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May 6, 2011

Don't Believe the Hype

Gaping Hole at Third Base Edition

by Marc Normandin

The top five players added this week are all ones we haven't seen in this space before, and they combine for a diverse set of skills. The most-dropped players are once again an obvious set: Matt Harrison, who (predictably) stinks again, tops the list, and he is followed by players such as David Freese (surgery), Travis Wood (bumped from a job), and Chris Narveson (gravity). You can make the case for keeping Narveson in NL-only leagues due to his strikeouts, but otherwise, let him walk.

Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals (75 percent owned, +32 percent)
Aviles has third base eligibility and has hit well as of late—with the bottom falling out of the third base market due to injuries in the past week-plus, it's no wonder he has seen a significant uptick in ownership.

Aviles isn't going to slug over .500, but there is no reason to think he can't match his career line of .296/.326/.432 as long as the Royals let him play. Kansas City has been using him a little all over the place, with 13 games started at third, six at second, and even one at DH—as long as he sticks in the lineup every day somewhere, he will have value.

He was a two-star player heading in to the season, and as long as injuries persist at the hot corner, there will be room for someone like Aviles on a roster. If you miss out on Aviles in deeper leagues, there is also room for teammate Wilson Betemit, who is playing just as often as Aviles and is owned in 36 percent of leagues—Betemit has hit .303/.377/.504 over the last season plus (414 PA).

Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (53 percent owned, +29 percent)
Hosmer got a write-up Monday as a Triple-A first baseman who may find his way to the majors sooner than later due to a struggling player (in his case, Kila Ka'aihue) in front of him on the depth chart. See the 29 percent add rate for this week? You can probably guess what happened yesterday.

The gist of Hosmer's potential for 2011 can be found in this paragraph:

Hosmer has excellent strike zone recognition—he struck out 66 times in 2010 while walking 59 times—and has shown that off at Omaha with 13 walks and 13 strikeouts in his 97 plate appearances. PECOTA doesn't expect Hosmer to retain that kind of ratio if he hit the majors, but at .274/.329/.443 (.271 TAv), the forecasting system at least thinks he would put up a capable rookie performance. Things are better at the 90th percentile, of course, with PECOTA projecting Hosmer to hit .312/.371/.506 (.306) with 90 strikeouts against 44 walks.

Chances are good—considering he has a .143 ISO at the level and has done most of his damage by hitting .439—that Hosmer will be closer to that .271 TAv in the majors than the 90th percentile level. In keeper leagues, you want him (and may already have him). In AL-only leagues, you should pick him up (especially if you just lost Ghostface Kila to a demotion). In standard mixed without keeper, though… well, the answer has a lot more to do with your first base depth. Justin Smoak is available in 30 percent of CBS leagues and 26 percent of ESPN leagues—if you are in one of those that has the Smoak Monster still, I would head that way before I dropped FAAB money or my waiver priority on Hosmer, who very well may end up back in the minors if he struggles with the transition to the majors.

Jack Hannahan, Cleveland Indians (39 percent owned, +27 percent)
Hannahan is intriguing as a short-term hole filler; as mentioned, third base is a mess right now, and Hannahan is surprisingly hitting for the Indians. As a career .229/.314/.357 hitter, his current TAv of .313 won't last. If you're desperate—meaning other third basemen mentioned in this space today are already gone—then Hannahan is worth considering until he turns back into a pumpkin. Just don't drop anyone with a longer shelf life (read: any shelf life) than Hannahan to acquire him.

Jason Marquis, Washington Nationals (37 percent owned, +26 percent)
You know and I know why Marquis is getting this many additions. His ERA is 2.62, plopping him atop many free agent lists, and he has three wins in five tries with the Nationals. Let's step back for a moment and reflect on this short-term performance: Marquis, since 2008 and including his little April stretch of goodness here, has a 4.49 ERA in his last 481 innings pitched to go along with 4.9 strikeouts per nine and a K/BB of 1.5.

The key to his success in 2011 is an unsustainable 1.6 walk rate that has buoyed his K/BB rate to heights unseen throughout Marquis's career. The right-hander, in his 11-year career, has never had a K/BB of even 2.0 in his entire career, lest you round up his 1.97 mark from 2004, when he was working with Cardinals pitching warlock Dave Duncan.

If Marquis is living in the strike zone to avoid walks, he is going to get burned eventually. Pitchers with his stuff can't get away with the Dan Haren/James Shields game plan, and by the time you get your hands on Marquis, he will likely be reverting into unusable mixed-league form.

Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays (36 percent owned, +21 percent)
Joyce has gone on a mini tear as of late, bumping his line up to .345/.398/.506. He is a career .258/.352/.489 hitter who has never had the opportunity to play every day. With playing time, that line has value—Joyce could nab double-digits in stolen bases while hitting a few homers, and he gets on base often enough to score plenty in the Rays' lineup. Without playing time, however, Joyce is basically Josh Willingham. That is fine in real life, but in fantasy, it means little outside of the confines of AL-only.

Joyce won't play often against lefties, so in leagues with weekly lineup changes, it's tough to justify picking him up. If you have daily changes and another outfielder to pop in whenever Joyce is facing a southpaw starter, though, then you could make it work.

AL-only

Scott Sizemore, Detroit Tigers (13 percent owned, +10 percent)
Sizemore tore things up at Triple-A Toledo, hitting .408/.495/.605 in his 92 plate appearances there this year. That puts him at .315/.392/.487 in parts of three seasons there, and has earned him another shot at a gig in Detroit.

Sizemore is not being given the second base job outright with the Tigers, but, if he continues to hit, he will be the one getting those plate appearances. PECOTA projects him for a line of .260/.328/.394—a little below-average at the keystone—but the system does have faith for him at the upper level forecasts. In AL-only leagues, he is worth a shot, given the lack of options at second.

NL-only

Emilio Bonifacio (11 percent owned, +8 percent)
Bonifacio is hitting .329 and has a pair of steals, and the Marlins would still like him to turn into an every day player—that means he will get another chance to prove he should be one. The 26-year-old is eligible at third base as well as every outfield slot right now, and has one game at second this year to boot. It's hard to top his versatility, but he needs to both hit decently—PECOTA sees that as a stretch, with a .229 weighted-mean TAv and a 90th percentile of just .256—and play all the time.

He is worth the risk in NL-only, though, especially given he has third base eligibility during a rough stretch at that position. He may swipe a few bags for you before his average and on-base percentage come back down to Earth, and it's hard to ask for much more than that out of short-term FAAB fodder in deep leagues.

Related Content:  Jack Hannahan

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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Q&A: Mark T... (05/06)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Don't Believe the Hype... (04/29)
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