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Amid pomp and circumstance that has nothing to do with overdressed, self-important people named William and Kate, we graduate VP alumni who made the grade, while sending out acceptance letters to several others.

Graduating

Todd Helton (17 percent ESPN, 23 percent CBS)
Continued excellence—and a two-homer game—from the Toddfather pushed his ownership to the point that he is unlikely to be on your waiver wire anymore. With a batting line of .300/.359 /.514, there’s no reason he should be.

Brett Wallace (18 percent ESPN, 47 percent CBS)
I expected the Walrus to leave the Value Picks list soon, and a ten-game hit streak (including eight multi-hit games and seven doubles) fulfilled that prediction. There’s room for caution, thanks to his .471 BABIP and a hip contusion sustained while playing iceberg to Prince Fielder’s Titanic, but Wallace seems to be finally realizing his potential.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (<1 percent ESPN, 10 percent CBS)
Kouz is what he is: a one-category player whose strong suit—power—isn’t all that strong. He walked four times in his last six games, four more times than he has walked all year, so better times are coming, but I’m dropping him for another AL-only option with a tad more upside.

Casey Blake (7 percent ESPN, 18 percent CBS)
Celebrating his VP addition, Blake hit the DL (insert obligatory Kendrys Morales/Bill Gramatica joke here), knocking him out for six weeks with a staph infection in his elbow.

Matriculating

Hideki Matsui (12 percent ESPN, 23 percent CBS)
A traditionally slow starter, Godzilla puts up his worst OPS in the season’s first two months. This year has been no exception, as Matsui hit just .242/.303/.374 in April. Bad luck explains some of this, though his .290 BABIP is close to his .303 career average, while his peripherals are a bit rough. His 8.1 percent walk rate is well below his 11 percent career average, and his 20.2 percent whiff rate continues a four-year trend of increasing strikeout percentages.

In past Aprils, Matsui’s 14.6 percent strikeout and 12.1 percent walk rates have been consistent with his career totals, so some Matsui pessimism is appropriate. PECOTA’s 50th percentile gives him just a .254/.340/.409 slash line, but his .275 TAv is eighth among starting designated hitters. He’d have to reach his 90th percentile to match last year’s numbers, but he becomes a solid play in his 70th, where his slash line would sit around .268/356/.430.

He is unlikely to collect 20 dingers playing in Oakland, and PECOTA’s projected SLG is only better than Jack Cust among starting designated hitters. Hitting in the heart of the Athletics’ lineup will bring decent counting numbers, and Matsui’s playing time is secure, even if the DH designation drives his value down. I like Godzilla’s chances to at least damage a few buildings going forward, even if downtown Tokyo no longer fears his predations.

AL-only VP

Shelley Duncan (<1 percent ESPN, 0 percent CBS)
Travis Hafner strained a foot tendon last week and has been hobbling around in a walking boot in the dugout. Although Hafner is only expected to miss a few games, this injury could linger, and Duncan (who hit .417/.417/.750 in three starts last week) will play in Pronk’s absence. Duncan mashes southpaws (.279/.348/.508), but is hapless against northpaws (.201/.282/.365), so his value is limited, but I like his short-term chances to deliver power, and if you need a quick fix in a deep AL-only league, Duncan makes a nice gamble.

NL-only VP

Melvin Mora (<1 percent ESPN, <1 percent CBS)
Mora’s days of shallow-league fantasy relevance are long past, and I was baffled by the Diamondbacks’ two-year deal for him. He compounded that skepticism by hurting his foot and opening the door for Ryan Roberts, this season’s small sample-space sensation.

When Mora returned last week, Kirk Gibson pushed Roberts to another position, and Mora responded with a two-double day on Wednesday. I don’t expect him to keep bashing the ball like this, but Ben Lindbergh pointed out part of the reasoning behind Mora’s contract: his historically excellent contact rates mitigated Arizona’s horrific strikeout problems. Mora has beaten his 81.6 percent career contact rate in each of the past four seasons; this, plus his career 8.5 percent walk rate, should stabilize his batting average around .270. His average is fairly hollow, as he has slugged .422 over the past four seasons, with 13 homers, but Chase Field should bolster those stats. Assuming good health, Mora should deliver value just by starting, but his punch-less projection suits him best for single-league usage.

Perpetuating

Kila Ka’aihue (2 percent ESPN, 38 percent CBS)
Kila Monster’s ownership numbers keep plummeting after his recent cold spell and diminished playing time. Despite his overall line of .203/.310/.338, I’m keeping him. His job is safe, even if some may choose to view a recent vote of confidence for Kila as its ironic opposite. Kila’s upside is too big, and this sample size too small, to make snap talent judgments.

Daric Barton (<1 percent ESPN, 23 percent CBS)
Another struggling hitter, Barton is maintaining strong, consistent peripherals as he passes the 100-plate appearance mark. His 16.8 percent walk rate and 18.7 percent strikeout rate are a tick above his 14.4 and 16.1 percent respective career averages. His .265 BABIP (.298 career) and 0.0 percent HR/FB ratio (5.7 percent career) both say that he has been unlucky, so stick with Barton if he fits your team’s low-power, high-OBP needs.

Danny Valencia (3 percent ESPN, 27 percent CBS)
Valencia is one of the unluckiest Twinkies, with a .243 BABIP that only bests Alexi Casilla’s .189. Danny’s career minor-league BABIP was .343 and it reached .345 in the majors last season, so his luck will turn. Be sure he is on your roster when that happens.

Matt LaPorta (4 percent ESPN, 36 percent CBS)
Some things mystify me: why people dance the Electric Slide, why clothes in sci-fi movies don’t have pockets, or who put the bomp in the bomp, bomp, bomp. Add to that list why fantasy owners haven’t noticed Matt LaPorta. He plays on the hottest team in baseball, his .481 SLG is eleventh among starting 1B, and his 4 home runs ties him for ninth. His batting average is just .247, but his .254 BABIP tells you that should rise. For now, the mystery is your gain, but when other owners finally wake up, it will be solved—unlike the true origins of the bomp.

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HeAdFiRsT
5/02
Hawpe 1B/OF 5% owned CBS, 5 game hit streak with a couple batted in last night.
hessshaun
5/02
What's your take on Juan Rivera?
michaelstreet
5/02
I thought about covering Rivera, but chose not to because he's not Toronto's DH anymore, with the demotion of Snider. PECOTA's not terribly bullish on him until about his 70th percentile or so (.278/.326/.462), which is not unreasonable to expect him to attain. His high contact rate (12% career K%) should keep his BA high, especially since he's doubled his walk rate thus far this season (at the tail end of four years of incremental improvements). He'll help you most in BA and HR, where he's projected in the 20-25 range. His .242 BABIP thus far suggests he should continue to improve his overall numbers, making him a decent add for most leagues. Thanks for the question!
hessshaun
5/04
Thank you.
kdierman
5/02
Hawpe is going to be replaced by Anthony Rizzo at 1B within 5 weeks. He was cut by 2 teams last year and plays in Petco ... the hit streak may be his last professional hurrah
michaelstreet
5/02
I have to agree with your assessment here of Hawpe's future--that four-game hit streak is more of a dead-cat bounce than a sign of a turnaround. The Pads won't promote Rizzo quickly for a variety of reasons, from youth to the arb clock, but he's coming up sooner rather than later, and June could indeed be a good ETA. At that point, Hawpe will be either buffing a spot on the bench with his pants or will get flipped to a team desperately needing a left-handed bat on the bench. Thanks for the comment!
kdierman
5/02
Digging Deep: 3B - Daniel Descalso .... LaRussa has a woody for him and Freese's annual DL stints have started 3B - Ryan Rohlinger Giants (qualifies at SS now) - called up to replace Panda, he draws walks, has decent power, and would be a solid add in a deep NL only league with OBP% as a caegory 1B - Brandon Allen DBacks .... the Miranda/Branyan show is almost over 1B - Anthony Rizzo - SD (see Hawpe comment above)
michaelstreet
5/02
Descalso: picking up a CIF with a minor-league line of .276/.347/.406 is digging too deep for my tastes, no matter LaRussa's priapic state. Rohlinger: his .311/.392/.477 line in Triple-A came in his third year at that level. He's shown the skills you describe, though not yet in the majors. A better play at SS, and a risk regardless, but he's a nice gamble for the next month in deeper leagues. Allen: I'll wait until his callup before recommending him. I agree that Miranda/Branyan haven't been great, but Allen hasn't been all that amazing so far, either (.284/.366/.455 in Reno). Arizona would need to either waive Miranda (he's out of options) or cut Branyan to make this move, so it's going to take more than a bad April for them to pull the trigger on an Allen promotion. Excellent suggestions--thanks for the extra legwork!
HeAdFiRsT
5/02
Hopefully Rizzo learns how to hit lefties. Pick up the milb player 5 weeks away or the guy starting to heat up getting the majority of PT right now. Oh if I only had unlimited roster reserve spots.
BPKevin
5/02
Hannahan? 3B for CLE, not the minor league goalie, Suzanne's husband.
michaelstreet
5/02
Hannahan's hitting way over his head right now, and I don't see him continuing to produce at a .273/.349/.481 clip. He hit .268/.359/.391 in the minors, only once coming close to his current production. In the majors, he's got a decent walk rate (10.9% career) but his 24.4% strikeout rate suggests his BA won't continue at current levels, and his 18.2 HR/FB rate this year is elite, so he's been very lucky. Add to this his likely replacement by Lonnie Chisenhall at some point this season, and the package isn't terribly appealing. He might be a good gamble in deep AL-only leagues, but I'm not a believer in him right now. Thanks for the question!
LlarryA
5/02
Hannahan has been just fine for me as the last stop on the 3B carousel I've been on while Longoria's been on the DL. He's in the "break glass in case of emergency" category. Unlike the previous contestants, he managed to not get himself hurt (Encarnacion, Blake...) on my watch...
michaelstreet
5/02
That's a great way of putting it, Llarry; Hannahan is the guy in the Emergency box. Complimenting him this way is sort of like when some great tragedy occurs and someone says, "Hey, at least you've got your health." There's a lot to be said for having a guy who's starting nearly every game--sometimes in fantasy, all you need is a warm body, and (thus far) Hannahan has been all that and more. And since Longo should be back tomorrow, you get to shed Hannahan just as probability is about to catch up to him.
AWBenkert
11/09
Shouldn't the Wallace/Fielder analogy be reversed? Seems to me the Titanic got the worst of it.