May 25, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
There is not much in the way of changes for the Hot Spots Value Picks portfolio this week, with just one graduation and one new entry to catalog. Moving on up is 2B/SS Cristian Guzman, who had yet another hot week at the plate (.522/.560/.609 his last six games). Guzman still boasts one of the most empty batting averages in all of baseball, and his current .402 BABIP is absolutely unsustainable. For those of you who picked him up, that AVG is sure to drop, but a .290-.300 AVG is certainly within reach. Despite the perenially low walk rates, Guzman should be good for some runs batting at the top of the Nationals lineup. If you do not need the help in AVG, however, there are probably better options going forward.
With fantasy players digging deep for value in their leagues, Value Picks has to wade through some players with glaring holes in their game right now. The newest entry to Value Picks, Reid Brignac, has one major problem in his game currently: he is sitting in a platoon. Heater team expert Ricky Zanker has Brignac taking only 40% of PA at second base as the lefty in the platoon. The good news? Not only is Brignac making the most of his time at the plate, but his platoon partner, Sean Rodriguez, is not capitalizing on his own opportunities. Despite being on the better side of the platoon, Brignac still splits PA with Rodriguez against right-handed pitching; over the last three weeks, Brignac has had 23 PA versus righties, while Rodriguez has collected 11. However, Rodriguez has been awful, hitting .214/.263/.343 so far, while Brignac has shined, batting .299/.365/.448. As a result, there is a good chance that Brignac will receive more of the lion's share of playing time against righties in the future.
His power displayed so far seems plausible, as his .149 ISO this season is right in line with his careeer .168 ISO in the minors. However, his walk rate looks a little high for his plate discipline numbers; Brignac is swinging at over 38% of pitches outside of the strike zone, yet he is being bailed out by making contact on 86% of those swings. When that high contact rate regresses, you can expect more strikeouts and fewer walks. However, with increased playing time in the potent Rays lineup, he shoiuld be in line for more runs and RBI. Brignac is definitely playing a bit over his head right now, but he is still a decent option for AL-only leagues or leagues in which lineups can be set daily.
The remainder of the Value Picks maintain tenuous holds on their spots. Ian Desmond was the worst performer of the group last week, batting just .257/.278/.286 in 36 PA. His playing time is not in jeopardy, so owners in NL- or deeper leagues can still hold onto him, but he is not much of an option right now in shallowed mixed leagues. Felipe Lopez' return from the DL was a success, but in a completely unexpected fashion. Lopez racked up 29 PA this week, but put up an uncharacteristically low .240 AVG. Where he excelled was surprisingly in the power deparment, as he drove in six runs with three extra-base hits, including two home runs. Right now, Lopez' Bash (TB/H) of 1.88 is far higher than his career 1.49 mark, so enjoy the power surge while it lasts.
John Jaso had a limited week (just 19 PA) but made the most of it, batting .467/.579/.867 with three extra-base hits and four walks. Kelly Shoppach, the catcher the Rays acquired this past offseason, is coming off the DL soon, and Heater expert Zanker reports that the team will have a tough decision to make on the subsequent demotion. Jaso has a minor league option remaining, while backup Dioner Navarro has no options left and would have to be released. Jaso's time in the spotlight may be nearing an end. The two other catchers maintain solid holds on Value Picks spots as well. Ronny Paulino is coming off a .263/.333/.474 week, but only received 20 PA. Backup catcher Brett Hayes stole three starts and 13 PA during the week despite also being a right-handed hitter. Carlos Ruiz suffered through a 1-for-17 weeek, but remains entrenched as the starter in Philadelphia and should get time to shake that week off.