Value Picks Season PECOTA Games Scoresheet
Reid Brignac TBR 158 2 22 23 2 .303 .361 .428 .252 .304 .396 0 33 21 +33 –99 4.72
Ian Desmond
WAS 219 4 23 33 4 .276 .310 .419 .243 .302 .379 0 0 59 –12 +29 4.75
John Jaso TBR 140 3 17 24 1 .281 .407 .421 .255 .345 .372 32 0 0 +23 –67 .62/.22
Felipe Lopez STL 142 3 17 15 4 .260 .355 .415 .268 .341 .383 0 9 18 –4 +11 4.27
Ronny Paulino FLO 161 3 18 25 0 .303 .335 .421 .263 .319 .392 38 0 0 –23 +48 .67/.28
Jhonny Peralta CLE 247 4 23 31 0 .251 .320 .406 .257 .326 .421 0 0 0 –3 +8 4.69
Sean Rodriguez TBR 137 4 23 21 2 .288 .328 .472 .232 .311 .419 0 33 5 –8 +20 4.25
Neil Walker PIT 76 1 7 8 2 .286 .342 .429 .261 .316 .431 14 0 0 –4 +11
  Avg for Catcher .256 .324 .397   vRH = OPS v RH
  Avg for Second Base .274 .337 .409   vLH = OPS v LH
  Avg for Shortstop .272 .329 .396   Rng = Range

The Changes

Value Picks again makes one change for the week, as long-time VP member Ian Desmond graduates past the 20% ownership mark in ESPN mixed leagues and moves on in terms of value. Desmond maintained his slash line during the week, keeping his AVG above .270. With a believable .315 BABIP, you should expect to see that AVG stick throughout the season. And while Desmond will never be confused with Nick Johnson in terms of plate discipline, he's made for that a bit with his decent pop. Desmond ranks third among NL shortstops in RBI (33) and fifth in ISO (.143), so owners are getting decent value right now. While Jhonny Peralta still remains below the ownership threshold in ESPN mixed leagues, it is likely that most readers of Fantasy Beat are more than aware of Peralta's value as an average hitter in the hitting-poor shortstop position. As a result, he'll "graduate" with the caveat that he remains a solid choice for AL leagues.

First up, replacing Desmond on the list is a former top prospect with the Pittsburgh Pirates who, in recent seasons, has fallen on hard times. Neil Walker was once a first round draft pick and a prized prospect for Pittsburgh, starting off as a decent hitting catcher in the minors. However in 2007, after injuries and defensive ineffectiveness moved him out from behind the plate and to third base, the luster began to fall off. Walker had a miserable campaign in his first tour in Triple-A, batting just .242/.285/.414 (.231 TAv based on his Eq slash line). His plate discipline was awful, as he walked just 29 times in over 500 PA. In addition, with the rise of 2008 first-rounder Pedro Alvarez and the presence of former prospect Andy LaRoche in the majors, Walker's future at third base seemed murky as well.

However, Walker's subsequent stints in Triple-A did not end as badly. He put up a .264/.311/.480 slash line (.266 TAv) in 2009 andin 2010 he raked, batting .321/.392/.560 and displaying more plate discipline (10.0% UIBB%) than he had ever shown. His performance, combined with the absolute fallout of Akinori Iwamura at second, prompted the Pirates to give Walker a look at the keystone. So far this season, he has not disappointed, batting .286/.342/.429 (.279 TAv). The AVG is supported by a high .339 BABIP, compared to his minor league career mark of .302. However, even at a decent .260-ish AVG, Walker can still be valuable due to his power. PECOTA projects another nine home runs for the year in 353 PA, putting him at double digits for the (short) season. None of the major projection systems think his walk rate will be all that impressive (PECOTA projects a 7.2% rate in its weighted means line), and hitting at the bottom of the Pirates' order (3.2 R/G) isn't helping in the runs category either, but you would be hard-pressed to find an available second baseman who could hit with the kind of projected power Walker has and maintain a passable AVG. Walker is taken in only 4.2% of ESPN mixed leagues and, given his playing time (projected 90% of the 2B PA according to Heater expert Matt Bandi), is a good pick for NL-only leagues.

Sean Rodriguez makes the AL side of Value Picks an all-Tampa affair, and with good reason. The Rays, despite a bit of a slide, are still quite potent offensively, and as R.J. Anderson pointed out yesterday, Rodriguez may be one of the most interesting players in that lineup. Right now, his stellar .288/.328/.472 line is a mirage; Rodriguez has struck out in 30.6% of his PA and has an unsustainable .400 BABIP to support that AVG. Rodriguez has only made contact on 72% of pitches he has swung at, and with an average approach at the plate, this will lead to continued strikeout issues and a significantly lower AVG. However, his plate discipline in the minors has always been stellar (11.0% UIBB%) and you would expect that to translate to some degree at the major league level. In addition, Rodriguez' calling card of power has already been on display so far this year. His current .184 ISO is right in line with PECOTA's projection in Tampa (.187 ISO), and his HR/FB% of 12.1% does not seem anomalous for an above average power hitter. Rodriguez can also supply the speed on the basepaths, having stolen over 100 bags in the minors in his career. Before the season, Hot Spots had an eye on Rodriguez, claiming that even in part-time play, his power numbers and counting stats would be good if you could handle his AVG. Heater expert Ricky Zanker has Rodriguez playing full-time for the Rays, split between second base and right field, until Jason Bartlett returns from injury. If you can withstand a .230-.240 AVG, expect good things from Rodriguez.

The Incumbents

The remaining players on Value Picks have some semblance of playing time and performance stability right now. John Jaso and Reid Brignac are slowly regressing to the mean after their hot starts, but with their current full-tome gigs, they remain solid plays in AL-only leagues. Similarly, Ronny Paulino remains the man behind the plate for Florida, as John Baker suffered a setback in his rehab stint and remains unavailable to the major league team. Paulino's AVG should regress down to his norm of .260-.270, but expect a better power output going forward. Felipe Lopez had an average week and maintained his spot. Despite the solid week, he did not rack up the counting stats, picking up only two runs and two RBI amidst a poor week for the Cardinal's offense.

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OK, I'll bite, Michael. What gives with the Cubs' catching situation? I've dropped Soto for Posey and Carlos Santana in my two leagues, and I feel pretty good about it. Any thoughts? Seems like Soto's gonna drop through this article any day now.
bctowns, I think all three players are close enough in talent level that your move is justified given the currently scary situation with Soto. Reports are that Piniella is looking for defense at catcher and that Koyle Hill has caught some good games, but of course we all know that that isn't going to overshadow the significantly better offensive performance of Soto. My general suggestion would be to grab waiver wire guys to hold your starting spot until this wave of irrationality ends. Soto is too good to be platooning, but he's not good enough to be valuable while platooning if you've got other options. The VP guys listed here would not be bad pickups either in the case of Soto owners.
Sorry, Mike, I made a Piniella comment and directed people here for Soto commentary. Following the Cubs closely as I do, I'd agree with your position here, and would add that part of what makes Soto so valuable in real life doesn't help in most fantasy formats - namely, his willingness to take walks. In the abstract, he seems like a great "buy low" candidate, but then again, I would have said the same thing about Chris Iannetta early this year when he started losing PT to Miguel Olivo, too.
Thanks, all. Does the Soto situation change for me in leagues that count Bb and OPS? Also I just lost Tulo in that same fourteen team mixed keeper league. Is Reid Brignac a good alternative while I've stashed Tulo on the DL. Thanks for the help y'all!
bctowns, Sorry I missed the questions. Soto definitely improves if your league counts BB and OPS, but I would say that playing time still trumps that. However, over the last week, Soto has picked up 20 PA and made four out of the last five starts, so maybe Lou has head on straight for now. Brignac is a good choice, as he is still getting playing time at second base right now. Beware the batting average regression, but be happy he sits in a lineup like the Rays'. Are there any other options in the waivers right now for you?
I picked up Brandon Wood as an alternative option, but Starlin Castro is also on waivers at this point. I like Brignac in the Rays' lineup, but as you mentioned in this week's installment, the playing time concerns with Rodriguez and Bartlett are preventing me from getting too excited.