Diamond, picking up two hits in the process, and banged his second (you’re reading that correctly) triple of the season on Tuesday. Power and patience are his strong suits; use him accordingly.
Two straight two-hit days snapped an 0-for-20 skid from Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 8%, CBS 35%), and he followed it with an upper-deck, game-tying dinger last night. Better yet, all those hits came in Marlins Park, which is proving to be almost as stingy as PETCO. Eight of his 25 doubles this season have come in July, another sign that his power is coming around. Games at Great American Ballpark early this week could help that power along before another homestand puts the kibosh on it. Either way, Alonso is slugging .464 this month, his best performance in that category all year long; he’d make a solid pickup this late in the season.
Owners woke up to Todd Frazier (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 8%, CBS 30%) this week after Joey Votto’s knee surgery opened the door to full-time play for the corner man. Frazier homered on Saturday, part of his eighth multi-hit game this month. The longer Votto lingers on the DL, the more owners will notice Frazier, who is a good play at either infield corner, boosting his fantasy value even further.
Cooper has offered a nice mix of power and contact in the minors with an 11 percent BB% and an excellent 13 percent K%. His .172 ISO has remained fairly steady across the levels, and power remains his calling card. As BP2012 points out, however, most of that power has come from doubles. He has 169 two-baggers in 2243 minor-league appearances but only 54 home runs, and he’s only hit 20 once in a full season. That has dampened his long-term outlook, but it makes him a worthy gamble for the two-week period that the team will be Lind-less. He’ll most likely be back in Vegas when Lind returns, but AL-only owners can squeeze a bit of value out of him until then.
Solano’s combined minor-league line of .260/.314/.319 is diluted by poor performance at the lower levels; his .275/.320/.354 line in four seasons at Triple-A might be more indicative of his talent. His 13 percent K% in the minors shows his ability to make strong contact, but his impatient 6 percent BB% has sandbagged his average and OBP somewhat. He lacks the speed to compensate for that absence of power, having picked up just 26 steals in eight minor-league seasons. This all keeps Solano from mixed-league relevance and reduces his appeal in NL-only leagues. For now, however, few other strong options are out there on waiver wires, and you know what happens when you can’t get what you want.
Although his new team offers a chance for better production, Chris Johnson (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 14%, CBS 10%) has a shaky skill set. He’s hit well despite a career 25 percent K% and sub-5 percent BB% by sustaining a high BABIP (.343 before this season, .360 thus far in 2012). I don’t like gambling on high BABIP from a non-speedster, and his improved walk rate this season (6.3 percent) remains below the league average of 8.1 percent.
As Derek also mentions, Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) could benefit from the Johnson trade; it’s hard to imagine the ‘Stros banking on Scott Moore (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) and Steven Pearce (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) in the long-term. If you have room in an NL-only league, give the Walrus a chance to build on his strong minor league triple-slash line of .300/.379/.506 this season.
I wasn’t a fan of Ryan Roberts (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 31%, CBS 41%) in Arizona, since his success is largely based on a small sample of good production in 2009 and 2011. Moving him to Tampa Bay doesn’t make me like him any better, though he does have the advantage of playing time, as Evan Longoria will return as a DH, at least initially.
Former VP Todd Helton (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 7%, CBS 21%) was activated off the disabled list on Friday and could return as a VP if he proves he’s healthy and productive, though he will share time for now with a slumping Tyler Colvin (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 22%, CBS 39%).
The Twins recalled another former VP, Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%), after they placed Trevor Plouffe on the disabled list. I’ll watch Danny to see if he wants to be good, but it will take a lot for him to overcome his weak .185/.198/.287 start to this season and unseat Plouffe in the long term.
Mike Carp (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 9%, CBS 7%) has been tearing the cover off the ball since his return from the disabled list, hitting .381/.391/.619 in 23 plate appearances, with a home run and two doubles among his eight hits. All of them came at stingy Safeco, so if he stays hot, he could be a VP too.