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August 20, 2012

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 8/20/12

by Josh Shepardson

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Departures
It should come as no surprise that as a much-ballyhooed prospect that got off to a hot start, Manny Machado (Yahoo! 50%, ESPN 84%, CBS 79%) saw his ownership level rise to a level that disqualifies him for continued inclusion in Value Picks. Even with a couple of 0-fers over the weekend, Machado has made about as seamless a transition as the Orioles could have hoped for from a guy jumping from Double-A to the majors. His strikeout rate is right in line with his minor league levels, but his walk rate is way down. Don't let the walk rate fool you, though; his chase rate headed into Sunday was at 33.3 percent, just a bit above the league average of 30.5 percent. We aren't talking about a total hacker here. He's still really green, and he's hitting in the bottom third of the Orioles lineup, so if someone wants to overpay in a redraft league, let them. Otherwise, ride out his hot streak and hope Machado is able to take advantage of expanded rosters and perhaps some weaker pitching opposition in September.

Hanging On
Before Sunday's game, Geovany Soto (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 11%, CBS 24%) was penciled into the “Departures” section with Machado. A 3-for-5 effort on Sunday—his second multi-hit game in his last three starts—earned him a reprieve. There are still reasons to be cautious with Soto—namely his strikeout rate. In his last 10 games, he has struck out 14 times over 37 plate appearances (38 percent strikeout rate). He is also just barely above the Mendoza-line, hitting .204 on the season. All that said, he's still a part of the highest-scoring offense in baseball, he's getting regular playing time, and he has a history of performing at a much higher level. Those are enough positives to hold out a bit more hope that he can help fantasy teams in AL-only and two-catcher mixed leagues down the stretch.

Sticking Around
It was a brutal week at the dish for Stephen Drew (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 15%, CBS 34%), and he even “earned” two games out of the starting lineup headed into the weekend. He got fly ball-happy last week and saw his strikeout rate balloon in that tiny sample size, but shortstop stinks, and Drew is too talented to cut yet in large mixed leagues using a middle infielder.

He remains healthy, and he continues to do his thing, so Chris Iannetta (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%) remains a Value Pick. He has started six of the Angels’ last seven games and smacked his sixth home run of the season on Wednesday.

A sizzling August has continued Zack Cozart's (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 27%, CBS 57%) run of alternating good months with bad ones. In 77 plate appearances in the month of August, Cozart is slashing a scintillating .301/.338/.534 with three home runs. Since striking out in 28 of 110 plate appearances (26 percent strikeout rate) in May, Cozart has shaved a bit off of his strikeout rate each month, and he is striking out in just under 13 percent of his plate appearances in August. He seems to be settling in nicely at the major league level and, barring an injury, should be a solid middle infield option the rest of the season.

The Mets and fantasy owners have gotten reliable, steady work from Ruben Tejada (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 27%, CBS 33%). He offers fantasy owners almost nothing beyond his batting average, but he has consistently hit for average against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers, at home and on the road, and from month-to-month. Tejada finds himself slotted in either the leadoff spot or the two-hole for the Mets when he starts, which allows him to pile up at-bats and make the most of his standout fantasy category. It's tough to move the needle in batting average at this point in the season, but owners that are in a tight battle for points in that category should look to Tejada to help get them over the hump.

His ownership has risen to the point where he can no longer be considered for the AL-only VP spot, but Jeff Keppinger (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 11%, CBS 17%) is playing well enough to warrant large mixed league ownership as a middle infielder while remaining underowned in such leagues. Keppinger has sat in two of the Rays’ last five games, but he looks to be in little danger of losing regular playing time, at least as long as he keeps raking at the plate. The Rays lineup as a whole has been hot in August, ranking ninth in the majors in runs scored, and Keppinger has been no exception, hitting .327/.333/.473 in 57 plate appearances. Like the Rays seem to be doing, fantasy teams should be riding Keppinger's hot hand until he cools off.

Arrivals
Ramon Hernandez has gotten some starts here and there, but Wilin Rosario (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN 11%, CBS 60%) continues to receive a true starting catcher’s load; there’s no time-share here. He has been locked in this month, drilling three home runs in 48 plate appearances and hitting .316/.426/.658. Digging a bit deeper, Rosario has demonstrated impressive plate discipline in August, walking eight times against just six strikeouts. Rosario might be in store for a big finish to an already excellent rookie year, and he's a fine starting catching option even in single-catcher leagues.

He's 0-for-6 since being activated from the disabled list on August 16, but Yasmani Grandal (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 2%, CBS 34%) showed too much promise prior to his injury to leave on the waiver wire in two-catcher formats or NL-only leagues if he was tossed aside due to injury. It's unlikely that Grandal will continue to post an 18 percent HR/FB rate, and he'll need to improve upon his 14 percent line drive rate if he wants to continue to hit for average, but Grandal is a strong second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues and a good backstop in NL-only leagues.

The third of this week's Arrivals is yet another catcher, John Jaso (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 2%, CBS 23%). He is long overdue for inclusion, and I'll admit, I've slept a bit on how good Jaso has been for the Mariners. In 252 plate appearances he is slashing .289/.402/.495 with a juicy .206 ISO, more walks (39) than strikeouts (37), and eight home runs. A patient approach has always been a part of Jaso's game, but the spike in power is the pleasant surprise of 2012. His 17 percent HR/FB rate is 11 percent higher than his previous high of 6 percent, which was his mark last year.

He is making a lot of hard contact, with a 25 percent line drive rate, and as one would expect with his high walk rate, he's waiting for his pitches; he is chasing only 20 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. The Mariners have wisely limited his exposure to southpaws (he is a career .174 hitter against them) and allowed him to feast on right-handed pitching. Jaso has a career line of .270/.365/.424 against right-handed pitching, but he has blown that line out of the water this year by hitting .318/.429/.561 with all eight of his home runs and, in fact, all 24 of his extra base hits too. Owners in larger single-catcher mixed leagues with a bench spot to toy with (and a non-elite starting catcher) could do worse than platooning Jaso themselves. Given his stellar play, Jaso should be owned in far more leagues than he is.

AL-only VP
Thumb surgery ended Chris Getz's season, and the Royals have dipped into the minors to replace him at the keystone position with Johnny Giavotella (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%). Kevin Goldstein has repeatedly mentioned (here and here are two examples) that in spite of Giavotella's defensive deficiencies, he can really hit. In 921 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Giavotella has batted .331/.397/.477. That success has yet to translate to the majors with a line of .235/.265/.339, but he has had less than half-season's worth of at-bats to adjust to the bigs, so the sample size is quite small. Giavotella is worth taking a flier on in AL-only leagues and as a middle infield option in large mixed leagues in the hopes of the light going on for him this go-around.

NL-only VP
The Cubs continue to split time at the catching position between Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%). Castillo has outhit Clevenger, and it seemed as if he should have been getting some extra starts as a result. That hasn't been the case, but it's now clear why: manager Dale Sveum revealed that Castillo has been dealing with a nagging foot injury since Wednesday. Castillo was able to play in the first half of Saturday's double-header, and it seems to be a day-to-day issue. Hang tight if you need catching help in NL-only leagues.

Related Content:  Espn,  Johnny Giavotella

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