by Eno Sarris //
The San Francisco Giants finally admitted some of their mistakes today when they designated both Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for assignment. Looking back at why they should have known better can help us for fantasy purposes, and looking forward to the final month might uncover a fantasy sleeper or two. Perspective is important.
Call Aaron Rowand the more obscene mistake of the two. In 2008, Brian Sabean signed the outfielder to a five-year, $60 million contract after Rowand made some high-profile catches for the Phillies the year before. Sabean was no doubt excited about Rowand’s career-high power surger in 2007, too. Unfortunately, it was fairly obviously an outlier season. Even at that point in his career, Rowand had two seasons with an isolated slugging percentage over .200… and five seasons where it was under .166. He’s always hit more ground balls then fly balls, and he’s never walked at a league average rate. Rowand was sure to be a strong defender in center field, but he wasn’t sure to add much power or patience, and his swinging strike rates suggested he’d always be an average whiffer or worse.
And that’s how it turned out. Rowand never saw even his career-average power in San Francisco (.163 average, .158 Giants-best), he struck out more, never walked, and became a defense-only center fielder pretty quickly. Now all of the center field at-bats will go to Andres Torres and Cody Ross, even if neither provides much offense either. With Torres’ strikeout rate, the best his owners can hope for is a mini power resurgence (three home runs over the final month?) and a .250 batting average, with maybe five steals to boot.
Ross will be the outfield utility player, more likely to play against lefties as his line against them (.918 OPS vs LHP, .718 vs RHP) is much better. Perhaps it will turn into a straight platoon in left field, actually. Baby Giraffe Brandon Belt bats lefty and is the only non-Carlos-Beltran player on the field right now with elite offensive upside. It might be hard to see it right now with his .219 batting average and slightly-better-than-league-average power (.156 ISO), but Belt does have that sort of long-term upside. Right now, he’s striking out 26.2% of the time, which is out of wack with his swinging strike rate (9.7%, only a little worse than 8.5% league average) and his minor league record (22.2% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year). Once he strikes out less and shows more of that power (.218 minor league low in ISO, at Triple-A), he’ll show more of that .280/.375/.500 type of ability that he has. If you are desperate for offense in a deeper league, now is a good time to pick up Belt. Keeper leaguers should be trying to buy low too if their deadline has not passed.
Let’s not forget Miguel Tejada just because his one-year, $6.5 million contract was a smaller mistake. His short stint as the Padres shortstop shouldn’t have erased the fact that two teams had already moved him to third base. Once a player has been moved off of shortstop, it’s very rare for him to return and find any prolonged success. And Tejada’s power has been in a tailspin since his last decent year in Baltimore in 2007. He doesn’t walk, doesn’t have power, doesn’t have a shortstop’s glove any more, has failing health, refused to lay down a bunt when his third base coach called for it, hits way too many ground balls and doesn’t have the speed to take advantage of those grounders any more. Need anyone say more?
His absence will create more opportunities for Mike Fontenot at shortstop. The lefty cajun might enter into a straight platoon with righty Orlando Cabrera there, even. Cabrera has been about as bad as he was in Cleveland for the Giants, and he’s been better against lefties in his career (.739 OPS vs lefties, .697 versus righties). Neither shortstop is very exciting, and in a platoon role they are even less so. Still, deeper-leaguers might want Fontenot since there are more right-handed pitchers in the league.
The Giants tried to erase a couple mistakes, but the players behind them are not incredibly interesting. Only Brandon Belt even approaches mixed league consideration. But with a month left and five games between them and the Diamondbacks, the Giants felt they had to do something. Maybe the biggest thing we can learn from them in fantasy is that this is the time to feel some urgency. Go out there and do something for each of your teams today.
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by Eno Sarris //
This past week has been a tough one for the third base position. Ryan Zimmerman underwent abdominal surgery and will be out up to another six weeks. Pablo Sandoval will miss at least that much time with a broken hamate bone. David Freese also broke his hand. Scott Rolen is having shoulder issues. Ian Stewart was sent down to the minor leagues. Pedro Alvarez is struggling with the whiff. If you have multiple teams, odds are you are looking for a third baseman in at least one league. We’ll break down some options here, tiered by league depth, so that you can sort through the mess.
It’s hard to know exactly which players are available on your waiver wire, but chances are, if you’re in a ten-teamer, Chase Headley is out there for you. Ideally, you’d like to play him against righties and away from home – so if you can platoon him in this manner, go ahead. As a batter, Headley has made some strides. He’s showing the best walk rate of his career and his power is up from last year. He has a lifetime BABIP of .330, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a little luckier on balls in play despite owning a current .301 BABIP. By the end of the year, Headley should be hitting around .260 with double digit home runs and steals, so he’s a decent stop-gap player. Of course, if you are lucky enough to find Chipper Jones on your waiver, he’s a much better option. But Headley’s no bum. Finally, the best option is probably Jed Lowrie, who made his fifth start (eighth game) at the position on Tuesday night. If he’s available and eligible, he’s your man.
Standard Mixed Leagues
Edwin Encarnacion is doing everything he’s always done in terms of his plate discipline and hit trajectory stats, but the power hasn’t been there. It’s a little much to ask him to recover his power so soon after a wrist injury, but that might be what you are stuck with. If power is your sole goal, you may want to go with Ian Stewart, who is now back in the major leagues. In interviews he has practically demanded that he play every day. If the team allows him that – it’s not like Jose Lopez is a better option (with his 1 OPS+!), and Ty Wigginton is also a flawed player – he could go back to striking out a little less than a third of the time, which would probably result in an Encarnacion-ish .250 batting average with power. If every hit counts, Danny Valencia has had bad luck so far this season and should at least be able to hit .265 or so going forward.
AL- and NL- Only Leagues
In these leagues, you’re mostly just screwed. In my 11-team AL-only, the best waiver option is either Omar Vizquel or Matt Tolbert. I’d take Tolbert, mostly just because he’s playing often because of the current state of the Twins infield. If Andy LaRoche is available in your league, he’s been seeing more time for the Athletics and has been acquitting himself well. On the NL side, Mike Fontenot is getting more playing time at shortstop and, because of his position eligiblity, actually create some trade value for himself by stealing the starting shorstop role in San Francisco while your third baseman is out. That’s how bad Miguel Tejada has been this year. Over with the Reds, Daniel Descalso is probably the man taking over for Freese right now, but watch Allen Craig if he’s available, as he’s the best bat in this paragraph – but he’ll have to build up eligibility at the positon, most likely.
Third base is hurting right now, literally and figuratively. Hopefully some of these free agent options will help you survived until you get your third baseman back.
For more check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office 2011.