One of the reasons players linger longer on the waiver wire at this point in the season can be traced to their season line. A weak start can sandbag a player’s stats, and less-than-careful owners can overlook improvements by only looking at the bottom line. That’s the best explanation for the lower ownership rates for some of my VPs this week, who are all performing well of late despite weak overall lines.
Since returning from his Triple-A demotion, Adam Lind (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 29%, CBS 43%) has hit .327/.386/.615 (including Saturday’s four-hit performance), improving his OPS by 131 points. His overall triple-slash of .229/.307/.406 still looks weak, as do his seven homers, despite the fact that he’s hit four of those homers in the 57 plate appearances since his return. In his two weeks on the VP list, he’s seen growth rates of 3, 5, and 6 percent in Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS, respectively. Those aren’t much, but he was pushing the VP envelope even when I added him, so it’s time to say farewell to Lind, who is looking like his old self again.
It took Jim Thome (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) 35 plate appearances to pick up his first extra-base hit as an Oriole, a double on Saturday—not a good sign from a player whose power is his calling card. He’s only played three games at lefty-friendly Camden Yards, however, with his other appearances coming at Safeco and Angel Stadium, both pitchers parks. Give him some time to adjust and to pick up some more time hitting at home; even as the lefty half of a DH platoon, he’ll deliver on that power promise soon.
Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 14%) is hitting over .300 for the season, but he’s still out there on most waiver wires, with those ownership levels continuing to sink. That’s undoubtedly because he hasn’t backed up that .306 average with either power or counting stats. His subpar 4.5 percent walk rate is counterbalanced by a very strong 88 percent contact rate, so you can expect his batting average to remain high while his OBP and power will stay low.
Finishing the first half strong with four extra-base hits, Luke Scott (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 13%, CBS 27%) started the second half weakly, going hitless in six plate appearances over the weekend. Some of this comes from his recent lack of patience—he picked up only his second walk in his past 83 plate appearances on Saturday—but I expect that to normalize when his swing gets more settled.
As reflected in BP’s new PITCHf/x cards, Scott has not been hitting pitches outside of the zone very well. As with many lefty sluggers—like Travis Hafner, as demonstrated last week—Scott gets worked down and away by pitchers (especially lefties), and in 2010 (his best season), he was driving those pitches or putting them in the air. This led, unsurprisingly, to greater power. In 2011, when his OPS was 200 points lower than 2010, he hit those pitches into the ground, drastically reducing his power. This season falls somewhere in between those extremes in line drives and fly ball rate, restricting his slugging. If he can find that plate coverage again and produce when pitchers throw to the outside part of the zone, he can put up a season more like 2010 and less like 2011.
The last problem Scott faces comes from hitting at home, where he has a .194/.273/.339 career line. The Rays are at home this week, so that half of the equation may suppress his performance in the short-term, but I expect his patience to return, so he’ll stick as a VP unless the latter becomes a trend. His very weak .200/.257/.400 line on the year is undoubtedly keeping other owners away, but that too will rise, since it sits just above his 20th percentile PECOTA.
The home run that Travis Hafner (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%) hit last Friday the 13th was exceptional on a few levels: it was only his third homer on the road, it represented the only offense of the game, and it came in a rare start against a southpaw. Surprisingly, he’s hitting .179/.308/.389 at home and .333/.472/.544 on the road; he has hit .280/.389/.504 at the Jake in his career, but this season’s line is being dragged down by his .162 BABIP there (.310 career). That’s the same reason his seasonal batting average sits at .237, which happens to exactly match his BABIP this year—well below his .314 career mark. That low season batting line is keeping other owners away, but you can pick him up, confident that it will rise; just be sure you have a backup for this fragile DH.
Among first basemen who qualify for the batting title, Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 7%, CBS 35%) ranks 12th in batting average with a .263 mark. That’s better than Mark Teixiera, Justin Morneau, Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis, and quite a few other fantasy first-sackers. Where Alonso comes up short is in power; among those same first-base qualifiers, only Michael Young has an ISO weaker than Alonso’s .095. Some of that has been changing in July, when Alonso has hit .289/.426/.447, lifting his ISO nine points. His power sits just above his 20th PECOTA percentile, so while Petco is suppressing him, he should be able to overcome its effects, at least enough to reach the .399 SLG in his 50th percentile. Pay attention to Alonso’s peripherals more than his bottom line, but either one should give him more fantasy love than he’s seen lately.
Todd Frazier (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%) continues to get the nod over Scott Rolen, but Frazier’s .568 SLG (second among third basemen with at least 200 PA) and .279 batting average (12th among the same group) has failed to garner fantasy attention thus far. And whether veteran-loving Dusty Baker has admitted it yet, Frazier is his third baseman, having started seven of the last 11 games, and he’ll keep getting the nod. With the recent news about Joey Votto’s knee surgery, Frazier will pick up even more time—and additional positional eligibility—across the diamond. Don’t wait until it’s too late to pick up this valuable hot-corner hitter.
Joe Girardi has typically used the DH this season to give aging veterans like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Raul Ibanez a rest from fielding, but Eric Chavez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) has started 12 games there—two more than Jeter and as many as Ibanez. On Sunday, Chavez’s first start at designated hitter since June 5, the former Silver Slugger rewarded his skipper (and his fantasy owners) with three hits, including his seventh homer of the season. His 17.3 AB/HR ratio is his best since 2002, assisted by his 19 percent HR/FB, his best mark since 2004, the last year his SLG was over .500 (his current .522 SLG is also his best since 2004). I don’t think that the old Chavez is back, and those ratios suggest he’s due for a correction, but he’s definitely worth an AL-only roster spot to see if he can sustain this power binge.
Perhaps the poster child for low ownership rates, Luis Valbuena (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) remains widely available despite starting every day for Chicago. His .404 SLG ranks him 28th among third basemen with at least 90 plate appearances, higher than Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley, and Juan Francisco. Valbuena’s problem, of course, is his .225 batting average, but with a second-base qualification and a .179 ISO, he deserves a spot on your NL-only squad.
As Garrett Jones (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 42%, CBS 26%) has shifted mostly to playing the outfield for the Pirates, Casey McGehee (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 4%, CBS 12%) has settled in at first base, starting the last eight games there and hitting .317/.349/.561 this month, including two three-hit games last week and two home runs since July 6. The return of Alex Presley Monday, however, should push Jones back to first and McGehee back to the bench, limiting McGehee’s appeal to deeper NL-only leagues.
Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 6%) continues to edge out James Loney (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 5%, CBS 20%) as the Dodgers’ first baseman. Once a platoon, Rivera has started eight of the last fifteen games at first, though he’s hit only .222/.291/.280 over that span, including six outfield starts. In that same stretch, Loney has hit .250/.273/.313. Neither holds much fantasy value, though Rivera’s outfield qualification makes him a decent option in the deepest leagues.
If Ryan Roberts (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 25%, CBS 38%) needs another sign that his tenure as the Diamondbacks’ third baseman is coming to a close, losing starts to
Geoff Blum (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%), who is hitting .120/.179/.120 on the year, should be a sign of the flashing neon variety. Willie Bloomquist (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%, CBS 14%) has also picked up a few starts, and his .293/.323/.395 is stronger than Roberts’ .241/.288/.354, but Bloomquist is far more valuable as a fantasy middle infielder.
After briefly trying Matt Dominguez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) at third base and shifting Chris Johnson (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 11%, CBS 35%) to first base, Houston returned Dominguez to Triple-A and announced that first base would be manned by a platoon of Scott Moore (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 2%) and Matt Downs (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%), who are not to be confused with Matt Moore and Scott Downs, far more valuable fantasy commodities. Replacing Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) with two second basemen who are hitting a combined .199/.239/.397 on the season either means that Wallace will be up soon or that his chance in Houston is coming to a close.
Chris Carter (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%) and Brandon Moss (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 11%, CBS 23%) have been in a first base platoon, but Carter got the nod on Saturday against righty Cole De Vries while Moss started in right field. Carter rewarded Bob Melvin’s confidence with a three-run jack in the first inning, his third homer off a fellow righty. If Coco Crisp’s shoulder injury turns out to be worse than expected, we could see more of Carter at first and Moss in the outfield; either way, Carter looks like he might be ready for prime time.