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August 30, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
Another solid, SLG-heavy week from the Value Picks list means just one change, swapping a newly injured third baseman for one recently healed. Edwin Encarnacion hit the DL Saturday with a wrist injury—a timely move, as he’d have been dropped from the VP list anyway. Since ending a ten-game hit streak on July 27, EEE’s hit just .241/.300/.398 in 90 PAs, with only two multi-hit games. His strong 83% contact rate wasn’t enough to overcome his tepid 6% walk rate and a career-high 30.7% swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone.
His injury allows us to promote Mark Teahen from the bubble, where he’s sat the last two weeks. Teahen returned from a fractured finger on August 13, and he appears to be hale and hearty after bruising that same finger and missing a game. He hit .417/.500/.583 the rest of the week, continuing a strong return from injury, as he’s hit .343/.378/.571 since coming back, despite striking out 10 times in 35 ABs.
Since Teahen was performing solidly earlier this season—he’s been a VP before—health and playing time are of greater concern than secondary skills. HEATER team expert Rob McQuown sees Teahen playing about 60% of the time among third, right field and DH. That will depress Teahen’s counting numbers, but his ratios should be strong, and Ozzie could increase his playing time if he keeps producing. The shallow third-base talent pool gives him value in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.
That small talent pool makes Danny Valencia’s continued absence from fantasy rosters especially puzzling. The young prospect has hit .333/.370/.484 since assuming the starting role on July 24, and has made great contact of late, striking out just three times in 56 PAs since August 13. Even after Justin Morneau returns, Valencia should stick in the starting lineup. Despite all this, he’s still out there in more than 95% of ESPN leagues—Valencia deserves more love than this.
Valencia’s teammate Jim Thome had a typical Thome week, from the strained back that took him out of the lineup on Saturday to his .125/.300/.500 line, courtesy of one hit (a homer) and one walk in 10 PAs. That’s the kind of performance you should expect from Thome, whose back injury is not expected to keep him out for long; he’s also available in about 95% of ESPN leagues.
Similar to Thome in performance and back issues, Russell Branyan had four hits—three for extra bases—and nine strikeouts in 22 PAs last week. On a better team, he might have delivered more than one run and two RBI; however, his back seems fine. His nearly 9% ESPN ownership, highest among VPs, means he’s probably still on the wire in your league if you need pop and OBP and can sacrifice BA.
Matt Joyce, on the other hand, should be delivering more BA with his 21% contact rate and 17% walk rate, but his .253 BABIP drags it down. That’s changed in the past two weeks, when he hit .278/.464/.444, and he added to both his steal and home run totals last week. Recent Rays signee Brad Hawpe should affect DH Willy Aybar’s playing time, not fellow lefty Joyce’s. On just 1% of ESPN rosters, Joyce remains woefully undervalued.
Although Mitch Moreland collected just two hits in 12 PAs, he’s strong overall and still starting against all but the toughest lefties. Moreland’s rising strikeout rate—8 in his last 31 ABs—bears watching, but for now, last week looks like typical rookie scuffling. Expect him to straighten things out soon.
On The Bubble
Jack Cust keeps hitting well, collecting six hits in 19 PAs last week, including a dinger and two doubles. His strikeouts will hold your BA down, but he makes a good September gamble for OBP, HR and SLG.
Bubble-icious Travis Hafner would be on the VP list if DH weren’t already strongly represented. He’s hit .324/.405/.486 since returning from the DL, including .333/.412/.467 last week. Expect BA and OBP, but not SLG, from him, along with slightly diminished counting numbers.
Kila Ka'aihue returns to the bubble after his bat came to life. Homers in back-to-back games and five hits in 19 PAs gave him a .263/.391/.632 line, though his 2010 overall numbers remain modest. Only time will tell if this a brief spike or a turnaround, but he’ll get the playing time to prove it, making him a decent gamble.
If Ka’aihue’s bat came to life, Marcus Thames’ bat was reincarnated as Babe Ruth’s war club: Thames swatted four homers in 15 PAs last week. Injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman opened up playing time for him, but both should return this week. So if you jump aboard Mr. Thames’ Wild Ride, remember that it ends soon.