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August 7, 2012
First, Third, and DH for 8/7/12
Some commentators worried that the additional Wild Card spot would dampen trading deadline deals, but it seemed to have the opposite effect, with lots of swaps affecting teams down the stretch. Only one new Value Pick resulted from these deals, but we should see more in the weeks to come as the ripple effects of some trades become clearer and fading teams call up prospects or make non-waiver deals like one that I look at in Playing Pepper.
Once a third baseman, Wallace was shifted across the diamond, putting greater pressure on his bat to produce. That bat was considered powerful enough to make Wallace part of trades for Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, and Roy Oswalt, but Wallace has faltered in his last two opportunities at the big-league level. In 2010, he hit just .222/.296/.319 in 159 plate appearances after a late-season call-up. Given the starting first base job to begin 2011, he hit so poorly (.268/.345/.375 in 359 plate appearances) that the Astros sent him back to Triple-A. He mashed there, hitting .356/.437/.481, and the Astros brought him back up, but he fell on his face once again, finishing the season with a .105/.150/.263 line in 20 September plate appearances.
Though Wallace has failed to execute in the majors, he’s shown some development in the minors. After being rushed to Double-A in his first season, he has lost patience and contact since then, though he’s compensated with a power boost in recent seasons.
He accumulated just 126 plate appearances in 2011, so that’s a little easier to ignore, but he does seem to benefit from a more aggressive approach down on the farm. In the majors, on the other hand, he’s improved his power while also improving his patience, but his whiff rates have dipped to atrocious levels.
Viewed through the lens of secondary stats, 2011 doesn’t look quite so disappointing, while this season’s small-sample success reveals Wallace is slipping back into old habits, but with better success—and a lot of luck. His .400 BABIP this season is above even his elevated .341 career average, and a 29 percent HR/FB ratio shows that his power is due for a correction.
These aren’t terribly surprising observations when comparing his .296/.397/.574 line in 63 plate appearances to his .248/.323/.354 major-league line in his two previous seasons. PECOTA agrees; his current production is well above his 90th percentile projection of .290/.361/.449. To keep shattering that SLG projection and make good on the promise of his 13th overall draft slot in 2008, Wallace needs to show that he can sustain both a modicum of patience and his prodigious power while also making consistent contact… a tall order.
Power is tough to find at this time of the year, though, and the Astros have committed to starting him for the rest of the season; Wallace should be on your fantasy roster if you want to roll the dice on power. He’s far from a sure thing, but going against the grain can sometimes yield fantasy rewards.
At the other end of the offensive spectrum, Chris Carter (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 5%, CBS 28%) only got three hits in 23 plate appearances last week, but one of them was a home run and he walked 6 times. Even better, two of those hits came against righties, when Carter shifted to DH rather than taking a seat on the bench. Owners who are either in OBP leagues or looking for power will appreciate this kind of output, and even those in standard roto can find value from him, particularly as his playing time continues to grow.
Travis Hafner (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) missed most of last week due to paternity leave, but he’s back with the club, resuming DH duties on Sunday with his second three-hit game of the season and his 11th home run of the year. Whether ballplayers hit better after having a baby—call it the “baby bump”—has never been studied to my knowledge, so it’s hard to draw a connection between the two events. Even if Hafner merely continues his powerful, patient, low-contact approach, however, he’ll bring you value in OBP and home runs while dragging down your batting average.
After hitting a nice .268/.279/.463 on the Padres’ recent road trip, Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 10%, CBS 38%) kept hitting at home, picking up three doubles in his three games at PETCO over the weekend. This boosted his season total to 31 two-baggers, which leads all rookies by a wide margin; Zack Cozart is in second place with only 22. Someday those doubles will turn into homers, but for now, they highlight Alonso’s 24 percent line drive rate, which is eighth among rookies this season. He’s hit .284/.322/.481 over the last four weeks and remains mysteriously overlooked in most leagues.
Another rookie neglected by fantasy owners is Todd Frazier (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 10%, CBS 35%), who continued to bang out extra-base hits last week. Joey Votto was taking grounders and should return by this weekend, at which point Dusty Baker will have to decide between Frazier and Scott Rolen at third base. Rolen has hit .355/.438/.548 over his past 18 games, so the choice isn’t as clear-cut as it once seemed, but Frazier will still get some starts at both infield corners as well as the outfield. This makes Frazier someone to hang onto even after Votto returns.
After Philadelphia weren’t able to secure the services of Chase Headley, they turned to Kevin Frandsen (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) to hold down the Phillies’ hot corner until Placido Polanco returns (whenever that will be). PECOTA’s weighted mean projection for Frandsen is only .255/.309/.354, however, making him a weak fantasy option, even in NL-only leagues.
Acquiring Casey McGehee (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%) gives Joe Girardi another platoon partner for Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) and another backup for Mark Teixeira. Chavez was already sitting against lefties, and such sporadic playing time for McGehee is unlikely to deliver much value to his owners, making this a swap with little fantasy impact for either player.
On the other hand, a trade to the Pirates will at least give Gaby Sanchez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 18%, CBS 16%) major-league playing time, a privilege he’d lost when Miami sent him to Triple-A after a miserable .202/.250/.306 start to the season. It’s too soon to know if this will revitalize Sanchez, but with Garrett Jones starting against righties, Sanchez is unlikely to gain much of that precious playing time.
The development of Brandon Belt (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 13%, CBS 32%) seemed to be stunted earlier this season by a platoon with Brett Pill (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%), and Belt improved after Pill was demoted to Triple-A. Belt’s recent struggles have led to Pill’s return, diluting Belt’s fantasy stock once again and possibly further impacting Belt’s development (or lack thereof).
Sunday afternoon, Boston acquired Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%) from the Twins. Valencia was immediately sent to the minors, eliminating any fantasy value for him until at least September, while Jamey Carroll (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) will start for Minnesota at third base until Trevor Plouffe (Yahoo! 55%, ESPN 41%, CBS 82%) returns. With a .269/.336/.322 weighted-mean PECOTA projection, Carroll will provide little fantasy help despite the increase in playing time.