Either I’m getting better at this, or fantasy owners are getting lazier. For the first time this season, all of my main VPs are sticking around, many of whom have been on the list for a month or more, despite strong performance. As fantasy trade deadlines approach, now is the time to make a move for one of these undervalued assets.
I don’t like cutting a player so soon after adding him, but Matt LaPorta (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) picked up just one hit in nine plate appearances last week—never a good endorsement for fantasy value. He’s also in the short half of a platoon with Casey Kotchman—being unable to push Kotch out of the starting lineup is the baseball equivalent of a boxer who can’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag. Keep one eye on LaPorta to see if this prospect-turned-suspect can finally live up to his promise, but keep your other eye on this week’s AL-only addition, who’s been hitting far better in a similar time-share situation.
Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%) continues to defy the expectations created by his .372 BABIP and 29.1 percent K%. He hit .316/.350/.474 last week with doubles in three of four games, but he has only drawn two walks in his last 59 plate appearances while whiffing 15 times. Those ratios will catch up to him eventually, but he remains a good play until they do.
Not only did Chris Carter (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 7%, CBS 31%) add two more homers to his totals last week (he’s hit three in his last 23 plate appearances), but he picked up three other hits, including two doubles. Like Wallace, Carter’s 27 percent K% should deflate his batting average, but unlike Wallace, Carter has been delivering power to compensate. Oakland has been scoring runs in bunches since the All-Star Break, jumping from 3.71 runs per game in the first half of the season to 5.39 runs per game in the second half, and Carter should continue to be a big part of that.
So far this season, Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 4%, CBS 18%) has hit well without providing much power, but that’s begun to change. He cranked his third home run of the season last week and has four doubles in his last 38 plate appearances. This could be a result of his 33 percent line drive rate in August or because he’s moved up in the order, hitting out of the second or third spot for 10 of the last 12 games. The latter move, as I predicted last week, has also helped him accumulate counting stats: he’s scored a run in five straight games and racked up four RBI in his last five games. This all makes Pacheco more valuable than ever at the always-thin hot corner.
With Carlos Pena squeezed out from the starting lineup even more (see Playing Pepper below), Luke Scott (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 9%, CBS 18%) will be playing first base as well as designated hitter, at least against righties, giving him more chances to bring value to your team. He’s cooled off a bit after a hot start, going hitless the past two games after picking up a hit in his previous five games since returning from the disabled list. He’s been consistently striking out, however, whiffing at least once in all six of those starts, so don’t expect his batting average to get much higher. I expect him to improve, but he’s on VP notice if he doesn’t.
Batting average, on the other hand, is exactly what Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 10%, CBS 41%) has been delivering, lifting his own average almost 20 points since July 25. The power’s still not there—he hit only two longballs all of last month—but his patience is returning. He’s walked six times in his last 45 plate appearances after it took 139 plate appearances to register his previous six free passes. If that trend continues, he’ll not only help owners in OBP leagues but also those needing batting average help in traditional roto leagues. If you can handle a light-hitting first baseman in your fantasy lineup, Alonso is your man.
A four-hit night on Thursday was the highlight of the week for Brandon Belt (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 15%, CBS 37%), who had just one hit in his other 13 plate appearances. He struck out just once, though, making those hitless games a BABIP blip and not an indication that he’s losing his focus. The power has yet to come around for him—he didn’t homer in all of July or August—but you can still count on him for some help in batting average and counting numbers.
As reader Calledstrike3 said last week, Mauro Gomez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%) is Boston’s first baseman of the future now that Adrian Gonzalez is wearing Dodger blue. Gomez has hit well at the minor-league level, with a .281/.334/.484 overall line and a .310/.371/.589 line this season in his second year at Triple-A. His overall 24 percent K% and 6 percent BB% in the minors are fairly pedestrian until you look at his 203 ISO, but those came largely from doubles in the early part of his career. Following the 2010 season, BP2011 criticized him for not converting enough of those doubles to home runs, and he began that conversion in 2011.
In 2010, he hit 42 doubles and 16 home runs in 559 plate appearances for Double-A Mississippi in the Braves’ system. The next season, he hit 24 homers and 34 doubles in 557 plate appearances at Triple-A Gwinnett, but he was blocked by Freddie Freeman, so Atlanta let him go. Boston signed him before this season, and that 2012 triple-slash line at Pawtucket came along with 24 homers and 34 doubles. That’s not a typo—he repeated his Gwinnett numbers exactly, but he did it in 131 fewer plate appearances while also shrinking his strikeout rate from 23.5 to 20.6 percent and his walk rate from 6.8 to 8.2 percent.
Recently, Gomez has been the right-handed half of a platoon with James Loney (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 18%), but Gomez has hit well in that lesser role. His .321/.379/.453 triple-slash line in 58 plate appearances comes with a 21 percent K% and 9 percent BB% that almost exactly matches his Pawtucket ratios. With a strong pedigree and a chance to establish himself in Boston, Gomez is definitely deserving of a look in AL-only leagues and even some deeper mixed leagues.
After Charlie Manuel confirmed that Placido Polanco is now officially riding the Philadelphia pine, Kevin Frandsen (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 2%) celebrated the news with a .364/.391/.409 week, picking up eight hits in 23 plate appearances, which included Thursday’s four-hit performance. He’s certainly hitting over his head right now, but unless this foot injury on Sunday is worse than it looks, he should be a great NL-only play until he cools off.
Now that the BABIP fairy no longer likes Chris Johnson, Arizona is turning to former NL-only VP Ryan Wheeler (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) at the hot corner, hoping he can translate his .351/.388/.572 season at Reno to big-league success.
Joe Maddon won’t let Carlos Pena (Yahoo! 37%, ESPN 32%, CBS 54%) doom the Rays’ playoff chances, so he’ll cut back even further on Pena’s already-dwindling playing time… as should you.
Although Adam Lind (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 21%, CBS 29%) has hit .292/.320/.417 in 25 plate appearances since being hurried back from the DL, that weak slugging could mean his back is still bothering him.
Casey McGehee (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 8%) was sent down to accommodate the newly acquired Steven Pearce (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%), a move that allows McGehee to return much sooner than usual. With the return of A-Rod, neither player is likely to make much of a fantasy impact, even with the mighty Yankees.
After missing a month to a viral infection, Jason Giambi (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) returned to the Rockies this weekend and should get a start or two plus some pinch hits for Colorado as the season winds down.
The Astros will give a long look to third baseman Matt Dominguez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%) down the stretch, though he’s known more for his glove than his bat, so don’t expect much.