Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Top Pickups Around the Diamond- Week 5


C- Jarrod Saltalmacchia- The young slugging catcher came up last season for the Braves and saw some good results. Following his trade to Texas for Mark Teixeira, Salty struggled a bit, but picked it up late and put up some respectable fantasy numbers. Salty can hit for power and draw a walk and once he gets enough at bats at the major league level the batting average will come around also. He is a 25-30HR bat waiting to happen, he just needs the chance. Many were surprised he didn't get that chance in 2008, but Gerald Laird won the catcher's job out of spring training outright and Salty was sent down the AAA for seasoning and to work on his defense.

Salty has been brought back to the majors and is going to be splitting time with Laird behind the plate in a bit of a surprise move. By many scouts accounts Salty's best place to play on the diamond would be 1B, because at 6'4" they feel his hight hurts him defensively. Another reason why 1B would be best for Salty to play is because with Laird behind the dish Texas already has a serviceable offensive and defensive catcher, and in reality on the days when Salty plays there it hurts the team defensively.

Right now, while it would be great to add such an offensive threat behind the plate, Salty isn't playing everyday and no matter how good he is or will be it's not worth it to add him, unless Texas trades Laird. Of course with Ben Broussard manning 1B for the Rangers I think a move to first makes a bit more sense. Broussard isn't the type of bat a team can build around, and he has proved himself over the course of his career to not be an everyday player, but rather a journeyman with some pop. Keep your eye on Salty, but right now, he isn't worth adding unless Texas does something to get him more playing time.

C-Dioner Navarro- After a good second half to his 2007 season Navarro was a hot sleeper at catcher going into most 2008 fantasy drafts. That blew up pretty quickly when Navarro wound up on the 15 day DL after needing stitches in his right middle and ring finger following a fluke fall at Yankee Stadium. Navarro is back and hitting like the player most think he can become.

On the season Navarro is hitting .416 in 24 at bats, with 5R and 4RBI and only 2strikeouts. There are still many things to like about Dioner. First off he is a switch hitter who knows how to draw a walk. Though he has struggled to get the bat going in previous years, his OBP was always at least 50-70 points higher than his batting average. The ability to draw a walk means a player can stay out of prolonged slumps and still do some damage on the base paths. Another thing to like about him is that he is only 24, so is still developing as a hitter and has room to grow in that part of the game.

If given the choice between the two, I would definitely take Dioner. He is playing everyday, and is in a better, more energetic line up in Tampa. This might change a bit if Salty can get everyday at bats somehow, but until then go get Dioner if you are hard up for a catcher.

1B- Eric Hinske- You can try and sell Hinske to me, but I am not buying it. Hinske has offered Tampa some vercitility this season and has seen time at 3B, 1B and OF. He is hitting .292 with 5HR, 12R and 13RBI, and is off to his best start since his rookie season when he hit 24HR with 13SB. His numbers since his rookie season have done nothing, but steadily regress as a hitter. I do not understand how a player can get worse and worse over the course of 5 years and then all of a sudden refine himself at the age of 30 and become an impact player again. Hinske is hot, but he won't keep this pace up all season. Expect a max of 15HR with 50RBI, Hinske is a fine role player now, but thats all. Don't get caught up in the early season numbers and a hot streak and confuse that with a player who is ready to produce for the long haul of a major league season.

2B/SS-Felipe Lopez- A few seasons ago with the Reds Lopez looked like a prime breakout candidate, who looked like he was ready to become a solid fantasy option for years. He could steal a base, hit a HR here and there and score runs. Then Lopez was traded to Washington and his numbers began to steadily decrease, bottoming out when he was taken out of the lineup in favor of a Christian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard combo. The door was opened for Lopez this season when Belliard slumped early and the struggling National's lineup could not afford to have his weak bat in the lineup any longer.

On the season Lopez has 1HR, 3SB, 8R, 8RBI and 8 walks while hitting .268. The average is a bit low, but since becoming the everyday 2B Lopez is hitting .357 and seems to be enjoying playing baseball again. It looks like it took a benching for him to realize what he wold be missing, and he has really efforted to keep his starting role for the rest of the season this time. Lopez is a solid addition in most formats. His versatility makes him useful, because he can play both of the middle infield spots and in some formats he might even have outfield eligibility. He could hit as many as 15HR with 25SB a lock, if he can continue to remain focused on the game and continue his phoenix impression.

3B- Edwin Encarnacion- The classic criticism of Encarnacion is that he is streaky, makes a lot of errors and hasn't been able to keep a firm hold of the starting 3B job in Cincy despite their attempts to hand it to him. It looks like all of that is changing this season, as Encarnacion already has 6HR, with 14R, 12RBI and 13walks to go along with a .282 average. I am very high him and think he is ready to show what he can do on an everyday basis.

The biggest positive for me is the walks, he already has 13walks in 2008, as compared to the 39 he had in all of the 2007 season. The power is legit and Encarnacion even adds another unique stat that most 3B don't because he can steal a bag, and might finish with about 10 or so for the season.

Go out and get him if someone in your league hasn't taken him yet. He will be a bit streaky, which will hurt his value in head-to-head leagues, but in rotisserie, the numbers all even out by the end of the season, so his value will be even greater.

2B/SS- Ryan Theriot- I have never been sold on Theriot, but he is scrappy player who can hit a little, steal a base and really adds a spark to the Cubs' line up. Lou Piniella really likes what he can do, so he will have no problem staying in the lineup on a daily basis. He offers little in the power department, and is prone to hot and cold streaks. He does have that 2B/SS eligibility like Lopez does which is really helpful in fantasy, incase you need to plug him into of those spots because of injury or trade.

If you need 2B Theriot offers a solid speed and run scoring combination. There is a decent chance he is already taken in your league, but if he is available go out a grab him. If you want to compare him to Felipe Lopez, I like Lopez's upside more, as he can hit for more power, but Theriot might be the safer bet as far as speed and playing time goes.

OF- Jayson Werth- Been around for a while now, and while he's never been a spectacular addition before, it's time to see if he is really Werth adding. He has been getting everyday play while Shane Victorino has been on the shelf with a bad calf. In a five game span from the 21st through the 25th Werth hit 4HR, 6RBI and 8R, making him easily the hottest player in the game, for both reality and fantasy. It was one of those streaks that can single handedly ruin an opponent's week, of course if your team actually owned Jayson Werth at the time, chances are it wasn't that good before hand the hot streak was really needed.

Don't go crazy for Werth, he is a decent player, he is not a good fantasy player. He is really a utility outfielder who went on a hot streak, and will come back down to Earth sooner and not later. Don't go out of your way to add him, he won't be Werth it in a week.

OF- Adam Lind- Toronto's top hitting prospect struggled a bit in his 2007 time in the majors and started the 2008 season in the minors. He was called up to more or less replace Frank Thomas's bat in the lineup, so no pressure there. Lind is going to be handed an everyday spot in the Toronto lineup and has been hitting the cover off of the ball in AAA, so I like his chances to succeed on the major league level in 2008. Generally when a young player has some time in the minor leagues to start the season they develop good habits at the plate and bring that with them when they are called up to the major leagues.

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