Infielders to Target: Mike Aviles, Bryan LaHair
BY ROB SHAW
Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports
The Red Sox willingness to trade away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie was certainly bold, but really the bigger story was the franchise’s confidence in former Royals middle infielder Mike Aviles.
A career .288 hitter, Aviles has been a fine contributor in the Majors when healthy. The New York native making himself at home in Boston doesn’t have much power, but in a solid lineup he can pile up many runs. He is also a sneaky stolen base threat. Think of Aviles in the same mold as Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, except for a much lower cost and with shortstop eligibility.
Aviles and the Red Sox played at the hitter-friendly US Cellular in Chicago this weekend. Though he finished hitless in his final seven at bats, the 31-year-old veteran makes for a great start in the next series against Oakland. The series will be played in Fenway Park where he already boasts two home runs and a .333 average this season.
The Cubs slugger Bryan LaHair reminds me a bit of Michael Morse, a late bloomer with plenty of power who finally broke out last season with the Nationals. LaHair, is a 29-year-old slugger who entered the season with just five home runs to his credit. He spent the last six seasons at Triple-A and last season blasted 38 round-trippers with a .331 average.
So far LaHair is batting .382 with the majority of those hits good for extra bases. While those numbers will regress quite a bit, that does not mean that he can’t still end up as one of the greatest surprises of the season. LaHair can blast 25 home runs with 90 RBI.
In many ways, he is an upgrade over Carlos Pena for the Cubbies at first base. He may not be the defensive gem that Pena is, but with an average .150 better than what Pena has offered the last few seasons, the Chicago fan base is not complaining. Neither should fantasy managers.
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Is Miguel Tejada Back?
By R.J. Anderson //
In late July, the Baltimore Orioles traded Miguel Tejada to the San Diego Padres. He’s hit .295/.360/.410 since, sparking endless stories on how rejuvenated and grateful the 2002 AL MVP is to be involved in a playoff push. The same media that comes down on Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp for single-play gaffes has allowed Tejada to skate by on, presumably, giving lackluster effort for nearly 100 games.
More amazing is how people are so quick to buy that Tejada is back to being an above-average player. Tejada is hitting for marginally more power than he was in Baltimore (.115 ISO to .092) and while he’s walking more often (9.3% versus 3.5%), he’s also striking out more (from 9.7% to 14.1%). Tejada has not sustained a walk rate over 9% since 2000 and that includes playing on good Oakland teams and bad Astros teams alike. The odds of him doing it with the Padres over any length of time are low.
Besides the walk rate, an increased batting average on balls in play is helping to buoy his line. In Baltimore, 28.2% of Tejada’s balls in play turned into hits; that number has spiked 33.3% have with the Padres (league average is usually around 30%). Tejada is actually hitting fewer grounders and more balls in the air with San Diego, which usually isn’t a great combination for improved BABIP, but he has improved his infield hit rate. Tejada had 10 with the Orioles, he’s got three with San Diego already. Perhaps he really is a man full of joy:
If that seems like a lot of negativity around Tejada’s future prospects, well, it is. Little optimism exists for a 36-year-old with a line of .292/.325/.417 over the past three seasons, moving to an extreme pitcher’s park no less. Nonetheless, being a shortstop again adds some value to his recent hot streak and moving from the American League East to the National League West could boost his player’s offensive value.
If you need a shortstop at this point in the season then you probably won’t have an active team for much longer, so add Tejada for nostalgia’s sake if you want because he’s available in more than 30% of ESPN leagues. If you’re a standard mixed league of 12 teams or less, though, pick up someone like Oakland’s Cliff Pennington instead.
For more on Miguel Tejada and other former MVPs in baseball, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.