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July 11, 2011

Value Picks

First, Third, and DH for 7/11/11

by Michael Street

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The All-Star break begins today, marking the traditional—if not the actual—midway point in the season. Cutting against this equilibrial grain, Value Picks looks this week at some extremes, both in performance and in owner reactions to those performances.

Danny Valencia (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 41%, CBS 46%) had hit .375/.375/.583 in the week before my last column, and owners didn’t react. Last week, he hit .412/.476/.706, and his ownership numbers jumped between 14 and 38 percent. Both the reactions and Valencia’s performance were extreme, but he is starting to realize the value I’ve expected from him all season long, boosting him off the VP list.

Except for a few productive bursts, Hideki Matsui (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 8%, CBS 13%) has been extremely bad since returning to the Value Picks list, hitting just .197/.333/.324 as a VP. I’d thought that he was affected by which position he was playing, and perhaps affection for Japanese imports has been clouding my judgment, but whatever the reason, Matsui just isn’t VP-worthy right now.

Owners have been extremely tepid on Scott Sizemore (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%), who hit .150/.261/.450 last week but has hit .314/.379/.512 since arriving in Oakland, but his ownership numbers haven’t moved. His BABIP was .400 with the Athletics before this week (when he posted a .125 mark), so I’m not overreacting to a down week, especially since he has remained patient and powerful throughout. I have a more interesting AL-only option this week, though, and I figure the word’s out on Sizemore among VP readers; he’ll still bring you good value despite leaving the list.

Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 2%, CBS 28%) represented the epitome of all-or-nothing extremes as a Value Pick. Before his recent DL stint, he’d collected at least two plate appearances in 56 games, going hitless in 28 of them, while picking up multiple hits in 15 games and a single hit in the remaining 13. In other words, 76.7 percent of his games produced one of two extremes for his fantasy owners: the golden sombrero or a multi-hit game. And since exactly half of his games cratered his hitting stats, owners had to be incredibly patient to reap those multi-hit rewards.

LaPorta has hit in three of four games since returning from the DL, so some measure of consistency may be returning: it was only his fifth hit streak of three or more games this season and his second such streak since May 4. He has been on the list enough that I don’t need to extol his virtues again here, but I encourage you to give him another shot in deeper leagues. You won’t be disappointed.

Sticking Around
Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 3%, CBS 29%) did the worst sort of Marlon Byrd impression by taking a Carlos Villanueva fastball off his cheek (and not the cheek he sits on, either). Chisenhall should return after the All-Star break, so I won’t drop him from the VP list, especially since he has hit .267/.313/.467 since his call-up. Still, it would be cool to see him protect this extremely painful injury with one of those clear NBA facemasks.

Anthony Rizzo (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 4%, CBS 38%) has looked extremely bad at the major league level thus far, something I pointed out when adding him to the VP list. He hasn’t done much better since then, hitting .167/.333/.250 last week, even sitting in favor of Jesus Guzman against some tough lefties. It may seem like extreme generosity, but I’m going to see if he can turn it around after the All-Star break. He’ll have a few days off to clear his head before returning home—a place that has been very kind to him thus far.

Jim Thome (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 10%, CBS 8%) represents the fantasy extremes of strong OBP (.352 in 2011) and SLG with typically weak batting average (.219 in 2011), although his .446 SLG has been pretty pedestrian this season. He has also been dealing with a sprained big toe, which should benefit from a few days off. I’ll keep an eye on him to see if that affects him, but he remains a VP for now.

AL-only VP
Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.4%, CBS 6%) drew little (need I say extremely little?) fantasy attention after his unexpected promotion to the Mariners last week despite immediately sliding into a starting role. This indifference could be because of a bigger, more surprising callup or simply because Seager is an under-the-radar prospect, ranked eighth by Kevin Goldstein in "an overall shallow system where the talent level drops off quickly.” Owners might also think that his .345/.419/.503 line with the High Desert Mavericks in 2010 came from a friendly home park, but both Goldstein and BP 2011 point out Seager’s .344/.411/.502 line away from that hitter’s paradise.

Seager was promoted to Double-A to begin this season, hitting .312/.381/.459 in 299 plate appearances, and then hit .455/.500/.673 in 60 plate appearances with Triple-A Tacoma. That’s not a lot of time above Single-A ball, but it was enough for the Mariners, who were using the no-longer-ready-for-prime-time players Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins at third base. Seager’s greenness will work against him (as of this writing, he is still waiting for his first big-league hit), but he should hit well eventually, even if he delivers little in the way of power or speed. His 10.4 percent walk rate and excellent 13.4 percent strikeout rate in the minors support this scouting report, as does his cumulative .145 ISO and 26 steals in 46 attempts in 267 games down on the farm. All of this adds up to single-league value, although he could creep into deeper mixed leagues if he follows the lead of his college teammate Dustin Ackley.

NL-only VP
Lucas Duda (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0.2%, CBS 5%) picked up just three hits in 16 plate appearances last week, maintaining an extremely weak .233/.283/.333 overall line. He spent much of that week in Chavez Ravine, which might account for that offensive drop-off. His value is derived largely from playing time and a hot streak, though, and he is cooling off–plus, the Mets expect David Wright’s return (to come soon after the All-Star break) to push Duda into a part-time role. All of this figures to make the remainder of his Value Picks stay extremely short.

Playing Pepper
Ian Stewart (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 17%, CBS 14%) returned to the Rockies this week, but his ownership numbers push the VP envelope even as his .143/.200/.214 line since returning doesn’t inspire much confidence. If the former drops while the latter falls, he’d be a VP, but that’s not usually how these things work.

Edwin Encarnacion (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 20%, CBS 22%) might personify the extremes of streakiness and indifferent defense, but shifting him to DH seems to have solved both; he has hit .319/.336/.496 when the only glove he wears is a batting glove. He is also at the edges of VP ownership, but he merits a heads-up here.

Assuming A-Rod goes under the knife for his torn meniscus, Eduardo Nunez(Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) would be the primary beneficiary, but Nunez would have to push his 80th PECOTA percentile (.299/.324/.403) to be fungible in mixed leagues at the hot corner.

Who’da thunk that Pittsburgh would be doing so well that they’d prefer to keep über prospect Pedro Alvarez (Yahoo! 43%, ESPN 22%, CBS 52%) in Triple-A now that he is healthy, lest he blow their current hot streak? Extremely unexpected.

Related Content:  The Streak,  Kyle Seager,  Hit List,  Espn

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