Week 2 – Third Base
Youth was being served in early May, when lots of owners scooped up the Cardinals’ David Freese over the Reds’ Scott Rolen to fill their third base slot. That choice turned out to be a season-changer in many cases, as Freese and his four home runs have been stuck on the DL since June 27, while Rolen has mashed his way to an All-Star selection and a .294-17-60 line. Another choice — though probably less critical — currently looms at the hot corner, so lets examine this week’s edition of Position Battles.
25 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues
We’ve all heard about Alvarez as the elite prospect called up on June 16 to revive the Pirates franchise, so let’s keep this brief. The 23-year-old struggled out of the gate but got hot in July, clubbing seven long balls over a 14-game stretch which culminated in consecutive multi-homer efforts on July 20 and 21. He got a nice boost in ownership after this little power outburst, but in the eight games since the 21st Pedro has struggled to a 3-for-28 clip without an extra-base hit. So while Alvarez’s massive “potential” has been well documented, his 26 whiffs in 90 July at-bats remains a bit too much for comfort.
Four percent owned in Yahoo! leagues
The name alone will arouse the mind of any fantasy sports fanatic, evoking thoughts of the human blur who single-handedly carried owners to a fantasy football championship in 2009. But this C.J. can do two things that his pigskin namesake cannot — smile without scaring little children
and mash the heck out of a baseball. Houston’s 2006 fourth-round pick quietly got the call on June 22 after posting an impressive .329-8-33 line with a .932 OPS at Triple-A, and hasn’t stopped raking in the bigs. Having showed solid power throughout the Minors, Johnson’s muscle took a while to shine through as he went homerless through his first 66 at-bats. But the 25-year-old has found the power stroke of late, going deep four times and plating 10 runs over his last 10 contests while hitting safely in 13 straight games at a .417 (18-for-45) clip.
These two couldn’t possibly be on further ends of the spectrum as far as rookies go. You have one guy who basically had a parade thrown for him in his debut, and another who virtually no one has ever heard of (four percent in Yahoo! Leagues with a .325 average?!?). We know chicks dig the long ball, and so do fantasy owners, therefore a youngster with 40-homer upside is obviously going to be more fun to own. So while telling people you own Johnson will sound impressive once NFL season roles around, the blue-chipper Alvarez reigns supreme here.
On first glance you might think this would be a no-brainer, but a closer look strongly suggests otherwise. While Alvarez’s hot streak this month was impressive, he’s looked overmatched for the majority of his short stint in the Majors. The lefty batsman has been unable to figure out southpaws thus far, managing just a .193 average and a .351 slugging percentage in 57 at-bats. On the other hand, while Johnson’s .398 BABIP suggests his overall clip is likely to dip, don’t expect too much of a drop-off. He showed solid consistency in the Minors, batting .299 while averaging 19 homers and 83 RBIs per 550 at-bats since 2008. In dynasty leagues, clearly vote for Pedro. But he appears to need a little more seasoning at this point, and the steadier and more refined Johnson is the safer choice for 2010.
So if you’ve given up on Pablo Sandoval, no longer able to stomach Mark Reynolds’ putrid average, or are done with struggling third-base eligible first basemen Jorge Cantu and Troy Glaus, give Chris Johnson a shot. He’s got a real shot to give you a .300-7-30 line the rest of the way, which ain’t too shabby.
Winner: Chris Johnson