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June 6, 2011

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH

by Michael Street

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Third base is a tough position to fill in most years, and injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Alvarez, Pablo Sandoval, and David Wright have made matters even tougher for fantasy owners in 2011. Although I try to cover all three positions on my beat, this week features an unusual number of valuable third-base options for your fantasy squad.

Departures
Eric Thames (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN <1%, CBS 3%)
As we discussed in last week’s comments section, Toronto had to make a roster move when Adam Lind returned from the DL, and Thames ended up being the odd man out. He could be back if injury strikes again, or when Corey Patterson starts hitting more like Corey Patterson, but for now, we’ll bid him a fond farewell.

Steven Pearce (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN <1%, CBS 0%)
Another laurel and hearty handshake goes to Steven Pearce, who didn’t even get a chance to produce as an NL-Only VP; he hit the DL the same day he made the list. His torn calf muscle isn’t expected to keep him out for very long, but his playing time is likely to be diminished when he returns as Pedro Alvarez is expected to return any time. Pearce could replace Lyle Overbay instead, but for now, he is just another ex-VP.

Arrivals
Casey Blake (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 4%, CBS 18%)
Blake has been a Value Pick before, and I mentioned him in last week’s “Playing Pepper” section, referencing his fragility as well as his potential production. Even though age has eroded his power and goosed his strikeout rate, Blake showed he’s still got something left in the tank last week, homering Tuesday and doubling on Friday. His whiffs remain a concern, however, as he has struck out seven times in 25 plate appearances since returning to the Dodgers.  Over that period, he has walked only, and his 25.0 percent strikeout rate this season is his highest in ten years.

His .385 BABIP this season (91 plate appearances) and 17.6 percent HR/FB (12.7 percent career) also show that Lady Luck has been hanging out with Casey plenty in 2011. This, and his frequent DL stints, make him more marginal than name recognition might indicate, but he’ll be valuable at a tough position in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Remaining
Juan Miranda (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 4%, CBS 11%)
His neck has been bothering him, cutting down on his playing time, but Miranda managed to return last night and remains a quality VP. Unless it turns out to be something more serious, this isn’t the kind of injury that should affect his swing, so stick with Miranda if you’ve got him.

Ty Wigginton (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 17%, CBS 33%)
Not only has Wigginton hit in 10 of his last 11 games, he also got a rare start in right field this week. His ownership numbers are rising quickly, so this is probably his last week on the list. Grab him while you can.

Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 6%, CBS 32%)
As I pointed out last week, Valencia has been consistent, hitting in eight of his last 10 games, though the power has yet to come around. Given the injury-ravaged Minnesota lineup and his own offensive improvements, Valencia has been hitting higher in the order, batting as high as fourth on Saturday. That should allow him to produce more RBI, assuming there are healthy Twins in front of him to drive home.

Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 8%, CBS 43%)
When discussing LaPorta, I feel like I’m flogging a stock in some shady boiler room in Jersey. But really, guys, his .293 TAv this year is 17th among first basemen, above names like Todd Helton, Brett Wallace, Mark Trumbo, Justin Morneau and, yes, Albert Pujols. His .470 SLG is 17th, while his 27 RBI tie him with Adam Lind for 13th. His price-to-earnings ratio is top-notch, the industry is realizing huge profits, and he paid dividends for eight straight quarters... Hello? Is this Mr. ESPN Owner? Hello?

AL-only VP
Travis Buck (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN <1%, CBS 1%)
Buck collected four hits in four starts last week, boosting his batting average fifteen points (easy to do when you’ve only recently cracked 80 plate appearances). He played in left field to allow Grady Sizemore to ease back in via the DH slot, showing how much Manny Acta wants Buck in the game. He won’t face tough lefties and will lose time when Travis Hafner returns sometime in the next two weeks, but he’ll bring good value to AL-only leaguers until then.

NL-only VP
Daniel Descalso (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN <1%, CBS 5%)
A marginal third baseman, Descalso has grabbed hold of the Cardinals’ hot corner, where Tony LaRussa likes his glove. Descalso played mostly at second base in the minors and has appeared there and at shortstop in his brief major-league career.  He’s not well known for his bat, but in the positional vacuum that is third base in St. Louis, LaRussa would be happy even for Descalso’s tepid .276/.347/.406 minor-league production. Over the past two weeks, however, Descalso has paid his manager back with a .341/.341/.477 slash line, boosting him overall to a .245/.302/.367 line that looks remarkably similar to PECOTA’s 50th percentile of .264/.310/.366.

Clearly Descalso is not going to keep hitting the way he has over the past 14 days, but his timing was perfect. This hot streak bought Descalso the starting gig for at least the near future, and playing time is crucial in fantasy. His major-league rate stats—14.9 percent strikeout rate and 7.1 percent walk rate—are consistent with his respective minor-league rates of 11 percent and 8.6 percent. This points to a decent batting average, while his .130 minor-league ISO shows he has a smidgen of pop in his bat too.

Whether he can cement his hold on the job remains to be seen, and his utter futility against lefties (.042/.207/.042 in 30 plate appearances in 2011) dilutes his value. Recent callup Matt Carpenter, despite being a lefty, has better stats against southpaws (.291/.425/.364 in the minors this season) and will likely eat into some of Descalso’s playing time. David Freese is healing faster than expected, but he still isn’t due back until July 1, giving Descalso the chance to supplant him, or at least deliver decent value to NL-only owners for the time being.

Playing Pepper
Jack Cust (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN <1%, CBS 4%) continues to heat up, going yard again last week for his second homer of the season. He has hit .250/.400/.563 since that first dinger (40 plate appearances) and has gotten his walking shoes back, picking up five free passes in his past three starts (12 plate appearances).

Since I dropped Daric Barton (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN <1%, CBS 15%) from the Value Picks list, the A’s benched him for a couple of days, and he responded two two-hit games in a row. He could be primed for a turnaround.

The callup of Brett Lawrie (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 10%, CBS 51%) was delayed by a bruised hand, but his arrival is imminent. When promoted, he’ll slide into Toronto’s starting third-base job, making him well worth a speculative pick at a thin position.

Speaking of weak hot corners, the Brewers’ Casey McGehee is hitting .239/.298/.347 this season, including a .211/.255/.300 line over the last month. In the minors, Mat Gamel (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) is hitting .311/.385/.524. Too bad Milwaukee chose to move Gamel across the diamond in anticipation of Prince Fielder’s departure (and in recognition of Gamel’s famed Hands of Stone).

In Cleveland, their third basemen have hit .237/.327/.344 this season, thanks to Jack Hannahan returning to Earth with a .185/.274/.246 slash line over the past month. Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 14%) is hitting .273/.367/.434 in Triple-A Columbus. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

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17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

prs130

When they start counting TAv in fantasy leagues, let me know and I'll give LaPorta a fresh look. Right now, he's a top-20 1B in exactly one category (HRs, T-15th).

He's got low BA and SB and he's batting seventh (for Cleveland, which may or may not be in the midst of a rude awakening, having gone 4-9 with 2.15 runs per game in the last four series).

Jun 06, 2011 06:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

TAv is a good measure of overall offensive contributions, and (here) is a good measure of how LaPorta's being undervalued by fantasy owners. He's also (as I note above) tied for 13th in RBI, plus he's currently 19th in BA, making him in the top 20 of three roto categories. And if you want to get noodly, he's actually tied for 12th (not 15th) in HRs. Maybe you oughta give him a second look now :)

Jun 06, 2011 09:02 AM
 
moremoose

In a week where he faces alot of RHP he looks to be a good play for deep leagues.

Jun 06, 2011 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
moremoose

Blake Dewitt, solid CT but not much pop, still just 25 yrs old. He is eligible in CBS leagues at every pos. except C,1B,& SS.

With him recently seeing more PT, keep an eye on him. Now is his time to prove he can contribute offensively.

Jun 06, 2011 08:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

True enough about his increasing playing time and contact skills--it's the "not much pop" that bothers me. He'd have to get above his 60th PECOTA percentile to crack a .400 SLG and would barely reach double-digit dingers in his 90th.

He's a better play at 2B because of this, though he's a skosh higher than Descalso in power--the only difference is that, when Alfonso Soriano returns sometime next week, Dewitt will be collecting splinters again, while Descalso will be there longer in the short term and possibly long-term. But I agree, he's not a bad play in NL-only leagues for the next few weeks, and there's always the chance that he explodes at the plate, though he's had over 1000 PAs already at the big-league level to prove that he can contribute offensively.

Thanks for the comment!

Jun 06, 2011 09:11 AM
 
moremoose

oh yeah forgot about the whole "value" relating to the remainder of the season.

Jun 06, 2011 09:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

That, and the whole .259/.331/.378 in 1039 MLB PAs thing--which is pretty close to where he's hitting right now (.265/.275/.382).

Jun 06, 2011 10:31 AM
 
moremoose

So what till next year and bet on him pulling a Melky?

Jun 06, 2011 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

If by "pulling a Melky," you mean getting a contract way out of proportion to his actual skills, he might. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, no ballplayer ever got poor underestimating the intelligence of GMs.

But if you mean suddenly bust out his whuppin' stick and put up a month/season that's out of proportion to his actual skills, I'd bet against that.

"Pulling A Melky" would make a great column title, though. . . nice one, Sarge!

Jun 06, 2011 13:47 PM
 
moremoose

Seeing they both had/have similar skill sets, Dewitt being a yr younger. Besides surface stats both have had some success in the past when given decent amount of PT, & given their young age. So naturally looking for Dewitt to suddenly emerge out of mediocrity. Also assuming the cubs say bye to Alfonso and Dewitt gets a shot at winning a full time gig.

That would be a great title, but it is still kinda early to give up on the Melk Man.

If Dewitt does have an opp to win a pos out of ST then I would bid a buck or two in an NL-only league. I can't really bet against his strong CT with youth still on his side.

Jun 06, 2011 14:14 PM
rating: 0
 
tomterp

What does Michael Morse have to do to get on the radar screen at 1st? Perhaps surgery for LaRoche will get it done.

Jun 06, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Morse is a good play, but he's owned in far too many leagues for him to be a Value Pick. We look for guys under 20% in most leagues, and he's in the 50-90% ownership range, depending on the league. Also, I think he's overperforming right now, hitting close to his 90th PECOTA percentile. Still, ride him while you've got him, as he certainly seems to be busting out at a later age than most.

Jun 06, 2011 10:22 AM
 
pobothecat

Michael, you feelin' Matt Carpenter? How about Josh Harrison?

Jun 06, 2011 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good to hear from you again, Pobo.

I didn't think Carpenter was much more than a bench bat when they brought him up, but LaRussa's been using him at 3B and shifting Descalso to 2B since Carpenter's callup. He's got great OBP skills (.406 in the minors), which could make him a nice pickup, though he's a bit light in the power department. BP 2011 compared him to Bill Mueller, which seems like a reasonable ceiling.

I've got my eye on him, as well as Harrison, who has nice contact skills and decent pop, but the return of Pedro Alvarez should bump him to the bench. Of the two, Carpenter's the best gamble, and he could make a VP appearance at some point.

Thanks for the question!

Jun 06, 2011 10:29 AM
 
pobothecat

Thanks Michael.

Jun 07, 2011 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun

I LaPortaled three weeks ago and I am happy I did. Certainly more potential than any of the other slop out there that has proven futile many times over. I just wish he would get more consistent PT and moved up in the order a bit, but that will come if he hits more consistently.

Jun 07, 2011 07:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Thanks for the vote of confidence, shaun :) I've got LaPorta on several of my teams and agree that more consistency would help his case. He's proof positive of the fantasy maxim that you've got to play your starters lineup all the time, instead of trying to guess on hot-cold streaks, since he can be so up-and-down.

I think those wrinkles will iron out as the season progresses, and Acta is probably keeping him lower in the order to keep some of the pressure off him until he does bust out.

Jun 07, 2011 09:44 AM
 
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Future Shock: Mock Dra... (06/03)
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Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second Ba... (06/07)
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