Nearly every VP performed well enough to remain this week, and there’s plenty of other waiver wire value to be found, although September callus—a while unlikely to be valuable in and of themselves—can affect those waiver-wire decisions. I’ll look at those angles, along with other potential VPs, in a heaping helping of Playing Pepper.

This week’s only performance-related departure is Jack Hannahan (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 3%, CBS 6%), part of an AL-only pick ‘em pair last week. Hannahan has seen his playing time increase thanks to a .381/.443/.603 line over his past 20 games, but a calf injury will keep him sidelined at least through this weekend. Whenever he returns, he’ll face competition from Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Donald now that Jason Kipnis has been activated. All of this spells the end of Hannahan’s brief and unspectacular stay as an AL-only co-VP.

Though Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 12%) is playing nearly every day for Los Angeles, that time has come almost exclusively in the outfield: he hasn’t started at first base since August 20. His production has also slowed down, with a .241/.319/.342 line over the last month, thanks in part to a slightly deflated .273 BABIP. Those stats should turn around, but combined with the position shift, they’re enough to topple Rivera off the VP list.

Yet another beneficiary of the Mets’ multiple injury woes, Nick Evans (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 5%) has followed former VP Lucas Duda into a first-base role. Evans has mixed patience and power in the minors, a mixture with volatile results:











2009/AA & AAA





2010/AA & AAA










His breakout Double-A debut was followed by a step backwards in 2009, with a 92-point BABIP drop indicating both bad luck and lack of solid contact. This year’s power outage is harder to explain, as it comes amid a BABIP rise and only minor ratio slippage. Without minor-league hit trajectory data and because of the BABIP bloat, I’d assume that this comes from hard-hit balls falling short of the wall.

Certainly, Evans has shown good power since his callup, as attested by his .281/.358/.500 line (including 4 home runs in 109 plate appearances), and his 23.9 strikeout rate and 11.0 walk rate are both in line with his minor-league numbers. He’s also improved his performance against same-side pitching, which has gone from a 234-point career OPS deficit to a 114-point credit this season. Small-sample caveats apply, especially since Evans’ 2011 major-league line is sprinkled among three different stints, and his current line tickles PECOTA’s 90th percentile projection. But Evans has the rest of 2011 to audition as Ike Davis’s backup or to improve his trade-bait status, giving him enough incentive to be a worthy roster addition in all NL-only and even some deeper mixed leagues. 

Mike Moustakas (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 6%, CBS 41%) “celebrated” his VP induction by going 0-for-12 in his next three games. Since two of those three games were against Justin Masterson and David Huff (the Indians’ best arms—a dubious distinction), I’m giving him a break, especially since he rebounded to pick up two hits Tuesday. Some cooling off is to be expected after any hot streak, but I expect Moose to be more reliable in the season’s final weeks.

More impressive than Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 9%, CBS 18%) hitting two doubles in Sunday’s game was walking four times in his other four games last week. That almost doubles his walk total with Oakland, indicating he’s getting more selective even as he fails to make contact, whiffing in 30.7 percent of his plate appearances with the A’s. Expect more Three True Outcomes results from Allen, making him most valuable in leagues that count OBP and SLG.

My dad, a rabid Diamondbacks fan, likes to complain about how ESPN ignores Arizona—a common complaint from baseball fans not living in New York, Boston or Philadelphia. In the case of Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 6%, CBS 37%), that complaint may also apply in fantasy. If a first baseman were hitting .248/.315/.485 (.268/.333/.563 in the past month) with 16.8 at-bats per home run for a first-place team on the East Coast, it would be hard to imagine him sitting below VP ownership thresholds. But owners keep ignoring Goldie, who keeps mashing in the heart of the Diamondbacks’ order, picking up an extra-base hit in three of his last five games, including another 400-plus-foot longball off Tim Lincecum on Saturday. If the other owners in your league have their eyes locked on the East Coast, too, take advantage by snatching up Goldschmidt.

Jim Thome (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 10%, CBS 9%) has been playing against lefties and righties in Cleveland, although Shelley Duncan’s week (see below) could change that. Thome hit just .167/.250/.222 last week and .184/.279/.316 in an Indians’ uniform, and he’s struggled against the fastball all season. If he can speed up his bat and get into a groove, that bump in playing time should reap counting-number rewards.

Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 6%, CBS 16%) cooled off a bit last week, hitting .250/.286/.250 while collecting his first swipe of the season. He continues to hit in the bottom third of Seattle’s weak lineup, but he’s a good play at a thin position down the stretch as he gives the Mariners one more reason to regret the Chone Figgins deal.

AL-only VP

In last week’s pick-‘em, Scott Sizemore (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 7%, CBS 10%) was  the better choice, even if his competition (Hannahan) spent most of the week hurt. Sizemore picked up a hit in all but one game last week while cranking two homers for a .286/.375/.619 line. That he struck out just three times in 24 plate appearances is also a good sign since his 28.2 percent strikeout rate since coming to Oakland has been a big black mark on his record. Don’t expect him to keep delivering longballs, but he’s a good play at a thin position in AL-only and the deepest mixed leagues.

NL-only VP
Jimmy Paredes (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%) will keep his third-base job despite the promotion of Chris Johnson, and Paredes bolstered his manager’s confidence with two multi-hit games last week. He only picked up one hit in 16 plate appearances in his other four games, however, giving him a relatively weak .261/.261/.304 line since my last column. It’s this sort of low-octane slash line that will restrict him to single-league usage, but he’ll bring his fantasy owners speed-driven extra-base hits and—if he sticks in the Astros’ two-hole, where he started twice last week—improved counting numbers.

Playing Pepper – September Callup Edition
If you haven’t read Derek Carty’s Prospect Impact about potentially valuable September callups, check it out. I agree with Derek that corner infielders Chris Marrero (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%), Rob McQuown VP Dayan Viciedo (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 13%, CBS 37%), and Juan Francisco (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) all merit a flyer from single-league and deeper mixed-league owners.

Former VP Anthony Rizzo (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 17%) was recalled to the Padres, where he’ll likely start against righties, but his early-season struggles make Rizzo a longshot for fantasy relevance.

The Astros promoted both Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 15%) and Chris Johnson (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 14%), but Brad Mills said they wouldn’t be the primary starters at either infield corner.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 4%) has hit .244/.306/.289 in a Rockies uniform, which won’t help him hold on to playing time down the stretch as Colorado looks at recently promoted younger players like Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson.

The callup of Pedro Alvarez (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 16%, CBS 30%) means Josh Harrison (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) will ride the pine occasionally, but Clint Hurdle indicated that Harrison is still the primary starter, even though Harrison has just four hits in his last 26 plate appearances.

Yankee callup Jesus Montero (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 11%, CBS 49%) will get most of his playing time at designated hitter, though he’s obviously more valuable as a fantasy backstop.

Milwaukee promoted a third baseman, but it wasn’t Mat Gamel. Last week, Taylor Green (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%)—who hit .336/.413/.583 at Triple-A this season and .291/.373/.458 in his minor-league careerhit three doubles in three starts (two at third base), staking a claim to further playing time as the almost-definitely-playoff-bound Crew rests its veterans.

With the Yankees’ playoff spot all but sewn up, Girardi will also give his veterans a breather, giving Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) a chance to play third base now and again, bringing him a smidge of AL-only value.

Shelley Duncan (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) has gone virtually ignored in fantasy despite his four-homer week, but he’s still best used against southpaws and to bolster your power numbers, as he’d have to beat his 90th PECOTA projection to get a batting average above .268.

Seattle activated Justin Smoak (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 19%, CBS 38%) off the DL, and he delivered a neatly symmetrical .292/.292/.292 line last week. Nifty as that is, it doesn’t erase his .190/.276/.315 line from June 1 until his activation, so no Smoaking until he shows more signs of recovery.

Jose Lopez (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 17%, CBS 4%) went yard twice last week, but being in the short half of a third-base platoon with Greg Dobbs limits Lopez’s fantasy impact.

Baltimore activated Chris Davis (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%), who said his shoulder was feeling much better, but Davis didn’t pick up a hit until last night, when he went 3-for-4. If he proves healthy and productive, he’d be a worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues.

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What are your thoughts on Blue Jays' callup 1B David Cooper? His first game back was far more impressive than anyone of his games in his brief early season callup.
In the short term, Cooper isn't likely to get many starts unless Adam Lind's wrist problem lingers. Beyond 2011, he could easily slide into the 1B/DH spot (more likely the latter) if they decide to let Encarnacion walk, since Lind is signed through at least 2013. Cooper's 2011 season at Triple-A redeemed his Double-A stumble in 2010, although his .364/.439/.535 line should be taken with a Las-Vegas-sized grain of salt. Still, the Jays were willing to start him in the majors this year, which leaves the door wide open for them to do the same in 2012. If his power proves to be more than a Nevada mirage (he hit .356/.430/.500 in away games), Cooper could be a nice 1B acquisition in fantasy. Thanks for the question!
Maybe this is explained elsewhere, but: how is position eligibility determined (for this series and more generally)? If Montero gets all his major league PAs as a DH during 2011, will he still be eligible as a catcher next year?
Different fantasy sites/leagues have different PE requirements, usually based on games played during the previous and current seasons, though that's different for rookies. Recently promoted players are typically listed at their minor-league position, even if that position is the same one they're drafted at (which is why Jesus Guzman qualifies at SS, despite playing only 4 games there since his 2004 rookie season). One of my leagues has Bryce Harper listed as a catcher. When a player meets the minimum games-played qualification for a position in any given year, he generally retains that PE in the following season. In Montero's case, his eligibility next season will most likely depend on both league and website rules. Some sites may retain his C eligibility whether he plays there or not, since he should retain his rookie status in 2012. But if he doesn't play at all behind the plate down the stretch, he could lose that C qualification--at least until he plays enough games in 2012 to qualify there again. As for the VP series, our eligibility requirements aren't so strict, but we try not to write up the same player in multiple columns and attempt to reflect where they're actually being played, as opposed to where they might qualify in fantasy. When the line gets blurry (as in Rivera's case), it's typically been first-come, first-serve, but we've also done a few back-room discussions about who should write up a particular player (Emilio Bonifacio comes to mind in this regard). Hope this clears things up!