Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
Daric Barton OAK 133 1 15 12 0 .282 .411 .408 .259 .357 .411 31 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
David Freese STL 114 3 10 19 1 .333 .396 .495 .234 .300 .376 0 28 0 –10 +23 2.65
Troy Glaus ATL 115 2 11 16 0 .240 .330 .320 .251 .347 .417 30 0 0 –1 +3
Brandon Inge DET 123 3 7 15 0 .252 .317 .432 .231 .315 .396 0 30 0 –24 +65 2.70
Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK 125 2 14 17 0 .267 .304 .362 .274 .327 .442 0 25 0 –11 +29 2.67
Andy LaRoche PIT 95 3 13 7 0 .310 .389 .440 .248 .330 .391 0 23 0 –19 +50 2.70
Gaby Sanchez FLA 105 2 11 16 0 .275 .371 .429 .260 .337 .422 27 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Jim Thome MIN 81 5 10 15 0 .258 .395 .545 .237 .354 .463 0 0 18 +21 –60
Subscribe to Heater Avg for First Base .275 .359 .477   vRH = OPS v RH
Heater Magazine Avg for Third Base .269 .339 .434   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Desig. Hitter .263 .350 .468   Rng = Range

This week’s Value Picks list graduates one third baseman from the top, drops another from the bottom, and adds in two hot-corner denizens to replace them.

I told you last week to grab David Freese quickly, and his ownership shot up by 70% in ESPN leagues, thanks to his .333/.419/.556 week. This produced the tastee Freese line in the table, though a 891 OPS ain’t exactly soft-serve. Freese will certainly melt back to earth at some point, but you won’t find him on your league’s waiver wire until he does.

Brandon Inge, on the other hand, has cooled off considerably, hitting .235/.278/.294 last week. He tends towards streaks like this, and three of his five games came against the first-place Twins. The Yankees and Red Sox come into town this week, so stash him if you’ve got the room on your bench until he heats up again.

Their replacements start with Andy LaRoche, once a top Dodger prospect who disappointed enough for them to swap him to Pittsburgh, where he continued to underwhelm last season despite the lower-pressure environment. His .258/.330/.401 still featured a strong 16% strikeout rate and a slightly below-average 8.5% walk rate, but only his glove kept his WARP in positive territory.

A .343/.439/.429 start to 2010 bumped him up in the order from seventh to second, where he’s hit .286/.352/.449 since the change. He’s goosed his walk rate to 10.5% while his strikeouts haven’t budged from 16%. At 26, he’s a bit old to suddenly take a huge leap forward, but he did have a 900 OPS in the minors, including a .310/.412/.544 line in Triple-A. His big-league struggles have made PECOTA pessimistic, but he’s worth a shot to see if he can exceed those modest expectations. Reaching his 80th PECOTA percentile makes him a solid 3B play across the board, but he’ll deliver OBP at his 50th, and BA just past his 60th.

LaRoche’s downsides are twofold: he won’t bring corner-level power, and Pedro Alvarez looms in the minors. If Alvarez doesn’t move across the diamond before his callup, he could start pushing LaRoche as soon as June. Until then, LaRoche makes a good play in Scoresheet and OBP leagues, while NL-only and deeper mixed leagues can roster him to see if he can stay hot. He’s still out there in 97% of ESPN leagues.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is another story of delayed expectations flourishing in a new environment. Back injuries, a poor plate approach, and hitting in PECTO have all suppressed his production. Changing leagues and playing in Oakland’s only slightly less unfriendly McAfee Coliseum contributed to his .210/.261/.306 line though April 21 as he made adjustments. They apparently worked, since he’s hit .333/.357/.426 since then, including .316/.350/.526 last week at home against Texas and Tampa Bay, two of the better pitching staffs in the AL.

Kouz’s calling card is power, not patience, and his skimpy 4% walk rate in 2010 is consistent with his 4.7% career rate. But the power is yet to come, as his current 5.4% HR/FB rate is well off of his 11.5% career average. His strikeout rate has dropped from an average 20.5% to 16.4%, which could indicate a looming BA correction or might be the benefit from escaping the strikeout arms of the NL West.

PECOTA thinks even a subpar Kouz will be valuable, since he’s a good 3B option for BA in his 30th percentile and a good power choice in his 40th. He could even approach 30 HR and 100 RBI if he continues to hit cleanup. Unlike LaRoche, Kouz should be a solid roster addition all season as he continues to improve on his slow start, and he’s available in 80% of ESPN leagues. AL-only owners should already have him rostered, while deeper mixed leagues can use him either at 3B or as a CIF option.

As for the rest of the VPs, Daric Barton’s .227/.280/.364 line this week may mean that his finger is bothering him more than expected. He needs to deliver in the BA department to stay on this list, though his overall line remains strong. Troy Glaus gave his owners BA, but not power, last week, something that should turn around. And Gaby Sanchez brought the pain in both departments, hitting .318/.348/.500, including his second homer of the season. And Jim Thome’s .263/.417/.474 makes him a productive DH option in most leagues, especially those that value OBP.

I’m offering a summary of my first month’s results below, which don’t look good at first glance. (Note that David Freese appears twice because he went off then back on the list). Some of this is due to my beat, trying to find guys overlooked by nearly all owners in the most valuable and most scrutinized fantasy positions out there. I also had some bad luck in the power department, which stands to reason when my top 1B picks are underpowered guys like Daric Barton and Gaby Sanchez, and the entire group hits just 9% of their fly balls out of the yard.

I should note also that the top producers got my strongest recommendations, while guys like Branyan and Tatis received very guarded advice. Regardless, you can expect better results in the future.

Value Picks Results: May

Daric Barton 4/12   102 1 10 5 0 .256 .374 .390 3%
David Freese 4/12 4/26 38 0 2 1 1 .344 .400 .406 0%
Gaby Sanchez 4/12   81 1 9 12 0 .264 .346 .375 5%
Luke Scott 4/12 4/26 43 1 4 5 0 .225 .279 .400 7%
Fernando Tatis 4/12 4/19 14 0 0 0 0 .077 .143 .154 0%
Brandon Wood 4/12 4/19 20 0 2 0 1 .158 .200 .158 0%
Brandon Inge 4/19   73 3 6 9 0 .232 .260 .435 12%
Andruw Jones 4/19 5/3 43 5 8 5 3 .257 .395 .714 45%
Russell Branyan 4/26 5/3 16 0 1 0 0 .154 .267 .231 0%
Ty Wigginton 4/26 5/3 24 2 3 3 0 .333 .478 .778 29%
David Freese 5/3   27 0 3 3 0 .261 .370 .348 0%
Troy Glaus 5/3   22 0 1 3 0 .250 .273 .250 0%
Jim Thome 5/3   20 0 2 2 0 .235 .350 .294 0%
TOTAL 523 13 51 48 5 .247 .332 .404 9%
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David Ortiz: still rosterable?
We always went to Tastee-Freez after Little League games when I was a kid. To give you an idea how old I am, cones were 10, 15 and 25 cents.
Clete6-- These days, .25 wouldn't even buy you the cone without ice cream. I bet you had to walk uphill (both ways) through the driving snow to get to the Tastee-Freez, too :-) Thanks for not excoriating me for my awful ice-cream puns! Mike
krissbeth-- Like a lot of older players, Ortiz has gotten off to a slow start, but he seems to be warming up. So far this month, he's hitting .286/.333/.762. The biggest problem he's had so far has been a lack of solid contact. His 40% GB rate would be a career high if he maintains it, as would his 13% infield fly ball rate. And his 36% strikeout rate is very troubling, too. Old players like this tend to fall off a cliff instead of slowly gliding into retirement, but I don't think he's ready for the dustbin just yet. I'd ride him a while longer and see if this last week was a sign of things to come, or a last gasp of production before he takes the final fall. Remember last year's abrupt turnaround, and that didn't happen until June 1. PECOTA gives him a very good chance at respectability, with a productive DH BA in his 50th percentile, and good OBP and SLG way down in his 30th. He's not your pappy's Papi anymore, and he may ride the pine against lefties, but I'd doubt there are much better options for you out on the wire. Give him a chance, for a little while longer anyway. Thanks for the question! Mike
Like a lot of older players, Ortiz has gotten off to a slow start Old players like this tend to fall off a cliff instead of slowly gliding into retirement These statements kind of remind me of stuff I hear tv announcers say where they sound reasonable, but I don't know whether they're really true. Has anybody done any studies to determine whether older players tend to get off to slow starts but then recover? And how are you defining old players "like this?"
Brian24-- Excellent question, and my language should have been more precise. Bill James did a study with his Win Shares system that shows that young players with so-called "old player skills" (low BA and SB but good OBP and SLG) tend to have a shorter career and an earlier peak than those with "young player skills" (speed, athleticism, high BA). See the entry for Tom Brunansky in James' 2001 New Bill James Historical Abstract for more on this. Ortiz definitely fits into the "old player skills" category, so we don't expect to see him playing at 40, the way we might expect to see (say) Ichiro. Some of this is a bit axiomatic (athletic players clearly age better), and there are exceptions to the rule (Jim Thome, to name one). But as a rule, big, slow sluggers don't slowly ride into the setting sun; they tend to gallop off the nearest cliff. That day's coming soon for Ortiz--the only question is how soon, and I don't think it's happening just yet. Thanks for a great question! Mike
I should add that, to my knowledge, no study has been done on older players getting off to slow starts to a particular season, but my experience (both as a writer and an increasingly old man :D) has shown this to be generally true.
What's your take on Berkman? He's getting challenged with more fastballs and not doing much with them.
Noel-- I've got Berko in one of my keeper leagues, so I'm holding my breath, too. He's down across the board with every pitch, not just fastballs, and it's actually the breaking stuff that's affecting him more. He, too, has those old-player skills discussed above, which indicate a rapid decline is coming. 34 may be a year or two early for that to happen, and he's got a bit more athleticism than Ortiz, et al. I think he's still working his way back from knee problems and is trying to get into a groove while hitting in the middle of a limp lineup. Hitting is contagious, but everyone in the 'stros lineup appears to be immune. A trade could boost his value, as well as more time at the plate, so I'm not giving up on him anytime soon. Remember, he hasn't even hit 100 PAs for the season, which is the bare minimum to start talking about trends and tendencies. Having said all that, he's on my bench more often than not, especially against lefties, who are holding him to a .167/.286/.167 line so far. That's my advice to you for now: platoon him but don't drop him unless he continues to crater. Thanks for the question! Mike
Somewhat of a random question... I saw in my head-to-head league where someone dumped Aramis Ramirez after his slow start. I had Chipper Jones, and in a bit of an impulse move I dropped Jones and picked up Ramirez. Good move or no? Any thoughts? My thinking was that neither have gotten off to a particularly good start, but at least Ramirez is a good bit younger and will likely see more playing time in the second half of the season.
OTS-- I've got Ramirez in two different leagues, and have hung onto him, as he's far too valuable to cut. That said, I've also got Chipper in some of those same leagues, and I drafted him late and cheap. If I had to choose whom to cut, it would be Chipper for just the reason you cite. He's older and more injury-prone; even if he doesn't break down completely, he's going to get days off more often than not. Ramirez's strikeout rate is concerning (23.4% vs. a 15.4% career rate), but I've got to believe that's going to correct sooner rather than later. I don't think he's a lock to return to more acceptable levels, so you may have to drop him, too. But he's more rosterable than Chipper, IMO, and much more likely to turn into a nice waiver wire bargain. Thanks for the question and sorry for not responding earlier!
How about Wiggy? How soon until he falls back off the cliff?