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Callaspo's value rises with trade to Angels

7/23/2010

I admit it took me a while to join the Alberto Callaspo bandwagon last season, but he ended up having a very nice, surprising year for the Kansas City Royals, hitting .300 and producing runs. For two months of this season, he was one of fantasy's better second basemen. Now that he's been traded to the Los Angeles Angels, I think it only enhances his value moving forward. Callaspo was dealt Thursday for pitcher Sean O'Sullivan and prospect Will Smith, and should become the team's regular third baseman immediately.

The Royals didn't seem to want Callaspo to play regularly back in the spring, forcing Chris Getz into the second-base job and implying Callaspo, arguably the team's second best hitter from 2009 (after Billy Butler), would be an infield reserve. That changed when Alex Gordon got hurt, and Callaspo, who is not a particularly capable defender anywhere on the field, became a regular again. Fantasy owners skeptical about his playing time had no excuses, and enjoyed his early production.

Owned in 53.5 percent of ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues, and down 4.9 percent over the past week, Callaspo isn't Robinson Cano. His .275 batting average is solid, but a tad disappointing. The eight home runs are nice, a mere three short of his 2009 total, but consider seven of the eight came by May 20. At the time, Callaspo was hitting .309 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs, making him a top-five second baseman (he's eligible at second base and third base). Since then, however, Callaspo has hit .244 with little production, and he doesn't make up the difference with stolen bases.

I think Callaspo certainly might get rejuvenated by going from a team fighting to avoid last place to a perennial contender, and there's also the chance he gets to hit near the top of the lineup. The Royals weren't scoring a lot of runs. The second-place Angels have been using shortstop Erick Aybar to lead off, and he's been capable, but Howie Kendrick has not done well in the No. 2 lineup spot (.288 on-base percentage there). It's possible Callaspo gets to bat there, directly in front of Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and the team's run producers. I could see Callaspo, currently on pace for 14 home runs, 76 RBIs, five stolen bases and 70 runs scored, upping his pace considerably in batting average and runs scored the rest of the way. I would rather own him than second-base eligibles Orlando Hudson, Ty Wigginton, Ryan Theriot, Juan Uribe, Jose Lopez, Clint Barmes, Carlos Guillen, Jeff Keppinger and Felipe Lopez.

For the Angels, this means Maicer Izturis goes back to utility duty, which is what he's best suited for anyway. Izturis came off the DL a few days ago and hit a home run at Yankee Stadium, but his main fantasy asset is stolen-base potential. His ownership is at 19.4 percent, a figure that is way too high now. He should be cut. The Callaspo addition also signals the end of Brandon Wood getting opportunities. Wood has a .181 batting average over parts of four major league seasons. If he ever emerges, I doubt it's in an Angels uniform.

The Royals started journeyman Wilson Betemit at third base Thursday, and he hit a pair of singles, drove in two runs and raised his batting average to a gaudy .377 in 61 at-bats. Those in deep leagues might look his direction this week, but I have doubts Betemit, who has underachieved for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox, will be more than a bench guy. He doesn't have a natural position, and he hasn't been able to hit consistently in the big leagues.

I also don't think Alex Gordon will be taking back his spot at the hot corner, even though Buster Olney is reporting that Gordon has been called up to replace David DeJesus, who is DL-bound with a thumb injury. Gordon has been playing left field at Triple-A Omaha, and reports on his defensive progress have been very positive. He's also hitting .315 with 14 home runs and an OPS of 1.019 in the minors. The Royals likely will use Gordon mostly in the outfield for now.

Rather, I think the ultimate winner at third base will be elite prospect Mike Moustakas, like Gordon a former No. 2 overall pick, and one who profiles as an impact bat immediately. Moustakas destroyed Double-A pitching, hitting 21 home runs in 66 games with a .347 batting average. He's at Omaha now, but could get the call to the majors at any time. I've already stashed him away in a few deep leagues, and those in keeper formats should take note. He might not be a top-10 third baseman in 2011, but he should get close.

As for what the Royals received in the deal, O'Sullivan is an underwhelming right-hander who relies on control and doesn't miss many bats. He's only 22, but with a Triple-A ERA of 5.08, and little hope of wins or a decent strikeout total, it looks like the Royals were just eager to move Callaspo for whatever they could get.