The Value Picks crew had a fine week, hitting five homers, scoring 10 runs, and driving in 15 more. That’s a good thing, since the latest round of call-ups only brought one corner infielder likely to deliver fantasy value. That, however, doesn’t mean there’s nobody to be found on your waiver wire: almost all of my VPs are available in 80 percent of fantasy leagues.
The ankle injury of Kevin Frandsen (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 3%) turned out to be a stress fracture, the latest blow to the Phillies hot corner now that Placido Polanco is back on the disabled list. Frandsen can play as long as his pain tolerance permits, but that won’t be very often and may not be very well, so we’ll leave him to lick his wounds and turn to another NL-only VP.
Two things that bring fantasy value are playing time and production, but Luke Scott (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 9%, CBS 16%) hasn’t given us much of either. Even though Carlos Pena has been playing less, it’s Jeff Keppinger who’s been playing more at first base for the Rays. In just three September starts, Scott has picked up one hit—a home run—in 10 plate appearances. The home run is nice, but until Scott brings more value, he doesn’t deserve the label of Value Pick.
Josh Donaldson (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 13%, CBS 19%) has been red-hot since returning from Triple-A, hitting .315/.384/.607 in 99 plate appearances, including six home runs and eight doubles. Building on his .335/.402/.598 triple-slash at Triple-A this season, Donaldson has improved mightily on the weak numbers he put up at the major league level to begin the year. After Scott Sizemore went down, Donaldson could only manage a .153/.160/.235 line in 100 plate appearances before getting demoted in early June. In that earlier stint, he struck out 26 times and walked just once, leading to a very simple calculation of a 26 percent K% and a 1 percent BB%. Add to this a .194 BABIP, and you can see why Oakland decided to turn to Brandon Inge instead.
This time around, Donaldson faces no competition from Inge, whose season is finished, and he has also improved his plate approach, striking out half as often (13 times) while walking eight times. This has led to a .314 BABIP and far greater success, dragging that earlier weak triple-slash line to its current .230/.271/.412 level. The .246 TAv that production represents lies between Donaldson’s 40th and 50th PECOTA projection, meaning there’s still some room for improvement. Donaldson’s OPS won’t keep pushing 1000, but he’s definitely better than he was earlier this season, and his additional catcher qualification makes him a great addition to your roster.
Brett Wallace (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 10%) clubbed his seventh home run of the season (a three-run jack) just as last week’s column went to press, and he followed that up with five more hits last week, though only one went for extra bases. His high strikeout rates remain a concern, but he’s hitting the ball hard—he had a whopping 34 percent line drive rate in August—so he should keep his batting average high nevertheless.
ESPN fantasy owners are finally noticing Jordan Pacheco (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 12%, CBS 26%): his ownership rate has tripled since last week, a great indication that he’ll soon evaporate from ESPN waiver wires. He also homered last week on the same day my column went live, a fly ball that just snuck over the fence. Pacheco is still hitting in the middle of the Colorado order and remains a great corner infield option for batting average, if not power.
Power, on the other hand, is what Chris Carter (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 6%, CBS 30%) provides. He also went yard last Monday but only got two additional hits all week, striking out nine times in 17 plate appearances. Fantasy owners can accept some whiffs in return for home runs, but the exchange rate needs to be a little better than this. Still, Carter has delivered a .257/.321/.500 triple-slash in the last four weeks, which is more representative of what you should get from him in the future.
Adding to this week’s VP homer total was Brandon Belt (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 18%, CBS 37%), who hit a ball into McCovey Cove as part of a three-hit day on Tuesday. He got two more hits last week and even picked up a start in left field on Friday. The homer was his first since June 22, and he’s hit .303/.361/.434 over the past four weeks, part of the reason he’s pushing the upper edges of VP ownership rates. All of these are signs that Belt could graduate from the VP list soon.
Another VP who might be departing soon is Yonder Alonso (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 9%, CBS 40%), but he for the wrong reasons. Alonso is the one Value Pick incumbent who had a tough week, getting just two hits in 19 plate appearances, which could be a sign he’s slowing down. He hit .300/.351/.411 in August, however, so I’ll cut him some slack for now… but he’s been warned.
As the short end of a platoon, Mauro Gomez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) only got two starts last week, but he made the most of them, hitting a two-run homer off Brandon Lyon on Friday, a day when he also knocked in another run. He pinch-hit in two other games, and although he went hitless in both plate appearances, it shows that Valentine is not afraid to use him off the bench. He won’t bring much in the way of runs and RBI, but he can offer some ratio help to AL-only owners.
I mentioned last week that Matt Dominguez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 3%) would be getting a lot of starts at third base for Houston but that his bat was rather weak. Dominguez has hit .256/.323/.409 in six minor league seasons and .298/.347/.398 in Triple-A this year. He’s done his best to reverse the weak-hitting perception since his most recent call-up, hitting .375/.394/.750 in 33 plate appearances, a far cry from the .250/.250/.250 he managed in his eight-plate-appearance demitasse of coffee in July.
PECOTA is understandably skeptical of Dominguez’s line thus far, expecting a .229/.288/.362 triple-slash in his 50th percentile, and the sample space on him is rather microscopic at this point. He’s going to cool off eventually, but he’ll get plenty of chances to keep this hot hitting alive. One of the knocks on him has been his inability to make adjustments in the minors, and any development last season was hurt by a broken elbow. BP has noted in the past that he was one of the five best high school hitters when he was drafted and that he’s always been young for his levels, which means that he could finally be taking a stride forward to realize his potential this year. As the season winds down, he’s not a bad gamble for NL-only owners looking for hot corner help to put them over the top.
Playing Pepper: Injuries and Call-up Edition
The only corner-infield call-up of note is Cleveland’s Russ Canzler (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%), who has already started at first base, designated hitter, and left field. He’s most valuable as a fantasy outfielder, but he’s worth a flyer in AL-only leagues to see if he can sustain the six-game hitting streak he’s had since his call-up. I covered Canzler in this preseason VP column if you want to read more about his potential.
Mike Carp (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 9%, CBS 6%) was activated off the disabled list last week, but his .208/.312/.349 line this season doesn’t make him worth a roster spot until he shows some improvement.
Expected to miss the remainder of the 2012 season after sustaining a late June injury, Lonnie Chisenhall (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 4%, CBS 11%) returned to the Indians on Sunday, where he should easily push Jack Hannahan and his 622 OPS out of the starting lineup.
The stress fracture that’s hobbling Kevin Frandsen is allowing Michael Martinez (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) to step in at the hot corner, but PECOTA’s .229/.273/.327 50th percentile projection doesn’t make Martinez a good fantasy asset.
A hot streak from Alberto Callaspo (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 10%), who has hit .302/.384/.397 over the past four weeks, may have come at just the right time: Macier Izturis (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%) has a strained intercostal muscle, which could keep him out of the lineup for more than just a few days.
If Mark Teixiera is done for the season, look for Steven Pearce (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) and Casey McGehee (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%) to share time at first base, but they’ll only bring value in AL-only leagues.