June 22, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
Another week and another singular change in the Value Picks portfolio. This week, Sean Rodriguez and his hot June graduate from Value Picks, and an alumni in Mike Aviles returns to the portfolio. Rodriguez had an off week (.095/.095/.143 in 21 PA) but that did not stop ESPN owners from picking him up off the waiver wires, as his ownership skyrocketed to 41.3% of ESPN mixed leagues. However, don't think that off week was some aberration; Rodriguez AVG is due for some regression. What he can hopefully do to make up for it is take some more walks (right now, he's walking in just 3.2% of his PA) and hit for more power, two things PECOTA expects a lot of. If he is available and you need the middle infield help, he is still a solid pickup, provided you can handle the low AVG.
Returning to the portfolio is Mike Aviles, a resident from a few weeks back. Aviles' profile has not changed since the last time he was in this space; due to a low strikeout rate (currently 11.3%), his batting average should stay afloat provided a decent BABIP. Aviles' current .343 BABIP is probably on the high side, but PECOTA projects a BABIP around .316 based on previous performance, and such a rate would keep his AVG around .280. The rest of Aviles' appeal comes in playing time, as he is fully entrenched in the second base job in Kansas City. Some regression on his power numbers is also in order, though it is unlikely that he will have more than a .130 ISO. Still, with his playing time and surprisingly decent hitters in front of him at the bottom of the Royals order, Aviles should continue to at least provide runs and a few more RBI going forward.
Just because VP only had one change this week does not mean that the incumbents are safe. Both Reid Brignac and Felipe Lopez are on their last VP legs. Brignac has been due for some regression for a while, and last week's .067/.222/.067 line may have kicked that off rather quickly. Most projection systems have him hitting .250-.270 going forward, and at that point his only major value would be in counting stats. With the return of Jason Bartlett to the Rays' lineup, however, Brignac's playing time has dropped slightly according to Heater expert Ricky Zanker. With less PT and a regressing AVG, Brignac's appeal is diminishing. If Brignac is to steal back some PT, it will be from a regressing Sean Rodriguez, who is commanding the lion's share of PT at second base but is due for a bit a slump as well.
Lopez has quietly had an awful month of June, batting just .191/.283/.255. His problems lie with an increased strikeout rate. Even with a slightly above average BABIP (currently at .310), the strikeout rate of almost 22% has put Lopez at a meager .248 AVG. As mentioned before in this space, Lopez' primary appeal for most roto leagues is in AVG, and without it his value suffers. That strikeout rate is in line for regression, and subsequently the AVG should go up. This would help Lopez tremendously, but fantasy owners do not have the time to wait so patiently for regression, and neither does VP.
The remaining three players still look like solid plays. Ronny Paulino continues to impress despite an odd lack of power. Right now, his AVG is inflated with a .353 BABIP, very high for a slow-footed catcher. Still, the lack of strikeouts is appealing, and a .270 AVG going forward is expected. Paulino will be the starting catcher for at least the next four to six weeks, as former platoon mate John Baker has been held out of baseball activities until then. John Jaso continues to get playing time at both catcher and DH for the Rays, and his strikeout/walk ratio is still impressive enough to warrant play. His lack of power is evident, but because of the excellent walk rate and AVG, he holds extra value right now in OBP and OPS leagues. Finally, Neil Walker is also benefiting from some BABIP luck, but he has also yet to flash the power that is so appealing for a second baseman. He hit one homer this past week and had a solid overall performance, scoring six runs and upping his AVG with a .308/.308/.462 week. He remains an excellent pickup for NL leagues, and he may yet be available; currently, he is owned in only 4.7% of ESPN mixed leagues.