May 10, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
This week’s Value Picks list graduates one third baseman from the top, drops another from the bottom, and adds in two hot-corner denizens to replace them.
I told you last week to grab David Freese quickly, and his ownership shot up by 70% in ESPN leagues, thanks to his .333/.419/.556 week. This produced the tastee Freese line in the table, though a 891 OPS ain’t exactly soft-serve. Freese will certainly melt back to earth at some point, but you won’t find him on your league’s waiver wire until he does.
Brandon Inge, on the other hand, has cooled off considerably, hitting .235/.278/.294 last week. He tends towards streaks like this, and three of his five games came against the first-place Twins. The Yankees and Red Sox come into town this week, so stash him if you’ve got the room on your bench until he heats up again.
Their replacements start with Andy LaRoche, once a top Dodger prospect who disappointed enough for them to swap him to Pittsburgh, where he continued to underwhelm last season despite the lower-pressure environment. His .258/.330/.401 still featured a strong 16% strikeout rate and a slightly below-average 8.5% walk rate, but only his glove kept his WARP in positive territory.
A .343/.439/.429 start to 2010 bumped him up in the order from seventh to second, where he’s hit .286/.352/.449 since the change. He’s goosed his walk rate to 10.5% while his strikeouts haven’t budged from 16%. At 26, he’s a bit old to suddenly take a huge leap forward, but he did have a 900 OPS in the minors, including a .310/.412/.544 line in Triple-A. His big-league struggles have made PECOTA pessimistic, but he’s worth a shot to see if he can exceed those modest expectations. Reaching his 80th PECOTA percentile makes him a solid 3B play across the board, but he’ll deliver OBP at his 50th, and BA just past his 60th.
LaRoche’s downsides are twofold: he won’t bring corner-level power, and Pedro Alvarez looms in the minors. If Alvarez doesn’t move across the diamond before his callup, he could start pushing LaRoche as soon as June. Until then, LaRoche makes a good play in Scoresheet and OBP leagues, while NL-only and deeper mixed leagues can roster him to see if he can stay hot. He’s still out there in 97% of ESPN leagues.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is another story of delayed expectations flourishing in a new environment. Back injuries, a poor plate approach, and hitting in PECTO have all suppressed his production. Changing leagues and playing in Oakland’s only slightly less unfriendly McAfee Coliseum contributed to his .210/.261/.306 line though April 21 as he made adjustments. They apparently worked, since he’s hit .333/.357/.426 since then, including .316/.350/.526 last week at home against Texas and Tampa Bay, two of the better pitching staffs in the AL.
Kouz’s calling card is power, not patience, and his skimpy 4% walk rate in 2010 is consistent with his 4.7% career rate. But the power is yet to come, as his current 5.4% HR/FB rate is well off of his 11.5% career average. His strikeout rate has dropped from an average 20.5% to 16.4%, which could indicate a looming BA correction or might be the benefit from escaping the strikeout arms of the NL West.
PECOTA thinks even a subpar Kouz will be valuable, since he’s a good 3B option for BA in his 30th percentile and a good power choice in his 40th. He could even approach 30 HR and 100 RBI if he continues to hit cleanup. Unlike LaRoche, Kouz should be a solid roster addition all season as he continues to improve on his slow start, and he’s available in 80% of ESPN leagues. AL-only owners should already have him rostered, while deeper mixed leagues can use him either at 3B or as a CIF option.
As for the rest of the VPs, Daric Barton’s .227/.280/.364 line this week may mean that his finger is bothering him more than expected. He needs to deliver in the BA department to stay on this list, though his overall line remains strong. Troy Glaus gave his owners BA, but not power, last week, something that should turn around. And Gaby Sanchez brought the pain in both departments, hitting .318/.348/.500, including his second homer of the season. And Jim Thome’s .263/.417/.474 makes him a productive DH option in most leagues, especially those that value OBP.
I’m offering a summary of my first month’s results below, which don’t look good at first glance. (Note that David Freese appears twice because he went off then back on the list). Some of this is due to my beat, trying to find guys overlooked by nearly all owners in the most valuable and most scrutinized fantasy positions out there. I also had some bad luck in the power department, which stands to reason when my top 1B picks are underpowered guys like Daric Barton and Gaby Sanchez, and the entire group hits just 9% of their fly balls out of the yard.
I should note also that the top producers got my strongest recommendations, while guys like Branyan and Tatis received very guarded advice. Regardless, you can expect better results in the future.
Value Picks Results: May
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