Monday, April 21, 2008

Take a Chance on Me - Week 4 Edition

My weekly Take a Chance on Me entry can also be found here at The Fantasy Baseball Generals.

Last week's TACOM picks did not hurt their status of being quality free agent pick ups as both Scott and Westbrook put up decent lines and saw the number of ESPN leagues they are owned in increase by a substantial amount. This week's players involve an uber flexible lead off hitter and a youngster with a boat load of talent.

In this week's edition of Take a Chance on Me, I will take a look at two players that are not only on the verge of breaking out, but who are also being missed by a lot of managers in ESPN leagues.

Felipe Lopez

In what feels like an eternity ago, I wrote about Felipe Lopez as my super sleeper middle infielder for my second Fantasy Friday's at Baseball Digest Daily. About a week after I made that posting, Lopez lost the battle to be the Nationals starting second basemen and was beginning to ask for a trade. Shortly after I had written off Lopez, he found his way into the Nationals outfield due to injuries to both Willy Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes.

Lopez started just enough games in the outfield to gain eligibility in the outfield in Yahoo! leagues, however he did not make the cut for ESPN leagues. Although in defense of ESPN, Lopez should not be used as an outfielder when he has middle infield eligibility, but the flexibility would be nice either way.

With the struggles of the terrible Ronnie Belliard, Lopez has found his way into another starting role.

While the sample size is small, Lopez is starting his season the way I expected him to perform when I touted him as the middle infielder to target in drafts. And with 3 steals in only 40 at bats, if he accumulates 500 at bats Lopez is on pace for 37 steals, which would be excellent value from the free agent pool.

An issue some may have, is with the power that Lopez displays. While he is currently struggling to hit for extra bases, that is not why you would acquire him. Furthermore, when one considers the positions that Lopez can fill for your team (second base, short stop, middle infield) and how far from the median Lopez currently sit in OPS+ (-20 points), it isn't as if he will be a black hole in your lineup for the next 5 months.

Take a Chance on Felipe Lopez, who is currently owned in fewer then 1% of ESPN leagues and who should outperform the likes of Orlando Cabrera, Jeff Keppinger and Jose Lopez, all of whom are owned in more then 95% of ESPN leagues.

Daric Barton

Daric Barton is too good of a talent to not be owned. He has too much potential to ignore in essentially any league, but especially in those with deep benches. I do recognize that there are other players who also need to be acknowledged and whom are worthy of using up a roster spot, but Barton has got to be considered in the same breath as the Jay Bruce's and Colby Rasmus' of Fantasy Baseball (keep in mind, I said Fantasy baseball).

Consider that the 22 year old Daric Barton is owned in 1.1% of ESPN leagues. While he hasn't not performed at a level that is worth much more then that, over the course of the season, how much worse is he then a Casey Kotchman who is owned in 100% of ESPN leagues?

Currently, Barton owns an extremely high batting average of balls in play (BABIP), although this is not unusual for him, this is a figure that will presumably decrease, although it will remain high enough to keep his batting average strong. Additionally, for those in leagues that utilize on base percentage, Barton will provide an excellent boost in that area.

The power is obviously in question, especially when one considers the position Barton will man on ones fantasy roster. Barton does have a history of hitting doubles, and while doubles do not automatically translate into home runs, there is obviously the potential for a few of those to pop over the fence at McAfee Coliseum. Consider that in 2007 only 13 major league first basemen hit 60 or more extra base hits.

Additionally, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus asserted that Barton "has gap power now, and some believe that his four home runs in 72 big league at-bats is just the beginning of him transforming his high doubles totals into a higher home run number." Because of this, I am willing to bet that Barton will manage to approach 20 home runs this season while maintaining a strong batting average and on base percentage.

Furthermore, as the number three hitter in the A's lineup, he should also provide upwards of 90 RBIs while making a run at 100 if things work out.

With the likes of Ryan Garko, James Loney and Billy Butler, all young, high average, mediocre power first basemen whom even I touted in the 3rd volume of Fantasy Friday's who are owned in at least 59% of ESPN leagues (Garko and Loney are at 100%) what is stopping people from taking a chance on Daric Barton?

BallHype: hype it up!

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