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April 19, 2012

Value Picks

Second, Short, and Catcher for 4/19/12

by Michael Jong

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Departures
Even as CBS owners frown on Robert Andino's (ESPN 15%, Yahoo! 20% CBS 17%) starting time at second base, ESPN and Yahoo! owners are intrigued enough to make him too popular to use as a Value Pick in either the mixed-league or AL-only lists. Andino is still who he was last week, but for now Value Picks will move on to players in whom owners are less interested.

The evaluation of Ryan Hanigan (ESPN 0%, Yahoo! 2%, CBS 3%) remains the same as it was last week as well, but since he had an uneventful week with only three starts to boot, we will look over him in favor of Buck this week on Value Picks…

Arrivals
John Buck (ESPN 4%, Yahoo! 7%, CBS 31%)
was rated as a two-star catcher by Derek Carty this offseason, and my own take on the Marlins backstop revealed him to be quite similar to another power-laden, strikeout-riddled catcher in J.P. Arencibia. It should come as no surprise that Buck is living up to that set of characteristics, hitting just .219 but with a home run and two doubles in a Miami Marlins lineup that is beginning to heat up after a slow start. Buck is also benefiting from a sudden hot streak by fellow bottom-of-the-lineup hitter Omar Infante, who has hit so well (.333/.350/.795) that he has moved up to fifth in the order and forced hitters like Gaby Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton to bat directly in front of Buck on some days. As Sanchez and Stanton recover from their early season struggles, Buck should be able to capitalize. While hitting for power at Marlins Park has proven to be as difficult as expected (if not harder), the Marlins will be starting a set of games that will take them on the road for 15 of their next 19 contests, so if there was ever a time to pick up a power-hitting second catcher with an oppressive home park, it would be now.

Jed Lowrie (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 10%, CBS 45%) is not really under the radar, as evidenced by some of his higher CBS ownership marks, but he is fairly new to the starting gig having just returned from injury. The book on Lowrie has not changed much. He hits a lot of fly balls, which gives him a decent chance at a lot of home runs for a middle infielder, even if his career 5.7 percent HR/FB does not suggest much power. Hitting in Houston should help him just enough to squeeze out a PECOTA-projected 11 home runs. Add to that his complete lack of competition at shortstop—the Astros have had blanks manning that position since they allowed Miguel Tejada to walk as a free agent in 2009—and Lowrie will get every opportunity to make good on the promise he showed in Boston. His passable batting average, decent approach at the plate (career 18.8 percent strikeout rate and 10.1 percent walk rate), and presence in a decent power park should make him worthwhile in deep mixed leagues.

Incumbents
Willie Bloomquist (ESPN 4%, Yahoo! 5%, CBS 9%)
sat out two games this past week in favor of John McDonald, but he returned to the lineup on April 16 and has made both starts since. His status as the primary playing time recipient in the absence of Stephen Drew remains safe, so there is no change in status from last week to this week.

Cliff Pennington (ESPN 1%, Yahoo! 6%, CBS 20%) also had a poor week (.214/.267/.214), but nothing changes in his projection. The shortstop continues to bat at the bottom of the Oakland lineup but should log plenty of at-bats this upcoming week as the A's head back home for six games. For now, at his ownership rates, he remains a decent shortstop option for deep mixed leagues, though he would be among the Value Picks on the chopping block should another option arise.

Josh Thole (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 4%, CBS 12%) hit .333/.538/.333 since last Friday but was still only able to score two runs despite being on base seven times. His book remains the same as well; he is a safe selection who can provide a good batting average—though not quite like the .370 he is boasting at the moment—and should be in line for 500 plate appearances due to a lack of competition. As a result, owners should keep him around as a second catcher option as he continues his hot streak to see if his counting stats can catch up to his strong individual hitting thus far.

AL-only VP
Chris Getz (ESPN 0%, Yahoo! 1%, CBS 2%)
is a deep AL-only option, if only because he splits time as the bigger half of a platoon with equally unattractive fantasy option, Yuniesky Betancourt. Yes, Getz is a career .254/.314/.310 hitter, but with 64 steals in just 1124 plate appearances, he guarantees speed when you plug him into your lineup. Getz has two stolen bases on the year, and you could do worse than a one-category pickup with a .250 batting average; only a halfway decent BABIP (career .289 hitter on balls in play) separates him from hitting .260 given his career 11.7 percent strikeout rate. Of course, one can say this about Getz every season, and yet he continually fails to deliver, so keep him on your radar in AL-only leagues only until Johnny Giavotella receives the inevitable call-up to the majors.

NL-only VP
Mark Ellis (ESPN 2%, Yahoo! 3%, CBS 10%)
had a decent .273/.429/.273 week with four runs scored, two RBI, and a stolen base for the Dodgers this week. At this point in his career, one can expect this to be one of his better weeks; consistent playing time and the chance of counting stats are the primary appeals to playing Mark Ellis. Despite yielding a couple of starts to Jerry Hairston Jr., he still remains the top second baseman on the depth chart, and his early season performance (.237/.356/.289) is good enough for Los Angeles to keep him in the starting lineup for a little longer. The Dodgers are on the road this week at Milwaukee and Houston before heading home for a tough six-game home stand, so take advantage of the red-hot Dodgers against weaker pitching staffs before they head back to their pitcher's park to face the Braves and Nationals.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

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