September 20, 2012
First, Third, and DH for 9/20/12
This column is coming a few days late since I spent a week with my brother’s family in Orlando—a trip that, of course, included a day at Disney World. Inspired by the visit, I’m giving this week a Disney theme (instead of the other video I introduced my nephews to). After all, sometimes Value Picks makes me feel like WALL-E, sifting through the discards of other teams to find something worth saving. With only a dozen games to play, we’re all hoping to run across the final piece of the puzzle to put us in the money for our fantasy league and make our dreams come true.
Jiminy Cricket! Brandon Belt (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 29%, CBS 41%) has had a good September, hitting .283/.327/.500 in 49 plate appearances, including his fifth and sixth home runs of the season. With 13 RBI, he’s also on pace for his best month in that category since driving home 15 in June. That’s pushed him over VP thresholds too and may have turned him into the kind of star you can wish upon.
“Goofy” is the best way to explain Brett Wallace’s (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 9%) performance thus far. Through September 9, Wallace had a .364 BABIP, and he enjoys a 29 percent line drive rate on the season. That’s well above the league average and has helped him overcome his 29 percent strikeout rate to post a .262 batting average. He’s started to decline recently, however, with a .125/.192/.167 line over his last 26 plate appearances and a .239/.280/.341 average over the past four weeks. That, plus a hyperextended elbow that held him out for a few days and has reportedly weakened his production, tells me not to wait around until Goofy finishes his fall from grace.
Like Alice in Wonderland, Chris Johnson (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 22%, CBS 50%) lived in a strange mirror world of his own in 2010, a world where players with high strikeout rates succeed via an unnaturally high BABIP.
After his breakout 2010, most of us expected his 2011 dropoff, but he’s rebounded in 2012, returning to that bizarre 2010 mirror world. I haven’t made Johnson a VP because of his flawed plate approach, but he’s hit .267/.302/.500 with Arizona, where the Mad Hatter Ryan Wheeler (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) and his .221/.277/.326 production offer little sane competition. I would never recommend Johnson over an entire season, but he’s been hot lately and could remain in Wonderland long enough to bring your team value.
After a breakthrough 2011, Lucas Duda (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 27%, CBS 27%) turned into Sleeping Beauty, slumbering through much of the season with a .245/.335/.391 triple-slash line before the Mets demoted him in July. He’s come back to life since then, hitting .271/.306/.458 in 62 plate appearances—strong enough for the Mets to give him a look at first base with an eye towards trading Ike Davis in the offseason. His outfield qualification made him a VP for Paul Singman a few weeks ago, and that remains his most valuable fantasy position, but he’ll offer modest first base value too. As Paul said when he cut him loose, Duda is not terribly exciting, but the competition could motivate Duda to stay hot—he’s doubled three times and homered in his last five starts—and make your fantasy dreams come true.
Chris Carter (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 4%, CBS 28%) reminds me of Buzz Lightyear not only because his home runs seem to go towards infinity and beyond but also because Carter is someone from the future—your team’s future. Long expected to deliver on his power potential, Carter has finally come into his own this season, hammering 14 home runs in 227 plate appearances, but the brisk wind accompanying this performance has continued. He’s improved his whiff rate from last season’s astronomical 44 percent… but only to a stratospheric 31 percent. Carter has kept his batting average above water with a .327 BABIP through September 5, but the fairy has abandoned him lately, plummeting to .125 over his last 27 plate appearances—good for a .048/.259/.095 triple-slash. He’s still got the power to deliver a laser-beam homer now and again, so redraft owners can wish upon a star that he’ll find his stroke again, but he’s got more value in keeper leagues to see if he can continue his development in 2013.
The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber; their bottoms are made out of springs. Though Tigger claims to be the only one, Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 9%, CBS 41%) has also bounced around a lot this season. Named a VP earlier this season, Alonso lasted a week before his batting average crested .300 and his ownership levels shot through the VP roof. After he bounced off that ceiling, Alonso sunk to a .250/.322/.343 triple-slash a month later and once again found himself on many waiver wires. Sensing a Tigger-like rebound, I added Alonso to the VP list, and he repaid owners with a .301/.366/.445 line over his next 232 plate appearances. Despite that nice peak, his ownership rates remained stubbornly unchanged, possibly due to his weak slugging. I gave him a warning last week after he slid back, but those Tigger springs kicked in again; he’s hit .474/.560/.737 since that warning, including his eighth homer and two more doubles, bringing his rookie-leading total in the latter category to 35. All of this relentless bouncing is to be expected, particularly from a young player, and Alonso’s core ratios of 16 percent K% and 10 percent BB% remain solid, so stick with him over the final weeks and hope that he remains on an upward trajectory.
It must be midnight for Todd Frazier (Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 37%, CBS 65%), who has turned back into a pumpkin, managing a feeble .240/.313/.333 in the past four weeks to dash his hopes of attending the Rookie of the Year ball.
Like Hanson in Scary Movie 2 (produced by Disney’s Dimension Films), Mitch Moreland (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 35%, CBS 29%) is half weak and half strong, hitting .329/.352/.587 at home and .232/.310/.391 on the road. Play him accordingly, if you can.
After a season when he often looked like Mater, Adam Lind (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 19%, CBS 27%) has begun looking more like Lightning McQueen, hitting .350/.333/.750 last week to try and save his career from the Toronto scrap yard.
Seattle’s ugly stepsisters Justin Smoak (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 3%, CBS 18%) and Mike Carp (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 10%, CBS 6%) are battling for first-base supremacy, but neither seem worth the attentions of Prince Charming—or your fantasy squad.
Matt Carpenter (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 3%, CBS 10%) qualifies at four different fantasy positions, making fantasy’s ever-adaptable Mr. Potato Head, though his playing time limits him to deeper mixed and NL-only leagues.