Dayan Viciedo| Chicago White Sox| OF| ESPN: 0.4 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 8 percent ownership
Oliver ROS: .265/.310/.430
The man Hawk Harrelson calls Tank has his share of faults. He isn’t patient, walking in just 2.5 percent of his plate appearances, and chasing 39.2 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (league average this season is 29.4 percent). He’s striking out at an all-time high, albeit in a short major league career, and he’s hitting a ton of ground balls. Finally, he’s being slotted near the bottom of the White Sox order, which limits his opportunities to score runs and drive them in.
With the negatives out of the way, let’s move on to why Viciedo needs to be rostered in a higher percentage of leagues. He has huge raw power, much of which is derived from his big body build. He has already crushed six home runs this year, and is on quite the tear, hitting a home run in three of his last four games. He has also collected multiple hits in three of those four games, and with only one strikeout in that time frame, could be finding his groove at the dish.
There are few ballparks that are as friendly to right-handed home run power as U.S. Cellular Field is. Pair Viciedo’s home run happy digs with his plus power and you have a recipe for an easy 25 plus home run season. Owners would be hard pressed to find cheaper power available than that which Viciedo provides.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats as well as some shallow mixed leagues.
Xavier Avery| Baltimore Orioles| OF| ESPN: 0.4 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 0 percent ownership
Oliver ROS: .237/.286/.332
Avery has long been considered more athlete than baseball player. He began translating his athleticism into usable skills in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), which I discussed in an AFL update last November. He has carried over his solid showing in Arizona to 2012, opening the year at Triple-A Norfolk before earning a call-up to the Orioles to replace injured left fielders Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez.
I looked at Avery in depth for the Fantasy Baseball Cafe on Tuesday, so rather than rehashing the long version of what he brings to the table, I’d suggest reading that article.
In short, Avery is a speedy prototypical leadoff hitter. He’s not afraid to work a walk, and while he has yet to steal a base for the Orioles, he did steal eight in eight chances for his Triple-A club. He has played in all five games since being summoned from the minors, and he has hit in the leadoff spot in four. The one game he did not bat leadoff was against Yankees southpaw CC Sabathia, the only left-handed starter the Orioles have faced in that time frame. He was slotted ninth in the order for that game.
He hasn’t been over-matched in his limited taste of the majors, and so long as he is hitting atop the Orioles order, he has a chance to be an asset in not only the stolen base category, but also runs.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners in need of steals in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia| Boston Red Sox| C| ESPN: 4.3 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 18 percent ownership
Oliver ROS: .236/.293/.424
Since I wrote Saltalamacchia’s obituary as the Red Sox starting catcher in week one, suggesting that the team may turn to Ryan Lavarnway instead, he has come to life at the plate in a big way. In the last 30 days Salty is slashing .319/.333/.597 with four home runs in 72 at-bats.
He remains impatient, and he continues to strike out often, but he is hitting for power, and is a part of a Red Sox lineup that is fourth in the majors in runs scored. He’s doing the bulk of his damage against right-handed pitchers, sitting occasionally for backup Kelly Shoppach against southpaws. On the favorable side of a platoon, Salty is proving to be valuable to fantasy owners.
Owned in far fewer leagues than J.P. Arencibia, Salty is essentially his fantasy equal. As long as he is getting regular playing time, he slots in the 10-15 range of catchers, making him ownable in 12-team mixed leagues, and long gone in two-catcher formats. Owners in single catcher leagues that are employing the cheap backstop strategy would be wise to look Salty’s way.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two catcher leagues, all AL-only leagues, and all single catcher leagues with 12 or more teams.
Wei-Yin Chen| Baltimore Orioles| SP| ESPN: 15.8 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 19 percent ownership
YTD: 2.66 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.86 BB/9, 6.55 K/9, 33.3 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.66 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
The Oliver projection system liked Chen more than I did coming into the season. Oliver is getting the better of me thus far, and having taken a look at his PITCHf/x player card at Brooks Baseball, I’m beginning to warm up to Chen.
His four-seam fastball and sinker sit in the low-90s on average, good velocity for a left-handed starting pitcher. Both pitches have well above average whiff/swing rates, with the sinker’s rate being exceptionally high. His pitch location graphs in two-strike counts show that he is no stranger to going up the ladder with his fastball to attempt to induce empty swings.
The trade-off is his low groundball percentage, which will likely eventually lead to a few more taters than he has yielded in the early going. In addition to his four-seam fastball and sinker, Chen throws two breaking balls, a curveball and slider, as well as a third offspeed offering, a change-up. Of the non-fastball pitches, his curveball is the only one that results in empty swings at an above average rate. Neither the slider or change-up are hopeless pitches in regards to fishing for a strikeout, but neither would be classified as a put-away pitch at this juncture.
Chen has faced some stiff competition to date, and has been up to the challenge. He has allowed no more than three earned runs in seven starts, and has hit that total only one time in a turn against the Red Sox at Fenway. Four of his seven starts have come against top five run scoring offenses, with one start against the Red Sox, one against the Rangers, and two against the Yankees. He was outstanding in two of those starts, and didn’t embarrass himself in the other two.
It will be interesting to see how the league adjusts to Chen as more tape and information is available, but it should be noted that he was better in his second start against the Yankees than in his first. That start provides encouragement that he won’t turn into a pumpkin when batters see him a second time. He won’t carry fantasy staffs, but he should be a reliable option to round out them out in larger mixed leagues and AL-only leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats, and should be owned in some shallow mixed leagues.
Ryan Cook| Oakland A’s| RP| ESPN: 1.8 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 13 percent ownership
YTD: 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4.58 BB/9, 8.24 K/9, 46.5 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.13 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
One of the feel-good stories of 2012 has been the play of the A’s. General manager Billy Beane overhauled the roster during the winter, trading away young starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill as well as young closer Andrew Bailey in an attempt to get—you guessed it—younger and cheaper.
In the midst of a rebuild, it is a bit surprising to see the club one game above .500, and ahead of the offseason’s big spenders, the Angels, in the American League West. All that said, the A’s aren’t going to contend for a playoff spot, and should be sellers at the trade deadline. Teams are always in need of relief pitching, and Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes should provide Beane a couple of trade chips to continue the A’s face lift.
Balfour began the year as the club’s closer, and has since been demoted in favor of Fuentes. Neither has been the best reliever for the A’s in 2012, though. That distinction is held by Cook, who has yet to yield an earned run. Cook was acquired from the Diamondbacks as part of the Cahill package, and he has been used in late-inning, high-leverage situations regularly.
He began his professional career being developed as a starting pitcher, but didn’t truly flourish until the Diamondbacks turned him into a reliever full-time last year. He dominated at the Double-A level, pitched respectably at the Triple-A level, and struggled in less than 10 innings in the majors for the Diamondbacks.
As the stats would indicate, he has been much better this season. Cook possesses a live arm that generates two fastballs that average better than 95 mph. He flashed a change-up on occasion last year, but has thrown only four this year. When he’s not lighting up the radar gun, he is throwing his slider.
In spite of a pitch mix that should show a platoon split, he has been equally tough on right-handed and left-handed batters. There is a good chance that the A’s will eventually look to Cook to close games, whether that is because they trade Balfour and Fuentes or not. Owners in need of saves should act now before a change in ninth inning duties occurs. Meanwhile, Cook will provide cheap ratio help, some strikeouts, and possibly a few vulture wins and saves.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues in which non-closing relievers have value, and should be stashed by save-needy owners in large mixed leagues and AL-only leagues.