Roto Riteup: June 23, 2012

No high school anecdotes today people, just the good ol Roto Riteup.

• Keeping in line with catcher news, the Kansas City Royals activated Salvador Perez yesterday just before their game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Perez had been on the 60-day disabled list after having knee surgery back in March. Perez immediately proved his worth by smacking a two run home run in the fourth inning and going 2-4 overall on the day. He profiles as more of a higher average, lower power type catcher, but he is worth a look in dynasty formats. His on-base percentage won’t win him any awards due to his poor walk rate, but he very rarely strikes out either. Preseason ZiPS had him at a .274 AVG with 10 home runs. I might take the over on the average though, based on his upper minors BABIP profiles. If he hits .285 for 300 or so PA, he is a more than useful fantasy catcher. His Yahoo! ownership rate is just 9% and his ESPN is a mere 2%. In comparison to the catchers I examined yesterday, I would order them Perez > Rosario > JPA.

• Whoever bet that A.J. Burnett would throw six shutout innings against Detroit yesterday won big. Burnett lowered his season ERA to 3.24 and his 3.60 FIP and 3.54 xFIP give that ERA a little more weight behind it. He is still walking over three batters per nine innings, but remember, this is A.J. Burnett. He is actually getting ahead of batters at much higher rate this year; he currently has his best first strike percentage since 2006…his first year as a Toronto Blue Jay. He may have the occasional five run, two inning day, but for now I’d say he is definitely safe to stream and even roster, provided you play his match up carefully. If you drafted him, you’ve received 75 innings of 3.24 ERA baseball. Pretty good. Much better than his Yahoo! owned rate of 57% would suggest. He is owned in almost 80% of ESPN leagues though, so he may not be out on the waiver wire in those leagues.

• I know most people (okay, basically no one) associates Alcides Escobar with offensive prowess, but over the past 14 days Escobar has shown signs of life at the plate. In fact, he is hitting an outstanding .304 and has even chipped in three stolen bases. He isn’t anything special in OBP leagues, but his contact rate has always been above league average and when the bloops are dropping in, the going is good. Maybe calling them bloops isn’t doing Escobar justice. Per TexasLeaguers, his past two weeks have shown a fairly even batted ball distribution. Power isn’t his game of course, but if you need middle infield help, Escobar’s near .300 average has your name on it. His Yahoo! rating is just 36% and ESPN is 43%. Odds are he is available to you. To me, he is a definitive “play until he stops hitting for a couple days in a row” type. Without any power to speak of whatsoever, his value is directly tied to his average alone. As soon as that disappears, so does his value as an asset to your team.

• I’m surprised I have to mention him again, as he jumped significantly in my last American League Outfield Tiered Rankings, but Daniel Nava still hasn’t stopped hitting. His seasonal line is up to .339/.456/.523. His BABIP is still a sky high .407, but some of his skill seems to be legitimate. His walk rate hasn’t changed a tick from his minor league numbers, nor has his strikeout rate taken a significant change. Nava has seen time batting lead off mostly, but has seen time at ninth, eighth, second and even third. He doesn’t offer a ton of home run type power, but he hits plenty of doubles and draws his walks. He is basically the ideal lead off candidate. Hopefully Bobby V recognizes that and keeps him at the top of the order. Fantasy players have been just as slow to come around on Nava as Valentine, as he is currently owned in all of 9% of Yahoo! and 10% of ESPN leagues.

• Of course the biggest news of yesterday was probably the triumphant return of Roy Oswalt. Oswalt pitched six and two-thirds of one run ball, gathering six strikeouts and just one walk along the way. It was against the rather underwhelming Rockies, but it isn’t like Texas is exactly pitcher friendly. Per out very own Guts! page, The Ballpark at Arlington had the second highest park factor, behind only the Rockies. Given Oswalt’s surrounding offense, I would look to pick him up and aim for solid ratios with a healthy amount of wins. His next start is scheduled to be against the Tigers, so I may sit him there. I’d use that start a better barometer to see where he is physically. We’ll call his start against the Tigers his “experimental phase” game. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to not have my ratio blown up by a guinea pig.

For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here are a couple matchups you may be able to exploit.

A Pitcher for Today: Ervin Santana vs LAD
I don’t usually buy into home/road splits too much, but Santana seems to really benefit from his home park. Last year he had a 3.78 home FIP compared to 4.26 on the road. This year is a similar story, with a home/road split of 4.95/6.46. I don’t love this pick, but for a pitcher who should be available in half of the Yahoo! leagues out there, I’ll take him.

A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Derek Lowe at HOU
I am such a Derek Lowe fan boy. Dem grounders! He is available in almost 80% of Yahoo! leagues and almost 90% of ESPN leagues. The Astros rank in the bottom 10 for team wOBA. I love Lowe here.

A Hitter for Today: Nelson Cruz vs COL (Josh Outman)
Cruz crushes at home. Cruz especially crushes left-handed pitching. Outman gives up home runs. Advantage: Cruz

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Perez or Ellis at catcher?