CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

World Series time! Enjoy Premium-level access to most features through the end of the Series!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Contractual Matters: G... (06/14)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: An Unlik... (06/14)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (06/15)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Monda... (06/14)

June 14, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter

by Michael Street

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
1B/3B/DH Team PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG BA OBP SLG 1B 3B DH vRH vLH Rng
Daric Barton OAK 283 4 32 23 0 .283 .398 .429 .259 .357 .411 64 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
Russell Branyan CLE 152 8 20 20 0 .259 .331 .481 .236 .344 .442 37 0 0 +33 –92 1.84
Travis Hafner CLE 219 6 21 24 0 .246 .356 .404 .261 .350 .423 0 0 51 +26 –77
Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK 259 6 27 34 0 .287 .320 .406 .274 .327 .442 0 61 0 –11 +29 2.67
Gaby Sanchez FLA 239 7 31 28 1 .283 .357 .458 .260 .337 .422 57 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Justin Smoak TEX 178 6 21 24 1 .220 .337 .387 .253 .348 .392 46 0 0 –4 +12
Mike Sweeney SEA 99 6 11 16 1 .258 .323 .483 .260 .323 .398 2 0 20 +29 –88
Chad Tracy CHN 34 0 3 2 0 .250 .294 .281 .247 .317 .369 2 5 0 +19 –65 1.85
Subscribe to Heater Avg for First Base .275 .359 .477   vRH = OPS v RH
Heater Magazine Avg for Third Base .269 .339 .434   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Desig. Hitter .263 .350 .468   Rng = Range

Patience pays off for our Value Picks, as most of the current list had a good week, except for Mike Sweeney, who hit the DL and thus gets a VP pink slip. At the other end of the performance spectrum, Kevin Kouzmanoff’s 13-for-25 week (all singles) and 14-game hit streak attracted enough attention to push him above the 20% ownership threshold, making him an ex-VP, too.

Replacing Kouz is a challenge, as the hot-corner talent pool has dried substantially due to injuries on both Chicago teams and lack of production in Atlanta, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Several of these situations might produce VPs down the road, but the Cubs provides the best Value Pick option right now, as Jeff Baker-Chad Tracy platoon replaces the injured Aramis Ramirez.

Baker’s career .184 ISO seems enticing, but his 26% career strikeout rate and severe platoon splits—his career OPS is 214 points higher against LHP—should discourage any real excitement. The lion's share of the PT goes to lefty Chad Tracy, who has been ripping up Triple-A pitching with a .396/.427/.648 slash line and a great 90% contact rate.

Of course, since Tracy’s a 30-year-old with more than 2500 PAs in MLB, he ought to be going crazy in the minors. His problem has been doing the same in the majors, as evidenced by his .682 OPS over the past two seasons. Knee surgery and ribcage problems dragged down his SLG, which plunged from .454 to .389, even as he improved his contact skills, dropping his strikeout rates from 18.9% to 14.4%.

Like Baker, Tracy features dramatic platoon splits, with a career OPS 225 points lower against fellow lefties. Unlike Baker, Tracy offers very little pop, making up for it with that excellent contact rate. As a result, PECOTA gives him BA and OBP respectability above his 60th percentile, but he only provides good SLG value above his 80th percentile.

Citing Piniella’s reactionary tendencies towards streakiness and other issues, HEATER expert Rob McQuown isn’t confident that Tracy’s role is assured, and Ramirez’s DL stay shouldn’t be long, so keep that in mind if you pick up Tracy. He’ll boost your BA and—if he continues to bat in the middle of the order—counting numbers, making him suitable for NL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues; just keep your expectations moderate in a tough market for valuable 3B.

First basemen have a deeper talent pool, and BP reader davelamb asked last week whether Justin Smoak might make a worthy VP addition. Owners were all over the switch-hitter after his April callup, but a .175/.291/.316 line through the end of May scared them off, and he’s available again in almost 87% of ESPN leagues. Since he’s raised his overall line to .220/.337/.387 with a hot .317/.428/.537 start to June, he could be turning a corner.

Right now, Smoak seems like Jack Cust without the long ball, since he walks a lot (16 BB% in minors), whiffs a lot (20 K% in minors), but doesn’t offer much pop (.461 minor-league SLG). That strikeout rate has risen to 25% so far this year, with last night's 5-K performance boosting it to 37% in June, though his walk rate remains the same. He continues to flail against left-handed pitching, widening a career 313-point platoon deficit to a 507-point chasm in 2010.

This tells you why PECOTA’s line isn’t bullish from a power perspective, as he’d need to pass his 90th percentile to help you in SLG. His OBP, on the other hand, becomes above-average in his 60th percentile, while his BA doesn't do so until the 70th. Smoak’s youth and expected power growth make him a good gamble for deeper mixed and NL-only leagues, particularly those that count OBP. His .283/.408/.485 performance against righties this year is already roster-worthy, and Texas isn't scheduled to face any southpaws this week. Expect the inevitable rookie ups and downs, but the former should outweigh the latter, especially after Smoak's cold start to the season.

In spite of strong weeks from the rest of the VP list, all of them remain available in at least 95% of ESPN leagues. Gaby Sanchez’s .471/.474/1.000 performance saw him add 7 RBI and 3 HR to his totals, and Daric Barton rebounded for a solid .283/.398/.429 week. In Cleveland, Matt LaPorta’s demotion means increased PT for Russell Branyan (.333/.391/.476 last week, with 1 HR) and Travis Hafner (.263/.318/.684 last week, with two doubles and two dingers). The Indians head away from home for interleague play after the 18th, making Hafner a good play until the weekend, but he’ll take a break from the VP list after that due to the absence of the DH.

8 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Contractual Matters: G... (06/14)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: An Unlik... (06/14)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (06/15)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Monda... (06/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Octo...
Pebble Hunting: An Illustrated Guide to the ...
Raising Aces: Ghosts of World Series Past
Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and Game 3 P...
Playoff Prospectus: A Decade of Planning an ...
Playoff Prospectus: Never-Wrong Ned?
Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and Game Fou...

MORE FROM JUNE 14, 2010
Premium Article Game Story: For the Nonce
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Stop, Drop and Roll
Premium Article On the Beat: Monday Update
Premium Article Under The Knife: Monday Update
Premium Article Future Shock: Monday Ten Pack
Premium Article Contractual Matters: Griffey: A Financial Re...
The Week in Quotes: June 7-13

MORE BY MICHAEL STREET
2010-07-05 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-06-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-06-21 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-06-14 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-06-07 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-05-31 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-05-24 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
More...

MORE FANTASY BEAT
2010-06-16 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Oakland Outfield Roulette
2010-06-16 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Bucs Call Up Alvarez
2010-06-15 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Bas...
2010-06-14 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
2010-06-14 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: An Unlikely .300 Hitter
2010-06-11 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers
2010-06-11 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #11
More...