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August 7, 2012

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 8/7/12

by Michael Street

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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.

Departures
As I feared last week, the neck spasms of the ever-fragile Jim Thome (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0%, CBS 6%) have landed him on the disabled list, and now it looks like he’ll be out until at least September. It’s hard to gripe about an injury to a 41-year-old who’s brought his owners seven homers in 150 plate appearances, but he may not even be a good candidate to occupy a DL spot with such a long timetable for recovery.

Arrivals
I’ve mentioned Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) in Playing Pepper several times this season, and he had a brief VP stint during his equally brief stint in the majors when he hit .333/.429/.583 in 42 plate appearances while Carlos Lee was on the DL. Houston’s somewhat controversial July trades have opened the door for younger players and faded prospects like Wallace, who gets a third chance to show his stuff for the rest of this season.

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.

Year (Level)

K%

BB%

ISO

2008 (A and AA)

16.7

8.1

193

2009 (AA and AAA)

19.3

7.8

162

2010 (AAA)

19.6

6.4

208

2011 (AAA)

22.2

11.9

125

2012 (AAA)

24.8

7.7

206

Total

20.4

7.8

184

 

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.

Year

K%

BB%

ISO

2010

31.5

5.0

097

2011

24.0

9.5

110

2012

31.8

6.4

278

Total

26.8

8.0

124

 

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.

Incumbents
The punchless phenomenon that is Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 14%) finally added some oomph to his hot-hitting ways. During the Rockies’ current nine-game homestand, Pacheco is hitting .371/.395/.600 while knocking eight doubles—nearly double his season total. He hit seven of those two-baggers over the past week, during which time he has also posted two three-hit days, boosting his batting average to .307—the highest it’s been since June 4. Between those peaks, he only walked eight times in 177 plate appearances while hitting .311/.347/.384, in part because he only whiffed 20 times over that same stretch. He won’t bring many extra-base hits, and the four RBI he collected last week only boosted his season total to 25, but he’ll continue to help you in batting average; he currently ranks sixth among third basemen with at least 250 plate appearances.

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.

AL-only VP
As Adam Lind resumes rehabilitation for his back, his replacement, David Cooper (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%), found his power stroke this week; his five-game hit streak included doubles in three straight contests capped by a game-tying homer on Saturday night. Lind is eligible to return from the disabled list this Saturday, but the team hasn’t said if he’ll be ready then. Cooper is someone to keep on your roster until that happens, milking as much value from him while you can.

NL-only VP
Donovan Solano (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) seemed to be the early favorite to take over at third base for Miami following the trade of Hanley Ramirez, but Donnie Murphy (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS %) got most of the starts there last week before hurting his hamstring and experiencing flu-like symptoms. Solano stepped into the hot corner for two of those games while also picking up starts in left field and second base, getting at least a hit in all four starts. With Emilio Bonifacio reinjuring his thumb and expected to miss at least two or three weeks, Solano may play at the keystone more than the hot corner, but it’s clear that Ozzie Guillen will find a spot for the versatile Solano somewhere in his batting order. Solano is more valuable as a middle infielder, but he’ll still deliver batting average in NL-only leagues at third base.

Playing Pepper
Mitch Moreland (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 24%, CBS 24%) returned to the Texas lineup this week, only to find himself sitting on the bench against lefties in favor of Mike Olt (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 4%, CBS 27%). Paul Singman added Olt to his AL-only list last week, but Olt is unlikely to gain outfield eligibility anytime soon, so he might make a better add as a corner infielder.

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.

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Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (08/07)
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Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second, S... (08/06)
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Fantasy Article Value Picks: Relievers... (08/08)
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