September 9, 2011
First, Third, and DH for 8/9/11
Nearly every VP performed well enough to remain this week, and there’s plenty of other waiver wire value to be found, although September callus—a while unlikely to be valuable in and of themselves—can affect those waiver-wire decisions. I’ll look at those angles, along with other potential VPs, in a heaping helping of Playing Pepper.
Though Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 12%) is playing nearly every day for Los Angeles, that time has come almost exclusively in the outfield: he hasn’t started at first base since August 20. His production has also slowed down, with a .241/.319/.342 line over the last month, thanks in part to a slightly deflated .273 BABIP. Those stats should turn around, but combined with the position shift, they’re enough to topple Rivera off the VP list.
His breakout Double-A debut was followed by a step backwards in 2009, with a 92-point BABIP drop indicating both bad luck and lack of solid contact. This year’s power outage is harder to explain, as it comes amid a BABIP rise and only minor ratio slippage. Without minor-league hit trajectory data and because of the BABIP bloat, I’d assume that this comes from hard-hit balls falling short of the wall.
Certainly, Evans has shown good power since his callup, as attested by his .281/.358/.500 line (including 4 home runs in 109 plate appearances), and his 23.9 strikeout rate and 11.0 walk rate are both in line with his minor-league numbers. He’s also improved his performance against same-side pitching, which has gone from a 234-point career OPS deficit to a 114-point credit this season. Small-sample caveats apply, especially since Evans’ 2011 major-league line is sprinkled among three different stints, and his current line tickles PECOTA’s 90th percentile projection. But Evans has the rest of 2011 to audition as Ike Davis’s backup or to improve his trade-bait status, giving him enough incentive to be a worthy roster addition in all NL-only and even some deeper mixed leagues.
More impressive than Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 9%, CBS 18%) hitting two doubles in Sunday’s game was walking four times in his other four games last week. That almost doubles his walk total with Oakland, indicating he’s getting more selective even as he fails to make contact, whiffing in 30.7 percent of his plate appearances with the A’s. Expect more Three True Outcomes results from Allen, making him most valuable in leagues that count OBP and SLG.
My dad, a rabid Diamondbacks fan, likes to complain about how ESPN ignores Arizona—a common complaint from baseball fans not living in New York, Boston or Philadelphia. In the case of Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 6%, CBS 37%), that complaint may also apply in fantasy. If a first baseman were hitting .248/.315/.485 (.268/.333/.563 in the past month) with 16.8 at-bats per home run for a first-place team on the East Coast, it would be hard to imagine him sitting below VP ownership thresholds. But owners keep ignoring Goldie, who keeps mashing in the heart of the Diamondbacks’ order, picking up an extra-base hit in three of his last five games, including another 400-plus-foot longball off Tim Lincecum on Saturday. If the other owners in your league have their eyes locked on the East Coast, too, take advantage by snatching up Goldschmidt.
Jim Thome (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 10%, CBS 9%) has been playing against lefties and righties in Cleveland, although Shelley Duncan’s week (see below) could change that. Thome hit just .167/.250/.222 last week and .184/.279/.316 in an Indians’ uniform, and he’s struggled against the fastball all season. If he can speed up his bat and get into a groove, that bump in playing time should reap counting-number rewards.
Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 6%, CBS 16%) cooled off a bit last week, hitting .250/.286/.250 while collecting his first swipe of the season. He continues to hit in the bottom third of Seattle’s weak lineup, but he’s a good play at a thin position down the stretch as he gives the Mariners one more reason to regret the Chone Figgins deal.
Playing Pepper – September Callup Edition
Former VP Anthony Rizzo (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 17%) was recalled to the Padres, where he’ll likely start against righties, but his early-season struggles make Rizzo a longshot for fantasy relevance.
The Astros promoted both Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 15%) and Chris Johnson (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 14%), but Brad Mills said they wouldn’t be the primary starters at either infield corner.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 4%) has hit .244/.306/.289 in a Rockies uniform, which won’t help him hold on to playing time down the stretch as Colorado looks at recently promoted younger players like Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson.
The callup of Pedro Alvarez (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 16%, CBS 30%) means Josh Harrison (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) will ride the pine occasionally, but Clint Hurdle indicated that Harrison is still the primary starter, even though Harrison has just four hits in his last 26 plate appearances.
Yankee callup Jesus Montero (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 11%, CBS 49%) will get most of his playing time at designated hitter, though he’s obviously more valuable as a fantasy backstop.
Milwaukee promoted a third baseman, but it wasn’t Mat Gamel. Last week, Taylor Green (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%)—who hit .336/.413/.583 at Triple-A this season and .291/.373/.458 in his minor-league career—hit three doubles in three starts (two at third base), staking a claim to further playing time as the almost-definitely-playoff-bound Crew rests its veterans.
With the Yankees’ playoff spot all but sewn up, Girardi will also give his veterans a breather, giving Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) a chance to play third base now and again, bringing him a smidge of AL-only value.
Shelley Duncan (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) has gone virtually ignored in fantasy despite his four-homer week, but he’s still best used against southpaws and to bolster your power numbers, as he’d have to beat his 90th PECOTA projection to get a batting average above .268.
Seattle activated Justin Smoak (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 19%, CBS 38%) off the DL, and he delivered a neatly symmetrical .292/.292/.292 line last week. Nifty as that is, it doesn’t erase his .190/.276/.315 line from June 1 until his activation, so no Smoaking until he shows more signs of recovery.
Baltimore activated Chris Davis (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%), who said his shoulder was feeling much better, but Davis didn’t pick up a hit until last night, when he went 3-for-4. If he proves healthy and productive, he’d be a worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues.