April 19, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
Several Value Picks continued to shine this week, but two are worthy of replacement: Brandon Wood and Fernando Tatis. Wood has continued to struggle, shortening his leash considerably with the last-place Angels, though he’s still someone to follow in case he can turn it around. Fernando Tatis went 1-12 on the week, an admittedly small sample, but there are also rumors the Mets will call up 1B prospect Ike Davis, buzz lent credence by their designation of Mike Jacobs for assignment. A struggling part-timer whose replacement is looming, Tatis can’t be called a value pick anymore.
Andruw Jones, however, has worked his way into more playing time—and my Value Picks—with his hot bat, driving up his ownership in some leagues, though he still remains available in 97 percent of ESPN and 77 percent of CBS leagues. Jones seemed poised for a rebound in his first year in the AL, when he hit .231/.332/.538 in the first half with the 2009 Rangers. But then a hamstring strain shut him down in August, a month where he’d hit just .167/.259/.208, raising doubts about whether his comeback was for real.
Chicago bet that it was, signing him as a DH, though Jones has spent his time in the outfield instead, a product of his ten Gold Gloves and the great shape he’s in this season. Jones’ gaudy offensive numbers, on the other hand, are a product of a 33 percent FB/HR rate and a .333 BABIP, so he’s clearly hitting out of his skull. And while his walk rate has ticked upwards to 12.5 percent (from a career 10.1 percent), he’s whiffing 33 percent of the time (22.4 percent strikeout rate in his career), so this is still the same old all-or-nothing Andruw.
2009’s resurgence and this year’s hot start, however, make Jones a decent value if you’ve got an open roster spot, especially given his OF qualification. He’s obviously not going to keep hitting like this, and he’s shown nothing to prove that he won’t hurt your BA, but he’ll deliver some power and increased counting numbers. PECOTA’s 50th percentile looks weak, but Jones should clear 20 HRs in his 60th percentile, making him rosterable in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Brandon Inge offers one-category help, too, and Scoresheet owners will also appreciate his glove. Like Jones, Inge started 2009 hot and could help you while he’s hot in 2010. Unlike Jones, Inge displays a lower walk rate (7.9 percent), higher strikeout rate (25.4 percent), and raw power results much less friendly to such an approach (.158 ISO for Inge, .238 ISO for Jones). So why recommend Inge, who looks even weaker than Jones, and who is widely regarded as fantasy poison?
In his career, Inge has always been a first-half performer. Since becoming a regular (100+ games) in 2004, Inge has played 19 months named April, May or June, and produced an 800+ OPS twelve times, and a 700+ OPS sixteen times during those months. Inge has played in 18 months named July, August or September over the same six-year span, but only produced an 800+ OPS twice and a 700+ OPS six times. He's a great play with an 800+ OPS, a fringe-y deep-league or AL-only play at 700+, but not worth a Bill Pecota rookie card below that level. Unless he can hit his 70th PECOTA projection all season long, he could fit your roster in those formats before June, but has no business anywhere near your team thereafter.
Looking at the rest of the Value Picks, Daric Barton and Gaby Sanchez have cooled off, hardly unexpected given their four-digit OPS numbers in the first week. But they’re still available in over 70 percent of CBS leagues and over 90 percent of ESPN leagues and continue to cement themselves in the starting lineup. Sanchez hit .300/.391/.450 last week, rising to seventh in the order, and his six doubles are tied for the MLB lead. Barton's lesser .250/.400/.350 last week is closer to his PECOTA expectations and shows his patience is still intact; he's still a marginal choice you can use if you have other sources of power.
Both Luke Scott and David Freese heated up considerably in the past seven days, with Freese raking at a .538/.571/.692 clip and Scott at a more moderate .235/.350/.471. Freese has started all but one of the Cards’ games and hit as high as sixth in the order, while Scott’s increases in ISO and contact rate show he’s rounding into form. As importantly, Baltimore has found room for Scott in LF, where he hits 26 points higher (with a 63-point OPS increase) than when he cools his heels at DH.
Medical Update: Alex Gordon returned to the active roster, while Lance Berkman and Russell Branyan should return this week. Listed in decreasing order of severity, Edwin Encarnacion (arm), Adam LaRoche (quad), and Miguel Tejada (hip) are all dealing with nagging injuries. Update 4/19 9:30 AM PT: Daric Barton was hit on the elbow yesterday and left the game with a contusion, a medical term meaning, "We're not quite sure what this is." Initial X-rays were inconclusive, and he's scheduled for an MRI today. A DL stint is not out of the question.