August 3, 2010
Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop
There are some drastic changes in the Value Picks portfolio thanks to some playing time shifts and a proud VP graduation. Leaving our portfolio for playing time reasons are Bill Hall and John Jaso. Hall was the primary replacement for Dustin Pedroia since Pedroia's foot injury. However, with the return of Jed Lowrie to the active roster, Hall has lost a good deal of playing time. With his lackluster defense and hit-or-miss style at the plate, the Red Sox have opted for more of a time-share at second base, with the defensively-superior Lowrie receiving the better half. Meanwhile, Jaso has lost playing time enough playing time at catcher to be on the short end of a platoon with Kelly Shoppach. While Jaso remains likely the better offensive option at this point, the split in playing time, combined with his lack of power or other outstanding fantasy category, eats at his fantasy value. The lone graduate from VP is the very successful Neil Walker, who continues to impress batting at the top of the Pittsburgh lineup. He hit a well-balanced .304/.360/.565, displaying some of the anticipated power by hitting two homers. Now that ESPN mixed leaguers own him 23.0% of leagues, Walker graduates from VP in high style.
Replacing these players are two options who benefited from recent trade deadline moves. Chris Snyder was mentioned last week as a trade deadline beneficiary, as he was sure to move at the deadline given his contract and Arizona's salary-dump mentality this trade season. No one expected the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire Snyder, figuring a more competitive team with catcher needs would snatch up the 29-year old. However, Huntington snatched him up for spare parts and will have him potentially through the 2012 season at a decent price. Snyder resided in the VP portfolio earlier in the season when he replaced Miguel Montero due to injury. His game remains the same now that he has a full-time catching job in Pittsburgh: Snyder can hit for decent power (career .169 ISO) and walks a lot (career 12.5% BB%) to maintain a decent OBP despite a perenially poor AVG. Pittsburgh's incumbent catcher, Ryan Doumit, should be coming off the DL soon, but Snyder is in no danger of losing PT; Doumit will play first base and corner outfield when he returns, keeping Snyder entrenched at catcher. If you can handle the AVG, the power boost and the consistent playing time should be decent for NL-only teams looking to fill in at the catcher position.
The other addition to the VP list is Adam Kennedy, who was the primary beneficiary of the Cristian Guzman deal to the Texas Rangers. Kennedy took over the second base position full-time and finished this past week batting .316/.350/.368. Overall for July, Kennedy hit an AVG-heavy .345/.400/.400, bringing his season line from .238/.317/.319 to its current .263/.335/.336. That season performance itself, complete with a complete lack of power, is not very impressive, but Kennedy does make up some of that value with his prowess on the basepaths. In this season, Kennedy has attempted a steal in 11.4% of all of his potential stolen base opportunities, converting in 12 of 13 attempts. Given that he was doing this while playing part-time and pinch-running, it is not a stretch to expect a continuation of his base-swiping ways now that he is playing full-time. If your NL team is looking for steals, Kennedy may be one of the few available sources; he is currently owned in just 2.6% of ESPN leagues.
The remaining incumbents struggled this past week. Neither Mark Ellis nor Cliff Pennington impressed in the past week, helping contribute to a poor offensive week for the Oakland A's (.233/.290/.297 as a team). Ellis dropped his AVG a full ten points with a 2-for-19 week, while Pennington eked out four walks but only two hits in an otherwise poor hitting week (2-for-12). With both players' playing times secure, however, both should deliver respectable counting stats and a decent contribution in either AVG (Ellis) or steals (Pennington). Felipe Lopez had a poor .214/.290/.214 week but remains entrenched in the St. Louis lineup, assured plenty of opportunities batting at the top of the lineup card. Lopez is holding the third base position for David Freese, who had begun work in rehab assignments coming back from his sprained ankle. However, Freese came out of his first rehab game with a strained left leg which might complicate matters and keep Lopez' PT at third base entirely secure.