April 26, 2010
Hot Spots: First Base, Third Base, and Designated Hitter
Prospects Justin Smoak and Ike Davis were called up this week, but the accompanying fanfare makes Smoak a poor under-the-radar “Value Pick,” while Davis would have to blow through his 90th PECOTA projection to produce rosterable values at 1B. Two other callups spelled the end for one Value Pick, however, as other VPs struggled through tough weeks.
The usual small-sample qualifiers accompany one-week performances, but for David Freese, the season-long sample space has been long enough to drop him off the list, after a week when he hit .125/.222/.125 to produce the ugly totals you see above. With Felipe Lopez behind him and a strikeout rate pushing 30%, Freese’s leash is getting shorter, despite hitting .500 with RISP. He should come around if he’s given the chance, but that’s a big “if,” and a trade might be the only thing to help Freese thaw out.
Luke Scott, hitting .222/.222/.333 for the week, has performed so poorly that Baltimore brought up OF Lou Montanez, a former prospect with a .247/.285/.376 major-league line, and 1B Rhyne Hughes, who crushes righties, which is supposedly Scott’s job. When Scott feels pressure from two mediocre minor-leaguers and an equally weak Nolan Reimold, that’s trouble. Scott could right the ship and return to this list, but Value Picks must deliver value, something he hasn’t done, so he gets the boot, too.
Brandon Inge’s .160/.276/.240 line last week matched his career 1.67 Bash (TB/H) rate, and his 11% walk rate is the same that he’s had all year. With no one pushing him for playing time, Inge will have time rebound, just as Gaby Sanchez should also recover from his .154/.267/.231 week, though Sanchez feels the pressure to stick in the bigs.
Daric Barton’s .250/.478/.313 week highlights his patient batting eye, which continues to make him a great play in Scoresheet and OBP leagues. Get Andruw Jones while you can, since his hot week (.294/.429/.882, with 3 HR and 2 SB) has caught the attention of a lot of owners, and he won’t be an underappreciated Value Pick for long.
New addition Ty Wigginton is a borderline Value Pick, mostly because his monster .320/.397/.720 week put him on the rosters of 25% of ESPN and 50% of CBS owners, probably in the 2B slot. This qualification delivers extra value, but also makes him so fringe-y, since Brian Roberts has begun his slow rehabilitation, and Wiggy’s playing time—and value—will drop off significantly when Roberts returns.
But Wiggy’s perceived value is low after a pratfall .273/.314/.400 in 2009, a line partly driven by an unlucky 7.9% HR/FB and a career-low 5.3% walk rate. BP’s writeup also points that he moved to a home park that’s less favorable to righties, a theory supported by his splits this season: six of his eight extra-base hits have come away from Camden Yards, and this week’s explosion came amid a week-long road trip.
So gather ye rosebuds while ye may with Wigginton, who could struggle in this week’s homestand, but bring better value when they head out on the road again next week. Since Wiggy’s 50th percentile PECOTA projection is above average at 3B, he’ll give value in the long run. A lack of guaranteed playing time makes it unclear how long that run will be, so use him selectively.
The recently activated Russell Branyan failed to attract the attention of 71% of CBS and 97% of ESPN owners, who were undoubtedly concerned about his health. Back injuries, like the herniated disc that kept Branyan off the field in spring training, tend to recur and sap power. This happened to Branyan in 2009, when his first-half .280/.382/.573 evaporated into .193/.274/.414 after the break, thanks to back problems that plagued him down the stretch.
Branyan flies that injury risk like a Jimi Hendrix freak flag, and playing him at 1B will keep it flapping, even if he’s not playing full time at 1B just yet. His whifftastic ways won’t help your batting average unless he blows through his 90th PECOTA percentile, but he’ll hit 20-25 longballs in just his 60th. If you need power and can absorb the BA hit (or could benefit from his OBP boost), Branyan is a good high-risk, high-reward gamble in deeper leagues.
Medical update: In the no-surprise category, Chipper Jones’s hip and Nick Johnson’s back are acting up. Ryan Zimmerman is trying to avoid the DL for his strained hamstring, something DH Carlos Guillen couldn’t do with his hammy or 3B Edwin Encarnacion with his sore throwing shoulder.