By R.J. Anderson //
In early March, I detailed why Cliff Pennington
could be a valuable piece in deeper leagues because of his ability to
steal bases. So far, he’s been well worth the late-round draft pick.
To date, Pennington’s stolen base total sits at 15. That places him sixth amongst shortstops, behind the usual names like Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes. Pennington
will probably finish within the 25-30 steals range; not bad for someone
without the hype or draft status of a Hanley or Reyes. What I expected
from Pennington was a hot streak that placed him among the game’s best
hitters for a prolonged period. Yet, over the last 30 days, he’s been
absolute on fire, batting .408/.463/.563 and placing him amongst the
top 10 batters in the entire league.
Fantasy league veterans
know all about the positional scarcity that comes with playing
shortstop. Any morsel of value from a non-elite shortstop or catcher
should be savored. Pennington ranked second in shortstop batting
average during the month of June (.338, only Rafael Furcal was
above .320) and he is hitting .375 in July. With that kind of
performance for the last month, you would think his stock would be up.
That is not reality, though, as he’s owned in only 26% of ESPN leagues
and 46% of CBS leagues.
Data courtesy of FanGraphs
obvious caveats apply to Pennington’s streak. Do not expect this level
of performance to continue. Besides the fact that nobody hits .400
anymore, Pennington plays in a cavernous ballpark. Despite all that
room, the park’s dimensions restrict hits of all variety from either
hand due to the large area of foul territory. A safe projection for his
performance from here on out is essentially his slash line to date:
.267/.338/.389. That looks similar to his 2009, when he produced
.279/.342/.418, in far fewer at-bats.
If you need shortstop help for the short-term in a standard league, grab Pennington and hope to ride out the wave.
By R.J. Anderson
Last week, Jonah Keri profiled San Diego Padres’ shortstop Everth Cabrera,
noting Cabrera’s cheap price/late draft position for potentially
premium stolen base production. Let’s look at another candidate to the
list of cheap shortstop SB candidates: the Oakland Athletics’ Cliff Pennington.
Ranked 366th overall and behind such names as Juan Uribe and Cristian Guzman,
Pennington projects to finish with the 44th most steals in all of
baseball. That’s not quite Cabrera level, but it’s more than Rafael Furcal and Erick Aybar,
two mid-level shortstops. Furcal is being drafted more than 100 spots
ahead of his 254th B-Rank and Aybar nearly 60 spots ahead of his 269th
rank. Pennington is ranked as the 21st-best shortstop, just slots
behind these two, and he’s not even being drafted in most leagues.
Using the 2010 Projected Stolen Bases filter for American League
shortstops, we find that Pennington ranks behind only the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Rays’ Jason Bartlett in projected swipes at the position in the AL.
Thanks to Moneyball, the A’s have developed a reputation for
being averse to the stolen base. Turns out the book came out seven
years ago, times have changed, and Bloomberg Sports’ SB forecasts for
Pennington vs. the rest of the league reflect that. Last season, Rajai Davis stole 41 bases and Adam Kennedy nabbed 20. The days of Ray Durham’s
speed being held as a prisoner of the run expectancy war are over, and
manager Bob Geren is willing to give the green light when the A’s have
a capable thief. Pennington looks like that kind of base stealer: In 2009, he swiped 27 bases in 99 games at Triple-A. For his career, he has 107 steals in 476 games.
bases involves actually getting on base, and this is where things get
interesting. Pennington doesn’t
represent much in the way of batting average either, and the A’s lineup
is more defensive-orientated than equipped to scoring handfuls of runs
per game. That means Pennington’s true value is his stolen bases and
walks/on-base percentage. He’s projected to finish in the top 10 of all
shortstops in each of those metrics, but considerably lower in most
Pennington’s biggest weakness is a lack of power. His minor league ISO (Isolated Power, i.e. slugging percentage minus batting average) is a measly .095. For perspective, Willie Bloomquist‘s career Major League ISO is .069 and Nick Punto‘s
is .076. Pennington’s not quite swinging with a whiffle bat, but his minor league power
trail his shortstop counterparts in the big leagues –
American League shortstops had an average ISO of .117 in 2009. Combine
lack of pop with playing in a pitcher’s paradise in Oakland, and
Pennington projects as a player who’s a likely SB specialist for your
team, not an all-around threat.
Still, for some cheap
steals and walks, Pennington could be a value pick later in the draft,
especially in AL-only leagues.