Baseball Prospectus is looking for a Public Data Services Director. Read the description here.
Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
Daric Barton OAK 251 4 27 22 0 .280 .395 .440 .259 .357 .411 57 0 0 +3 –10 1.86
Russell Branyan CLE 128 7 16 15 0 .248 .331 .491 .236 .344 .442 31 0 0 +33 –92 1.84
Travis Hafner CLE 197 4 19 18 0 .244 .360 .372 .261 .350 .423 0 0 46 +26 –77
Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK 229 6 24 29 0 .252 .293 .383 .274 .327 .442 0 54 0 –11 +29 2.67
Gaby Sanchez FLA 216 4 26 21 1 .266 .344 .411 .260 .337 .422 52 0 0 –17 +42 1.85
Mike Sweeney SEA 99 6 11 16 1 .258 .323 .483 .260 .323 .398 2 0 20 +29 –88
Mark Teahen CHA 157 3 16 14 2 .255 .340 .387 .261 .323 .403 1 43 1 +14 –34 2.60
Jim Thome MIN 120 5 12 17 0 .237 .375 .464 .237 .354 .463 0 0 26 +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

The Value Picks list is looking into changing how its players celebrate, since Mark Teahen pulled a Kendry Morales, breaking his finger the same day he was named a VP. He’ll be out for the next six weeks, and certainly off the list. Though Jim Thome is healthy and has a long history of mashing and walking, another lackluster .250/.357/.333 week with diminished playing time and interleague play just around the corner means we wave bye-bye to him, too.

In their places, we welcome back two VP alumni who have turned it around. I often find that cold batters seem to miraculously heat up as soon as I bench them on my fantasy team, and Kouzmanoff pulled this same trick by homering in three straight games last week after the A’s (and the VP list) gave him some time off. He returns to the list so quickly in part because of his own streakiness over the past month, following a 2-23 stretch with a six-game hit streak where he clubbed those three dingers and hit .333/.364/.810 overall. Despite that streakiness, he’s maintained his improved contact skills, beating his career 80% contact rate with an 84% rate overall and 86% in the past two weeks. He also doubled his walk rate to 10% over that same span. In 2009, he increased his OPS each month from May to August, so I’m going to be a bit more patient with Kouz this time around on the VP list.

He’s also come back because the third-base pool has become very shallow, with scant value to be found between underperforming regulars like Chipper Jones and Aramis Ramirez or well-known, high-performing commodities like Evan Longoria or Alex Rodriguez. With the struggles of guys like Jones, Ramirez, and Andy LaRoche, as well as the Angels' muddle at 3B, we may see some new faces to choose from as managers adjust. In the meantime, Kouz should be a great pickup in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues, as he remains ignored by 84% of ESPN owners. 

First base, on the other hand, remains fairly deep, as long as you’ve got power elsewhere. Daric Barton returns after a strong three-week period that shows his finger doesn’t seem to be bothering him after all. In 17 games since departing the VP List, he’s hit .281/.403/.484, with a 16% walk rate that’s better than his season and career averages, while his 23% strikeout rate is worse than both. The power burst comes from an increase in fly balls from 40 to 47% during May, combined with a return to a more normal 10% HR/FB. His line drive rate also fell three points, which is why his BA declined to .267 last month.

Assuming his hit trajectory doesn't continue to feature more loft, Barton’s skills will make him a light-hitting first-baseman with a decent contact rate and a low homer total, especially at home. This makes him a nice CIF option in deeper mixed leagues and a lower-tier 1B option in AL leagues, while any league that counts OBP will get even more value from him. He can be had in almost 95% of ESPN leagues.

Looking at the rest of the list, Branyan put up another solid week, hitting .278/.381/.500 with a double and a home run. Both his strikeout and walk rates remain solidly above his career averages, meaning some regression is possible down the road. But for now, he remains hot, failing to get a hit just once in his past 11 starts. His teammate Travis Hafner hit a rough patch, with a .121/.216/.182 line over the past two weeks, but his core skills remain solid. His 19% strikeout rate over the last three weeks remains below his 23% career average, while his 12% walk rate is right in line. Keep him in your lineup, as the Indians don’t head out on the road for interleague play until the 18th.

And Mike Sweeney has been nursing an Achilles tendon strain, reducing his playing time to just three games, in which he went 1-12. Given Sweeney’s injury history, this bears watching, and it means he won’t play in the field anytime soon. [Update: Sweeney hit the 15-day DL for his back Sunday night. Expect a new VP to replace him next week!]

Lastly, I’m preaching patience with Gaby Sanchez, who improved slightly last week, hitting .250/.308/.375, amid a month where he’s hitting just .260/.321/.400. But there are signs of life, as he’s hit in 11 of the past 13 games, with a 83% contact rate and 8% walk rate that are just a touch below his career averages. He should turn it around soon, although he may not have long. The recent callup of Mike Stanton shouldn’t affect him, but Logan Morrison is healthy again and hitting .282/.417/.436 over his past ten games in Triple-A. If Sanchez’s luck doesn’t improve, he could be warming the bench on more than just the Value Picks list.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
This may not be a good week to cut bait on Thome. The Twins only face one lefty all week (Bruce Chen), and their interleague games are at home against Atlanta, so they still have the DH.

Next week on the other hand, Minnesota plays 3 at home against Colorado and then goes to Philly, so Thome will be pretty useless then (esp. if one of those COL games has Francis starting).

That's true about interleague, but I was gauging my decision as much on Thome's recent production as much as losing the DH. Still, if you want to hang onto him for another week, you might see a burst out of him before he works on his gluteus muscles during interleague play.

Thanks for the comment!
Is Smoak currently too good/widely owned or not good enough for the Value Picks discussion?

Great question. I've been watching Smoak lately, as he hit .119/.213/.119 the last two weeks of May, then went .417/.548/.708 in the 8 games since then. He's currently owned in about 9% of ESPN leagues, so he's definitely VP-worthy in that respect.

His season numbers overall aren't that great, and he's still striking out a bit too much for my tastes, but he could be starting to realize his tremendous talent. I'll be watching him even more carefully in the next week or two to see if he's really righted the ship, or if this is just a slight uptick.

Thanks for the great suggestion!

Smoak em' if U got em' .... I watch the Rangers on MLB alot - Smoak has survived through a slow start - he has hit a ton of 'at em' balls - and has drawn a lot of walks....other than concenrs about him from the right side of the plate - he is now here to stay and produce from the left side ....hes also got one thing the stats can't show or predict: IT (he is a ball player)

You put your finger on it there. If Smoak can ever figure out lefties, he'll be really dangerous. As a young switch-hitter, he's got a lot of moving parts to think about, which may be slowing his development/adjustment a bit.

As you say, though, he's got IT, so it's only a matter of time before all those moving parts get in synch. And that time could be soon.


Pick one in a power-friendly league... Headley, Stubbs, or Barton?

I'd go with Headley, not so much because he's a power monster, but because of the weakness of the opposition. He's the only one with a decent SLG projection (.392 or .442 in his 60th PECOTA percentile).