August 6, 2012
Second, Short, and Catcher for 8/6/12
The non-waiver trade deadline came and went, and Chase Headley is still a member of the Padres. That means no path was cleared for Jedd Gyorko (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 10%) to receive regular playing time in the majors. Gyorko has done plenty to earn a look this year, and I fully expect he'll get that shot, but without guaranteed steady playing time when he reaches the bigs and an uncertain call-up date, he can safely be cut loose in most redraft leagues.
Gyorko isn't the only member of the Padres to appear in the departures section this week; he's joined by Yasmani Grandal (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 2%, CBS 36%). An oblique strain forced Grandal to the 15-day DL on July 31, and initial reports are that he's recovering quicker than expected and may be ready to take some swings as soon as today. Owners with room on their DL should stash him, and Grandal is worth keeping on benches in NL-only leagues and in two-catcher mixed leagues, but he can be dropped in shallower formats.
The A's dealt Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals, but George Kottaras (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) will not be the primary beneficiary. The team has opted to recall Derek Norris from Triple-A Sacramento, and they've announced that he'll be the team's starter and receive the bulk of the work behind the plate. As a backup, Kottaras doesn't offer enough to be a worthwhile catching option in fantasy leagues.
Having cooled off, Stephen Lombardozzi (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 7%, CBS 13%) doesn't have the secondary skills to warrant ownership in most leagues. He provides little power and not much stolen base upside. He has hit just .250 over the past seven days with only one walk. Look elsewhere for middle infield help.
When I began prepping this week's article on Saturday, Stephen Drew (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 14%, CBS 33%) was in the “departures” section. A 2-for-4 effort that day and his first home run on Sunday, however, earned him another week in the “hanging on” section instead. Drew owns a career slash of .267/.329/.436—a far cry from his .202/.286/.303 line this year. The funny thing is that Drew is posting the highest line drive rate of his career at 35 percent, which exceeds his previous career high (in 2006) by 11 percent. He is making contact at the highest rate of his career, and he's chasing pitches out of the zone at the lowest mark of his career. Small sample size warnings are in order, but he isn't as bad as his surface stats would suggest.
Since being activated from the disabled list, Chris Iannetta (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 14%) has started five of eight games at catcher. He has hit one home run and worked walks at a high rate but, as he has for most of his career, done so with a bad batting average. His fly ball-heavy approach (64 percent fly ball rate since returning) will help his power play up but is likely to keep his average down as well. Good pop and a poor average is what Iannetta offers fantasy gamers, and nothing he's doing now indicates he can't provide that.
It was well chronicled at the trade deadline that the Reds were looking for a leadoff hitter, and they were rumored to be interested in acquiring Twins center fielder Denard Span. They didn't deal for Span—or for any other leadoff hitter for that matter—and that's good news for Zack Cozart (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 25%, CBS 56%) owners or prospective owners. His sub-.300 OBP really doesn't profile for the leadoff spot, but that is where he has found himself of late. Since last week's article, he has recorded a hit in four of five starts, including two multi-hit games. He has also whacked a home run in that time frame. He has a bit more punch than the average shortstop and is a passable middle infield option. Cozart's counting stats should be aided by the extra at-bats he'll receive in his lineup spot, and his power should play up in his friendly home ballpark.
A hollow average and dual middle infield position eligibility is enough to earn Ruben Tejada (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 25%, CBS 32%) a look in this week's Value Picks. He hits for almost no power (he has just one home run on the year) and has been equally inept at helping fantasy owners in stolen bases (just one as well). His line-drive swing (31 percent liner rate) and solid contact rate have helped him hit .321 in 2012. Tejada makes for a good glue guy and a nice pairing with a low-average option at another position. His position eligibility makes him a decent bench bat for owners looking to maximize games played at second base, shortstop, and middle infield.
Speaking of hollow batting averages, Jeff Keppinger (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 8%, CBS 14%) has proven capable of providing one of those over the years. The wounded Rays have played Keppinger at a few positions this year, with the bulk of his playing time of late coming as the team's designated hitter. With Evan Longoria expected to return to the Rays on Tuesday and see the bulk of his time at designated hitter initially, Keppinger's playing time is up in the air a bit. Kepp is capable of playing second base and third base, and that versatility should keep him in the lineup on most days if he keeps hitting. He makes a ton of contact—over 14 percent more contact than the league average hitter—and he is spraying line drives at a healthy 25 percent clip. With rates like those, it isn't all that shocking that he's hitting .320. A batting average around .300 is a reasonable expectation going forward, but where the Rays choose to put him in the lineup will go a long way in prognosticating his run and RBI potential. Unfortunately, it's anyone's guess where Maddon will choose to slot him, as he has received 20 or more at-bats in four different spots in the order. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say most of his time will come batting sixth or seventh in the order with a chance to slot higher than that against southpaws. Keppinger is a perfectly acceptable stop-gap at second base or middle infield in AL-only leagues and a passable third base choice in a pinch.
The Cubs shipped off Geovany Soto to the Rangers this week, opening up playing time at the catcher position. How that time is divvied up between Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) isn't completely clear, but Castillo is easily the more intriguing fantasy option of the two. Plus, he has started three of the four games since the trade. Kevin Goldstein wrote about Castillo in depth at the end of April, making note of his above-average power, which he described as well above average for the catcher position. KG went as far as to suggest that Castillo should hit 15-20 home runs annually in a full-time role. PECOTA's 10-year forecast jibes with Goldstein's scouting, liking him to hit home runs at the upper end of the 15-20 projection. Right on cue, Castillo drilled a home run on Sunday against the Dodgers. It was his third home run in 49 major league plate appearances this year. He hit another two home runs in 17 Double-A plate appearances and six in 176 Triple-A plate appearances. The power comes at a cost, however; he is quite aggressive and strikes out his fair share. Those strikeouts will cap his batting average ceiling at palatable with some risk for ugly. His power is enough to warrant ownership in NL-only leagues, though, as well as large mixed leagues starting two catchers.