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September 10, 2012

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 9/10/12

by Josh Shepardson

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Departures
Since the last Second, Short, and Catcher Value Picks article (on break last week for Labor Day), Zack Cozart (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 22%, CBS 59%) has slumped, and more importantly, he has been bit by the injury bug. A strained oblique has Cozart riding the pine, and it's unclear when he'll return. A player can't accumulate stats if he isn’t on the diamond, so cut bait with Cozart.

His surface stats look better since joining the Rangers, but Geovany Soto (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 12%, CBS 26%) is still putting together a forgettable season. His strikeout rate is up and his walk rate is down since leaving the Windy City. The primary reason for his surface stats improving with the Rangers is BABIP correction. As a Cub, he had an unsustainably low .215 BABIP; that mark is up almost 80 points with the Rangers. Soto's fantasy value has been inflated of late by a steady dose of playing time. Mike Napoli is expected to rejoin the team after a short rehab assignment, however, and he should be donning the tools of ignorance shortly after his return. It's unlikely Napoli will serve as a full-time catcher—he didn't when he was completely healthy—but any playing time he gets behind the dish will directly impact Soto. Look elsewhere for catching help.

John Jaso (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 2%, CBS28%) is frigid. Sunday's double was Jaso's first extra base hit since doubling on August 21. He hasn't hit a home run since August 17. It appears his surprising out-of-nowhere pop has gone back into hiding, and his track record suggests it will remain there.

Even with regular playing time in David Ortiz's absence, Ryan Lavarnway (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 10%) hasn’t been able to get into a groove. His big league slash this year is a paltry .169/.239/.269, and he has hit just one home run in 92 plate appearances. Check back next year, as Lavarnway's minor league track record of offensive success is strong and is supported by positive reports, such as this one from Kevin Goldstein.

Sticking Around
It looks like I sold Chris Iannetta (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 2%, CBS 20%) a bit short in recent columns. The power has been there—a .193 ISO and eight home runs in 190 plate appearances—but his .300-plus batting average over the last month has been gravy. There is no reason to cut ties now. Enjoy the ride.

Beyond batting average, Jeff Keppinger (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 15%, CBS 20%) has contributed little to fantasy rosters recently. In the Rays’ last 10 games Keppinger has scored one run, hit zero home runs, tallied two RBI, and stolen zero bases. That's not helping fantasy rosters, but he wouldn't be sticking around this article if he was truly doing nothing at all. He hit a scintillating .369 in 84 at-bats in August, though he has cooled in September, hitting .286 in 28 at-bats. It's tough to significantly impact batting average this late in the season in roto leagues, but if the standings are incredibly tight in that category, Keppinger remains ownable.

Lost in “The Year of Trout” is the fantastic rookie season Wilin Rosario (Yahoo! 41%, ESPN 38%, CBS 69%) is turning in. His 23 home runs are tied for second amongst catchers, only two fewer than MLB leader A.J. Pierzynski has hit in almost 100 more at-bats. August was Rosario's best month, during which he hit seven home runs and slashed .304/.367/.667 in 79 plate appearances. He hasn't been as good to start September, but the sample is tiny. Exactly half of the Rockies’ remaining games will be at home, where Rosario has hit 15 of his home runs and earned an 871 OPS.

Rosario isn't the only rookie backstop impressing in the National League West; Yasmani Grandal (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 2%, CBS 36%) has been excellent for the Padres. Grandal had no hits in his first 12 at-bats after being activated from the disabled list in late August but has since played much better, hitting .273 with two home runs in 44 at-bats. The knock on Grandal is that 12 of the Padres’ final 21 games will be played at home, where he has hit .210/.310/.355. That should be noted in shallower leagues, but Grandal is too good to cut in deeper leagues based on a poor 71 plate appearance showing at PETCO Park.

If you need some speed, Everth Cabrera (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 3%, CBS 12%) remains widely available. Cabrera has 29 stolen bases in 30 attempts and swiped four bases last week. He brings nothing else to the table, but if a few stolen bases equates to a few roto points, that shouldn’t matter all that much.

Arrivals
A trade to the Nationals has brought Kurt Suzuki (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 7%, CBS 19%) to life, especially of late. In the 15 days prior to Sunday's 0-for-3 effort, Suzuki smoked the ball to the tune of a .385/.472/.676 line with eight runs, three home runs, and nine RBI. In that time span, he's been squaring up the baseball well, hitting line drives on more than a quarter of his batted balls.

He hasn't been flawless, but damn, Manny Machado (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 32%, CBS 67%) has exceeded any reasonable expectations anyone could have had when he was summoned from the minors. He's not walking much—1.8 percent walk rate—but that's only one piece of the offensive puzzle. Machado has a stellar .217 ISO, has smacked four home runs, has stolen one base, and has batted .274. Of course, in fantasy baseball it isn't about what you've done, it is about what you're going to do. Machado's decline in strikeouts and huge jump in line drive rate since the calendar has flipped to September bode well for him over the remainder of the year.

AL-only VP
There are still questions about whether Johnny Giavotella (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%) is a viable option at the keystone position long-term. That said, he has been better in his second look at big league pitching this year. He hit his first home run in the majors this year last Tuesday and stole two bases on Sunday. Giavotella has also recorded at least one hit in six of his last seven games. The only game in which he didn't record a hit during that span was Sunday, when he went 0-for-1 with three walks. He's flashed enough to remain a viable option in AL-only leagues.

NL-only VP
Welington Castillo (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) has wrestled the bulk of the playing time at catcher from Steve Clevenger. Castillo has demonstrated power, ripping four home runs in 121 plate appearances, and has hit for a respectable average (.277) in spite of his propensity for striking out (28 percent strikeout rate). He's hitting line drives at a decent clip (19 percent), and he's kept the pop-ups to a minimum (6.7 percent infield flyball rate), which helps explain his ability to hit for a useful average even with a high strikeout rate. He should be owned in more leagues than he is and is a solid catching option in NL-only leagues.

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