The middle of May marks the first time that fantasy owners should take a serious look at their lineups, deciding if their higher draft picks are worth cutting loose. Lots of other options cropped up this week, thanks to injuries and roster moves, leading to a Value Picks reshuffling and a flurry of marginal VPs in Playing Pepper.
Scott Rolen (44 percent ESPN, 54 percent CBS)
As I predicted last week, Rolen wouldn’t last long as a VP, as owners quickly noticed he was healthy. Rolen helped his case by hitting in six of his last seven games, with multiple hits in four of those games. Hope you got him while you could.
Melvin Mora (<1 percent ESPN, 4 percent CBS)
A combination of poor performance and lack of playing time mean the end for Mora as a VP; going on the bereavement list was just icing on the cake. Watch him when he returns to see if he improves enough to fill a tough position in NL-only leagues.
Juan Miranda (<1 percent ESPN, 3 percent CBS)
Yes, this makes the third week I’ve added a Diamondbacks’ first baseman, and the second time it’s been Miranda, but Arizona released Russell Branyan, leaving the position to a Miranda-Xavier Nady platoon. Southpaw Miranda will get most of the starts, and his thumb seems to be bothering him less, as he has hit .553/.588/.867 over his last four starts. He missed a home run by a skosh on Thursday, then crushed a ball to almost the same spot on Sunday, before narrowly missing an opposite-field homer in the eighth inning. Miranda looks locked in.
You can read my earlier writeup of Miranda here, indicating his modest ceiling and good (but not great) minor-league numbers. Chase Field should help his power, while Brandon Allen lurks in the minors if he stumbles. Allen is hitting .318/.422/.534 after a slow start to the season, but he could end up in left field instead. All of this makes Miranda a good risk-reward gamble, worth an immediate add in NL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues.
Ty Wigginton (7 percent ESPN, 23 percent CBS)
Wiggy celebrated his VP addition by not playing in half of his team’s games this week, but that was to work on his timing. That timing returned in a three-hit performance—including two ripping doubles—in Friday’s fourteen-inning marathon against the Brewers. With Helton’s back bothering him again, Wigginton playing time should remain steady, delivering decent value.
Hideki Matsui (10 percent ESPN, 19 percent CBS)
Though he didn’t play this past weekend, Godzilla picked up a hit in three of his four starts last week with a whiff and a walk. The power’s still not there, but I’m going to give him another week before considering cutting him. Sitting out during interleague play might help him get his head together, or it might derail what little momentum he has.
Danny Valencia (3 percent ESPN, 29 percent CBS)
Valencia was nearly an ex-VP before coming alive at the end of the week: a two-hit game on Thursday, a home run on Friday, and a three-hit game (including a home run) on Saturday. This burst lifted his batting average more than twenty points and his slugging nearly fifty points. He is well on the way to reversing the miserable .224 BABIP he had up to that point, rewarding his patient owners.
Matt LaPorta (5 percent ESPN, 43 percent CBS)
Even a four-hit game on Monday and a two-hit game Friday—one of them a homer—couldn’t budge LaPorta’s ownership. He picked up the Golden Sombrero in his other games but walked three times while striking out twice. Whether the loss of Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore sends LaPorta into a slump or pushes him to new heights remains to be seen, but ESPN owners may not notice.
Daric Barton (<1 percent ESPN, 18 percent CBS)
Barton teeters on the edge of viability, even in single-league play, due to his overall .219/.335/.290 line. That incredible separation between BA and OBP is a testament to his good batting eye, which has improved his consistency. He has hit in four of six games this week and has only gone hitless in five May starts, adding nearly twenty points to his batting average since May 7. When the power comes around (as much as it ever does for Barton), his recovery will be complete, and he may return to mixed-league VP status.
Eric Hinske (8 percent ESPN, 4 percent CBS)
NL owners have it tough searching for corner infielders, as most of the available talent is overperforming. Hinske seems the best of the bunch, hitting .358/.380/.582 triple-slash line while filling in for Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward. That comes from a .435 BABIP, so he’ll plummet towards PECOTA’s 50th percentile line of .237/.325/.410 eventually. Heyward’s shoulder problems are continuing, and Fredi is concerned, meaning Hinske will continue to play; ride him while you can.
The Twins expect Jim Thome (13 percent ESPN, 10 percent CBS) to return from the DL today, bringing walks and home runs in part-time play.
Replacing an injured Adam Lind, Eric Thames (4 percent ESPN, 4 percent CBS) was called up to DH after bopping .342/.419/.610 in hitter-friendly Las Vegas, but he’d have to really shine to stick as a starter after Lind returns.
If you believe in comebacks, look at Dallas McPherson (0 percent ESPN, 0 percent CBS), promoted by the White Sox after Mark Teahen hit the DL. McPherson hasn’t hit in the big leagues (.245/.297/.454) like he has in the minors (.293/.378/.575), and hasn’t been in the bigs since 2008, but Chicago’s hot-corner situation is unsettled enough for him to grab some significant playing time if he hits.
Travis Hafner’s DL stint means more playing time for former AL-Only VP Shelley Duncan (4 percent ESPN, 0 percent CBS), who will start against lefties, bringing power and a low batting average to AL-only owners.
A fourth disabled player—Derrek Lee—opens the door for Baltimore’s Brandon Snyder (0 percent ESPN, 1 percent CBS). His .278/.342/.438 line in the minors predicts a good but hollow batting average; he’d only hit .286/.341/.439 in his 90th PECOTA percentile, not a great line for a first baseman.
A career .268/.316/.427 line against righties made Greg Dobbs (5 percent ESPN, 8 percent CBS) the heavy half of Florida’s hot-corner platoon. His .408 BABIP indicates regression ahead, but he has dropped his fly-ball rate from a career 44.5 percent to 25.6 percent, leading to more ground balls (47.4 percent this season vs. 35.4 percent career). This shift might help those grounders to keep finding holes, but it will diminish his power.