July 2, 2012
Second, Short, and Catcher for 7/2/12
As promised last week, Zack Cozart (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 27%, CBS 64%) is making his departure from Value Picks this week. His performance has been lacking over the last two weeks and his strikeout rate is up a tick, but his overall skill set remains unchanged. Cozart still packs some punch, and he has a prime lineup slot hitting atop the Reds order. As long as his strikeout rate doesn't spiral out of control—which there are no indications it is going to—Cozart will remain a useful middle infielder in large mixed leagues and a good option in NL-only leagues all year.
At this point, there is little reason to believe Brian Roberts (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 8%, CBS 34%) will be a useful fantasy player this year. Over the past week he has gone a putrid 2-for-24 and has provided no thump on the season, tallying zero extra base hits in 66 plate appearances. His walk rate is down from his best years, and he's not running often in the rare instances he is on base.
The strikeouts are beginning to pile up for Everth Cabrera (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN, 9%, CBS 20%), and an increase in strikeouts has corresponded with a decrease in batting average and on-base percentage. In order for Cabrera to have value, he needs to steal bases, and he can't do that from the dugout. He remains ownable in NL-only leagues and is worthy of a bench spot in 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a middle infield position, but beyond that, he should be sent to the waiver wire.
Hanging on by a Thread
So much for a resurgence from Geovany Soto (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 14.3%, CBS 28%). His line drive rate suggests that his low average and .111 BABIP are due for a correction in his favor, but his 50 percent ground ball rate is doing him no favors. Steve Clevenger isn't doing much to lay claim to primary catching duties, but if Soto doesn't start recording base hits, it won't matter. Catcher is an awful fantasy position, though, and there is upside here. Give him a bit more leash.
Owners are taking notice of Erick Aybar's (Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 38%, CBS 48%) play in June, and his ownership has risen a few percentage points across all three fantasy baseball providers. In 100 June plate appearances prior to Saturday's game, he was hitting .315/.354/.457 with eight doubles, one triple, and one home run. His high contact rate should help him continue to hit for a high average, though not this high. Aybar has just one steal this month and is on pace to fall short of 20 stolen bases. That said, he stole 30 bases last year, and did so efficiently. He has been efficient again this year, with five stolen bases in six chances. If manager Mike Scioscia allows him to run more often, he has the ability to be a fantasy asset in stolen bases. As it stands, he provides enough to fantasy teams to be owned in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
The Colorado Rockies continue to get some punch from Wilin Rosario (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 12%, CBS 52%). Predictably, he wasn't able to duplicate last week's fireworks, but he did hit another home run this week. Ramon Hernandez still hasn't resumed baseball activities, so continue to deploy Rosario in all two-catcher leagues, and don't hesitate to plug him into lineups in single-catcher leagues either.
He's working on shaking off the rust, but the important thing is that Stephen Drew (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 20%, CBS 44%) is healthy. He was activated from the disabled list on Wednesday, playing in the Diamondbacks’ game that night. Drew followed that up by starting Thursday's game before getting a day off on Friday and starting once again Saturday. Expect Drew to play as often as he can physically handle it.
He has yet to work a walk, but that's where the negatives start and end for Salvador Perez's (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 10%, CBS 38%) return from the disabled list. He was 7-for-20 with two home runs going into the second game of Saturday night's double header for the Kansas City Royals. He's making a ton of contact (just one strikeout), and hard contact at that (21 percent line drive rate). He's an outstanding second catcher in mixed leagues and a reasonable option in single-catcher mixed leagues of 12 teams or more. The caveat is that he'll likely sit more than most of the other catchers owned in leagues of that size.
The recipient of a fresh two-year extension with the Twins, Ryan Doumit (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 7%, CBS 56%) has received steady playing time over the last month and has made the most of it. Over the last 30 days, he is hitting .296/.326/.457 in 86 plate appearances with two home runs and a juicy 22 percent line drive rate. And when he's not smacking line drives, he's hitting the ball in the air (45 percent fly ball rate). That bodes well for his home run chances, even if his home games are played at pitcher-friendly Target Field. Doumit is a switch-hitter, so he won't feel the full brunt of the left-handed power sapping nature of Target Field, but he will feel the bulk of it. He has seven home runs on the year, and it is reasonable to expect a healthy Doumit to reach the upper-teens in homers. The key word in that last sentence is “healthy,” and it's tough to count on Doumit staying healthy for an extended period of time. Make the most of his good health now, though, and plug him into lineups. He's a strong second catcher in mixed leagues and has the added benefit of seeing playing time at other, less demanding positions. Doumit has played one game at first base, six in right field, and served as the designated hitter for 23 games.
Scouting reports on his bat have made me reluctant to include him, but Andrelton Simmons (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 11%, CBS 23%) just keeps hitting. After Saturday's game, his season slash in 96 plate appearances is .333/.365/.522 with a low strikeout rate (10 percent) and surprising power (three home runs, 10 total extra base hits, and a .198 ISO). He has yet to steal a base, but Kevin Goldstein acknowledged Simmons is a plus runner in his May 31 article, The Call-up, meaning there is some stolen base upside he has yet to take advantage of. When he starts running, that should help offset a decrease in his power output. He's popping the ball up often (20 percent infield fly rate) and is likely to see his average dip a bit should he continue to do so. His line drive (18 percent) and groundball rate (49 percent), however, fit his plus-runner profile and should help him continue to hit for a high average. He should be owned in more leagues than he is, with the understanding that he's probably not quite this good.
Making a repeat visit to the AL-only VP section, Derek Norris (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 13%) remains under-owned. Since last week's article, he has started in three of six games for the A's, and he has gone 5-for-11 with one home run. He'll continue to split time with Kurt Suzuki so long as he's a member of the A's, but his power puts him on the map in two-catcher and AL-only leagues.
The Padres have recalled Yasmani Grandal (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 12%). To make room for him, they sent Nick Hundley to Triple-A, opening the door for Grandal to get as much playing time as he can handle behind the dish. Last Tuesday, I highlighted Grandal's hot play in Triple-A at the Fantasy Baseball Cafe. His stats suggest he has been exhibiting exquisite control over the strike zone, with more walks (37) than strikeouts (35) in the minors this year. He smacked two home runs in Saturday's game against the Rockies, and while power will be hard to come by at Petco Park, Grandal is an above average hitter overall, as catcher’s go. He gets an added boost in leagues that use OBP.