May 4, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
There is a lot of movement in the recent Value Picks, with three players heading out for different reasons and three new available names coming in. One of the names on his way off the list is Felipe Lopez, who managed to find his way onto Value Picks on the exact day that he was placed on the DL. Lopez suffered an elbow injury likely tied to him having to pitch in the infamous 20-inning game between St. Louis and New York. Once he returns from injury, he may yet be a viable pickup, but right now he should not remain on your roster. The other two players leaving Value Picks are Alberto Callaspo and Orlando Hudson, but they are heading out for good reasons. Callaspo is now taken in 24.1% of ESPN mixed leagues, while Hudson is taken in 16.8% of those leagues, meaning neither player is really under the radar any longer.
Three news faces will now grace us with their presence on Value Picks. One name of interest in Arizona's Chris Snyder. Coming into the season, Snyder was a man without a job. Heading into 2009, he had played five seasons and compiled a respectable .232/.338/.402 career slash line. He had just come off a second straight season with over 10 HR and 20 2B, showing solid power despite limited playing time. He had also up until that point compiled a career walk rate of 10.5%, making up for his generally poor batting average. One injury-marred season later and he was a castoff in Arizona, replaced by the younger Miguel Montero, who had an impressive 2009 campaign replacing Snyder.
However, Snyder received his shot to prove himself when Montero landed on the disabled list with a knee injury. So far, Snyder has taken advantage, putting up an impressive .266/.374/.547 slash line and belting five homers in just 75 PA. Now, all those rates are bound to regress, particularly the batting average. Snyder has a career K% (K/PA) of 22.3 percent, putting him among the biggest strikeout artists in the game. His BABIP at the moment is .308, which is not terribly inflated, but it's a good deal off of his career rate (.275) and is probably high for a typical slow-footed catcher who hits the ball in the air more often than not. Snyder does make it on base more than enough thanks to his walk rate, and Arizona provides an excellent lineup and park in which offense can thrive. Expect a regression in the power and AVG department, but expect Snyder to be closer to his PECOTA-projected 60th and 70th percentile lines rather than his weighted mean going forward.
Another player benefiting from injury is Skip Schumaker, who now has a full stranglehold on his second base job with Lopez on the DL. Schumaker's game hasn't been pretty so far, but no one should expect a player with that speed to post a .244 BABIP. Despite the increased walk rate, Schumaker has actually been more aggressive than usual, swinging at 50 percent of pitches thrown to him, including swinging at 34 percent of those outside of the zone. He's also made more contact than he has in years past, including making contact on 85 percent of pitches outside the zone. Perhaps this contact has been of the poorer variety, leading to more outs on balls in play. Regardless, while the results of his slash line aren't pretty, that run total is still impressive. After all, Schumaker leads off for St. Louis, meaning he will still have plenty of opportunities to score thanks to Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Going forward, a .280+ average and .340+ OBP are not out of the question, and the runs should continue to pile up. With guaranteed playing time, Schumaker is a decent option in any of your leagues, and an obvious choice in NL-only leagues.
The last new addition to Value Picks comes straight out of the Empty Batting Average department. Cristian Guzman almost epitomizes the high-average slap hitter over the course of his career, with a career slash of .271/.307/.376 and a more recent three-year run of .319/.354/.446 with Washington. Guzman has yet to learn how to take a walk, in part because he has a healthy contact rate and in part because he swings at a higher than average number of pitches. Guzman never did have much power either, with a career ISO of .105 and a HR/FB% of 5.1 percent from 2002-2010. His main appeal is that average and the position he plays, shortstop. Now that he's firmly established a decent amount of playing time after his early season benching (Heater expert Paul Bugala has him splitting time with Adam Kennedy at second and getting 25 percent of the chances at shortstop), he is now a viable play in NL-only leagues as a last-ditch shortstop. Guzman also gets a few bonus points for qualifying at second base as well. Expect a good AVG and a decent run count batting at the top of the order with boppers Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn driving him in.
The remaining Value Picks remain decent, available options. Cliff Pennington had another hot week, going .400/.444/.600 and hitting another home run along with two doubles. He's still available in just over 97 percent of ESPN leagues, so if he remain open in your mixed league, he should be worth a roster spot on the bench in case of your starting shortstop goes down. The other two names had middle-of-the-road weeks, with Ian Desmond just hanging on to his spot. With Guzman continuing to perform, Desmond needs to step it up to maintain his hold on the starting shortstop job.