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May 11, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop

by Michael Jong

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
C/2B/SS Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG C 2B SS vRH vLH Rng
Mike Aviles KCR 24 2 5 2 0 .417 .417 .667 .263 .300 .406 0 3 2 –29 +66 4.78
John Baker FLO 83 0 7 6 0 .233 .325 .301 .252 .328 .362 19 0 0 +26 –95 .68/.19
Ian Desmond
WAS 102 3 13 14 3 .264 .323 .462 .238 .305 .381 0 0 28 –12 +29 4.75
Cristian Guzman WAS 103 0 11 9 1 .293 .314 .384 .283 .319 .396 0 19 7 –20 +51 4.72
John Jaso TBR 48 1 7 11 0 .314 .479 .486 .246 .327 .345 13 0 0 +23 –67 .62/.22
Carlos Ruiz PHI 99 1 10 9 0 .325 .465 .429 .252 .355 .375 26 0 0 –22 +60 .60/.24
Cliff Pennington OAK 126 3 14 16 4 .269 .358 .417 .241 .318 .347 0 0 32 +15 –16 4.71
Skip Schumaker STL 129 1 18 5 1 .217 .302 .278 .278 .340 .368 0 27 0 +48 –158 4.22
Chris Snyder ARI 94 5 10 16 0 .247 .383 .481 .225 .330 .374 18 0 0 –21 +47 .52/.20
  Avg for Catcher .256 .324 .397   vRH = OPS v RH
  Avg for Second Base .274 .337 .409   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Shortstop .272 .329 .396   Rng = Range

This week, Value Picks graduates two players and demotes one, all while bringing in three fresh names in completely different situations. Cliff Pennington's usage shot up in ESPN mixed leagues, as he is now owned in 33 percent of leagues, up 17 percent from last week. As it is, he's no longer undervalued, and why should he be? His unexpected hot star finally caught fantasy players' eyes, but note that he has been in decline for the last few weeks, especially in the power categories. Chris Snyder only spent a week in this space, and it was not a pretty one. Snyder hit .154/.421/.154 during that week, with only two hits. Still, he too saw his ownership jump up to 22 percent of ESPN leagues. With Miguel Montero still not available, Snyder should provide pop and playing time at the catcher position for a little while longer. If either of these players are still available in your deeper leagues, go ahead and snatch them up. The one demotion is John Baker, who slumped through a .125/.192/.208 line in his two weeks in the Value Picks portfolio. Baker can and should regress to his norms in due time, but with limited upside in terms of both talent and playing time, Baker should take a back seat in your search for a catcher.

Entering the portfolio are two catchers in completely different scenarios. Value Picks may be a bit late to the John Jaso party, but better late than never. Jaso took the starting role for Tampa Bay when Kelly Shoppach went down with injury and has not looked back since. While that .314/.479/.486 line Jaso put up in 48 PA is a mirage, it's certainly a hot one. Jaso has been good in the minors at avoiding strikeouts (minor league career strikeout rate of 12.2 percent in eight seasons), so he will certainly strike out more than in 4.1 percent of his plate appearances. With the increase in strikeouts, that batting average will fall, though PECOTA projects an above average contact rate of 83 percent that should help keep the AVG afloat. Jaso has never shown much power, but in the Rays lineup, you do not need a whole lot of power to drive in runs. His solid, patient approach at the plate should get him on base to score runs as well, even near the bottom of the lineup. Jaso's skill set compares favorably with Shoppach, with less power and more contact ability, but the results should be similar. With the lion's share of playing time, he's a good player to have on AL-only leagues and leagues with two-catcher requirements.

The same can be said of Carlos Ruiz, though Ruiz' predicament is entirely different. Unlike Jaso, who established himself thanks to an injury, Ruiz was assured playing time as a defense-first catcher for Philadelphia. But so far Ruiz has been all offense as well, batting an absurd .325/.465/.429. Despite the torrid start, the lack of counting stats for Ruiz display his problems; he bats eighth in the National League and has almost no power, particularly outside of Citizen's Bank Ballpark (.101 career road ISO). Furthermore, despite Ruiz' decent knack for avoiding strikeouts (11.3 percent career strikeout rate), he has a naturally low BABIP that deflates his AVG. Matt Swartz' E-BABIP formula pegged him for an expected .286 BABIP, which helps explain his low career AVG of .251. Still, the benefit of guaranteed playing time with a good offense, even in the NL, should give NL-only owners enough reason to consider Ruiz. If he continues his wicked hot streak, all the better for fantasy owners.

The last name joining Value Picks is Royals infielder Mike Aviles. First, it is important to recognize what Aviles is not. He is not obviously going to hit at this pace. He is not the guy who batted .325/.354/.480 (.285 TAv) as a rookie in 2008, but neither is he the guy who was badly hurt during a .183/.208/.250 (.154 TAv) 2009 season. Aviles has proven decent at avoiding strikeouts, striking out in only 14.6 percent of PA for his career. Combined with an average BABIP, and a .270-.280 AVG is not out of reach. Unfortunately, Aviles is allergic to walks, as many Royals are, and is not likely to get on base much. Add on a pathetic Royals lineup outside of Billy Butler and there is good reason to suspect that runs should come with difficulty for Aviles. Aviles does not have the greatest power stroke, but he did hit 10 non-fluky homers (homerun-to-flyball ratio of 8.3 percent) in 2008 and already has two this season. Any power stroke you can get should be a nice added bonus. Aviles is currently sharing playing time at shortstop and second base with Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz according to Heater team expert Jeff Parker, so counting stats should be harder to come by, but he is clearly the best of the three Royals infield options and is a fine addition in AL-only or deeper mixed leagues.

The remaining three names on the Value Picks portfolio have varied in performance since their arrival. Ian Desmond had a nice week last week, tacking on two home runs and adding to his surprising power. Cristian Guzman hit .429/.467/.429 with a run and an RBI last week, but may have lost some playing time to Adam Kennedy according to Heater team expert Paul Bugala. Skip Schumaker continues to struggle with St. Louis, but given his current batted ball profile (including a 28.1 percent line-drive rate), his BABIP should regress to a more suitable range.

The results of the first month of Value Picks have come in, and the up-the-middle guys I suggested have been a bit subpar. A lack of power was to be expected given that these were the three worst offensive positions in the game, but the low batting average was particularly frustrating. A couple of good suggestions that stayed on Value Picks for a while (Pennington, Orlando Hudson, Alberto Callaspo) were couched among some one- or two-week choices that did not turn out well (A.J. Pierzynski, Jeff Clement). All of these players were underrated for a reason, primarily because of slow starts and mediocre projections. Guys like Schumaker and Pierzynski are bound to bounce back given their track records, so patience needs to be exhibited to reap the rewards of these undervalued players.

Name
Start Date
End Date
PA
HR
R
RBI
SB
BA
OBP
SLG
HR/FB
CT%
Jeff Clement
4/13/2010
4/19/2010
13
0
0
0
0
.000
.083
.000
0%
73%
Orlando Hudson
4/13/2010
5/3/2010
85
2
16
11
2
.342
.435
.466
9%
89%
Chris Iannetta
4/13/2010
4/19/2010
13
1
1
1
0
.250
.308
.500
25%
67%
Akinori Iwamura
4/13/2010
4/26/2010
48
1
3
3
0
.163
.250
.233
14%
72%

Cliff Pennington

4/13/2010

5/10/2010

95
1
10
10
3
.268
.348
.366
4%
82%
A.J. Pierzynski
4/13/2010
4/26/2010
35
0
1
2
0
.097
.176
.097
0%
87%
Alberto Callaspo
4/20/2010
5/3/2010
56
1
5
6
1
.313
.382
.500
5%
92%
Ian Desmond
4/20/2010
 
58
2
9
7
2
.273
.310
.473
18%
78%
John Baker
4/27/2010
5/10/2010
26
0
2
0
0
.125
.192
.208
0%
58%
Felipe Lopez
4/27/2010
5/3/2010
0
0
0
0
0
.000
.000
.000
0%
0%
Cristian Guzman
5/4/2010
 
16
0
1
1
0
.429
.467
.429
0%
93%
Skip Schumaker
5/4/2010
 
19
0
0
1
0
.222
.263
.222
0%
78%
Chris Snyder
5/4/2010
5/10/2010
21
0
0
0
0
.154
.421
.154
0%
54%
Total
   
485
8
48
42
8
.248
.328
.354
8%
80%

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

Related Content:  Mike Aviles,  Carlos Ruiz,  John Jaso

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

OTSgamer

What is the thinking on Iannetta? I drafted him in my fantasy league and thought he was a solid choice, but Miguel Olivo took away his starting job. I've since picked up Oliva and dumped Iannetta -- Iannetta is still available to me as a FA -- and while Iannetta seems like the better player, it obviously does me no good to have him sitting down in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

May 11, 2010 08:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

OTSGamer,

Along the same lines as John mentioned, Heater team expert Tom Stephenson said that with Olivo slumping as expected and Iannetta rocking Colorado Springs (also as expected), it won't be long until Iannetta returns to the majors as the starter. It'll depend on whether Colorado is acting logically. When news comes out of his promotion, the free-for-all to snag him must be won, because he's one of the better hitting catchers in the game. He'll hurt you in AVG, but is a great play in all other major categories.

May 11, 2010 10:17 AM
 
OTSgamer

The average doesn't hurt in my league. It's driven largely by power and RBI's, so a poor average is pretty meaningless.

Any guesses on when Iannetta may be called up? I would want to be sure to get him if I choose to go that route, and if I could reasonably guess when he will be called up I would probably be inclined to pick him up a couple of days early, just to make sure I got him. Besides, with Olivo in a 2-28 slump, he has gotten me all of two points in the past week, so it's not like I'll be losing much by having the spot filled by a guy still sitting in Triple-A.

May 11, 2010 10:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member John Burnson
BP staff

If Iannetta is available, he might be the most important FA in your league, especially if you are NL-only. Iannetta has the third-best OPS (.811) among active NL catchers over the last three years. He'll be back soon (he has a 1.029 OPS at Colorado Springs).

May 11, 2010 09:54 AM
 
OTSgamer

I have noticed that Iannetta has been tearing things up in Triple-A, and given Olivo's terrible slump I figure it's only a matter of time before the Rockies recognize that the early-season performance of both was merely a small sample size fluke. Iannetta is available, and I will probably try to get him once he gets called back up.

My issue is that I play in a head-to-head league which, thanks to the scoring structure, places a HUGE value on starting pitchers. I keep one roster spot open to pick up random starting pitchers throughout the week, and we have a cap of seven weekly acquisitions, so I need to be able to keep my hitters stable to allow me to maximize points by using my acquisitions on starting pitchers. Thus, spending two roster spots to platoon catchers really isn't feasible, I need a guy who I can plug into the line-up and be guaranteed of a lot of at-bats every single week.

My concern with Iannetta is that if he gets off to a slow start in his return to the big leagues, the Rockies management will flip out and I'll be right back in the same boat I was to start the year. Now, given his terrible production as of late, I know that I will have to move Olivo shortly anyway -- and, admittedly, Iannetta looks to be a good player -- but if this is going to turn into a cat-and-mouse game with regard to playing time, I'm just going to have to think outside the box a bit and get a catcher from somewhere else. What are your thoughts?

Oh, and by the way, thanks for the reply. This is my first year of fantasy sports, if you couldn't tell, but I've been on BP for a little over a year now. I signed up and started reading and I've been addicted ever since. Keep up the good work.

May 11, 2010 10:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

OTSgamer,

My suspicion is that this one of those demotions that was meant to fire up Iannetta. The Rockies signed him to an extension this offseason, with the idea that he would be the everyday catcher for the team in the conceivable future. They stuck with him most of last year even though he was hitting .220 (the rest of his line was great). If and when he gets promoted, expect the team to have more patience with him. There aren't a whole lot of great catcher options available these days, and none are as good as Iannetta.

May 11, 2010 10:54 AM
 
R.A.Wagman

Michael, what's your take on the Rangers catcher situation? Matt Treanor is back to being Matt Treanor. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is raking in AAA, but is still working off the yips. Taylor Teagarden is still pretty useless, and often not even playing, in AAA. Max Ramirez - is he really even a catcher? Much less an offensively oriented one?
Thanks!

May 11, 2010 11:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

R.A.Wagman,

You know, for a team that once boasted three or four legitimate catchers in their organization, the Rangers sure are light in the catcher position. Remember when they had Laird, Salty, Teagarden, and Ramirez, and all were considered viable? That seems like a long time ago.

The future of the team, if it's with any of these guys, is still in the hands of either Salty or Teagarden. My money is on Salty, as he has shown once before that he can hit major league pitching and the team seems to want to give him every opportunity to win the job. Teagarden's contact issues are scary, even if his walk rate should be decent. As for Treanor, I'm a Marlins fan, and I know Paul Bako clones when I see them. Matt Treanor is a veteran backup with a good defensive reputation and no real production to support a role.

Max Ramirez isn't much of a catcher defensively, you're right, so I don't think he will be the long-term answer. His minor league numbers look a lot like Teagarden's profile minus the highly-regarded defense. That injury that from a few years ago seems to have messed up a lot of what he was good at doing before. I doubt there's much of a future behind the plate for him.

May 11, 2010 14:33 PM
 
R.A.Wagman

Thanks for your input! I built my Scoresheet team with Salty and Teagarden as my catchers, figuring that between them, I'd always have someone playing, but there has to be some solid upside there. Oh, well....

May 11, 2010 15:13 PM
rating: 0
 
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