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September 20, 2012

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 9/20/12

by Michael Street

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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.

Departures
Just like Snow White, Josh Donaldson (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 21%, CBS 22%) disappeared from sight early this season, sent to the minors where the seven dwarfs—er, the Sacramento River Cats—helped him turn things around. His .304/.380/.539 triple-slash since returning, plus his catcher qualification, has pushed him above VP thresholds, so we graduate him happily. The only jealous queen here is the .326 BABIP that’s chasing Donaldson, but there may not be enough time in the season for her and her batting-average poison apple to completely catch up to him.

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.

Arrivals
When Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 3%, CBS 12%) went down earlier this season to a broken forearm, he was expected to be out 10-14 weeks, which would have put his return at the end of the season. Only a wish granted by the Genie, it seemed, would get this Jafar back on the field in 2012. But Cleveland’s third baseman of the future made it back at the short end of that projection, returning to the Indians’ lineup on September 10. You can read my analysis of Chisenhall from his VP appearance earlier this season, but the quick version is that he’s a mid-level third baseman who’s been hampered by his overly aggressive plate approach. In 28 plate appearances since returning, he has struck out 10 times, so that remains a problem, but he’s also walked three times, balancing that micro-sample 36 percent K% with an 11 percent BB%. The results have also been good; he’s logged a .280/.357/.560 triple-slash since coming back. He’ll get the playing time, allowing his oft-referenced sweet swing to deliver decent returns in batting average and power.

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.

Year

BA/OBP/SLG

K%

BABIP

2010

.308/.337/.481

25.1

.387

2011

.251/.291/.378

24.0

.317

2012

.275/.322/.447

26.2

.349

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.

Incumbents
Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 9%, CBS 26%) is a fantasy Bambi—not for his cute wintertime antics but for his light-weight results at the plate. Despite hitting over .300 for most of the last four months, Pacheco hasn’t provided corner-infield power. His .306 batting average ranks fourth among third basemen with at least 400 plate appearances, but his .110 ISO is only better than Jamey Carroll and Alberto Callaspo in that same group. His 28 doubles so far this season hint at power to come, and his shift higher in the order has enabled him to improve his counting stats. His 65 September plate appearances represent only one-seventh of his 448 plate appearances, but he’s collected one-third of his RBI and one-fifth of his runs this month. He may not be able to help you thump your opposition, but the light-hitting Pacheco will still bring good value in other categories.

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.

AL-only VP
Although his physique is reminiscent of Shrek (okay, not Disney, but bear with me), Mauro Gomez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) actually lumbered around the bags for a two-run triple on Friday, helping boost his performance to .333/.400/.556 in 10 part-time plate appearances. That timeshare will restrict him from ever impressing Princess Fiona, but he could bring enough value for AL-only owners to sing “Hallelujah.”

NL-only VP
Nobody expected much from Matt Dominguez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 5%) offensively, much as Cinderella’s nasty stepsisters never expected much from her. And while Dominguez’s .257/.311/.371 minor-league line this season didn’t make him the belle of the ball, he’s definitely been living a charmed life since his call-up. He’s currently riding a five-game hit streak that includes his fourth home run of the season (and third this month). Like other hot hitters, Dominguez won’t sustain his .290/.319/.522 line, but you can stick with him until he cools off—which may not happen until 2013.

Playing Pepper
Gaby Sanchez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 17%, CBS 14%) has flitted in and out of the Pirates lineup like Tinkerbell, collecting a pair of two-hit games last week, but he needs to provide more than the occasional spark to be considered a fantasy asset.

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.

Related Content:  Triple-A,  Espn,  Jordan Pacheco

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