Monday, July 30, 2012
This week in (fantasy) baseball 7/23-7/29Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:05am
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a weekly basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
• Say goodbye to Alex Rodriguez for at least the next six weeks or so as he recovers from a broken bone in his left hand. For the moment, Eric Chavez (.258/.322/.454, eight homers in 183 plate appearances as of Sunday afternoon) has picked up the playing time at third base, but since we’re talking about the Yankees, keep an eye out for a solution to be imported to the Bronx.
• Who says Pablo Sandoval isn’t physically fit? The Kung-Fu Panda did, after all, showcase a full split in trying to close a double play last week. But although I enjoy seeing 240-pound, roly-poly athletes perform impossible calisthenics as much as the next guy, Sandoval strained his left hamstring in the process, knocking him to the DL.
As with all hamstring strains, the main concern lies with Sandoval pushing himself too fast in his rush back to the big leagues as Matt Kemp experienced earlier this year when he reaggravated his injury. But manager Bruce Bochy said the strain was high on the hamstring, which, apparently, is a less severe injury. In any event, expect to be without Sandoval for at least the next month and welcome newly-acquired Marco Scutaro as the Giants’ new third baseman, a guy who could have second-base, shortstop and third-base eligibility in the very near future.
• Logan Morrison might be a darling to the Twitter legions, but he’s basically been nothing short of disappointing in 2012. So consider his knee injury the final insult to fantasy owners who hoped he’d build on his hot start last year, as right knee inflammation has pushed him to the DL and could result in season-ending surgery.
• It was unclear last week whether Erick Aybar would need a DL stint after fouling a ball off his toe, but after several days, we have our answer. He will, indeed, go to the infirmary until at least Aug. 6. Maicer Izturis will continue to see action at shortstop, especially since Jean Segura was among the three players traded to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal.
• J.P. Arencibia is gone for at least six weeks after fracturing his right hand, giving Jeff Mathis (.264/.309/.516, five homers) a chance to shine as the Blue Jays’ backstop. And no, don’t expect to see top prospect Travis D’Arnaud assume command in Arencibia’s absence, as he suffered a right knee injury earlier this month and seems like he’ll miss the rest of the season.
• A sore back has pushed Placido Polanco to the disabled list, giving Mike Fontenot and Kevin Frandsen an opportunity to pick up at-bats at the Philadelphia hot corner.
Other bumps and bruises
• Brandon Phillips left Sunday’s game early with what was initially described as left calf cramping, but keep an eye out to see if this condition results in any lost playing time in week 18.
• Both A.J. Pierzynski and Alejandro De Aza have battled nagging injuries over the past few days, with the White Sox catcher sitting out due to an oblique injury and the center fielder sidelined with a wrist injury. Both players should return this week, but it’s possible they’ll miss some time, so keep an eye out for updates.
• Keep an eye on Rafael Furcal’s back injury, which zapped his usefulness over the weekend and could cause him to miss time this week.
Road to recovery
• Assuming he doesn’t get attacked by another suitcase, Jonathan Lucroy is back for the Brewers after missing two months with a broken right hand.
• Remember when Vernon Wells was not completely useless in fantasy? Yeah, I’m a bit foggy on this one, too. But the Angels outfielder is back after missing the past two months with a thumb injury, though an outfield of Mark Trumbo, Torii Hunter and some guy named Mike Trout, along with a resurgent Kendrys Morales at DH, means that Wells’ fantasy value is almost inexistent—presuming, of course, he’s not trade fodder.
• Just in time to swap active roster spots with Sandoval, Aubrey Huff has returned from a knee injury he suffered while celebrating Matt Cain’s perfect game last month. He’ll split time at first base with Brandon Belt.
• Jayson Werth is on his way back from his broken left wrist, though manager Davey Johnson said it’s unlikely he’ll be back on Tuesday, leaving his Week 18 value up in the air.
• There was talk last week that Troy Tulowitzki could miss the entire season after undergoing groin surgery last month, though recent reports indicate that the Rockies’ franchise player will push forward with his rehab assignment. Still, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be back before September, so count on Josh Rutledge to continue to see playing time at shortstop. While we’re talking about the Rockies, DJ LeMahieu (.269/.309/.346 in 55 plate appearances) could split playing time at second base along with Tommy Fields (.254/.324/.411 in 375 Triple-A plate appearances) now that Scutaro is gone.
• Jair Jurrjens has been nothing less than a virus to fantasy owners this year, so he won’t be missed now that he’s been exiled to the Atlanta bullpen. Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.48 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 6 K/9 in 54.1 relief innings) is taking over his spot in the rotation, at least for the time being.
• The acquisition of Francisco Liriano will mean a six-man rotation for the White Sox, at least for the time being, especially since it sounds as if Chris Sale is starting to battle arm fatigue.
• Not long after hearing that Brett Gardner will miss the rest of the season as he fights an elbow injury, the Bombers went out and acquired Ichiro Suzuki for cash and a couple of minor-leaguers. Personally, I don’t want to hear about Ichiro’s meager .289 on-base percentage (entering Sunday) so far this year, since being traded to the Yankees—and a much, much cushier lineup— has a way of rejuvenating older players.
Ichiro’s days as an elite outfielder may be gone, but his value has certainly received a boost after this deal, especially when one considers he owns a .329/.347/.471 line in 75 plate appearances at new Yankee Stadium.
• It’s towel-throwing time in Miami, apparently, as Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were unloaded to Detroit in return for top prospect Jacob Turner and two other minor-leaguers. Infante remains a solid low-end second baseman, and should receive consistent playing time in the Motor City.
Sanchez, 28, (5-8, 4.11 ERA, 1.283 WHIP, 8.0 K/9) has had something of a down year, though his FIP (3.72), xFIP (3.61) and a low strand rate (70.1 percent) hint that he’s been a bit unlucky, especially as he’s on his way to posting the best walk rate of his career. Of course, switching leagues won’t help him, and he surrendered three home runs while losing to the Blue Jays on Saturday, but he’s joining a better team with a better bullpen and remains a solid mid-rotation fantasy starter.
As for Turner, he was quickly sent back down to the minors and probably won’t see any big league service before September.
• Not surprisingly, Hanley Ramirez and the Marlins finally had enough of each other, as the Fish sent their former megastar to the Dodgers for starter Nathan Eovaldi and a minor-leaguer. My THT boss, Nick Fleder, doesn’t believe this trade will boost Han-Ram’s value all that much, since he’s now entering a tougher division pitching-wise and ballpark-wise. But I’ll choose to be optimistic and believe that his numbers since joining LA (.333 average, one home run, five runs scored) are harbingers of a guy who’s joining a playoff contender, a better lineup, and has something to prove, to boot.
As for Eovaldi, of whom I’m a fan, he’ll be moving to a better-hitting division, but otherwise probably will remain a low-level starter in fantasy, one with an iron-clad spot in the rotation.
• As mentioned before, the Angels bolstered their rotation in a big way by acquiring Greinke for Segura and two other minor-leaguers. Greinke, 28, took the loss on Sunday against the Rays but still pitched seven strong innings to lower his ERA to 3.39 on the year. Granted, pitching in the same division as the Texas Rangers is no one’s idea of a good time, but then again, Greinke faced one the top NL offenses in the Cardinals in the NL Central, so expect him to continue to put up strong numbers as the Angels chase a postseason berth.
As for Segura, he’s back in the minors right now, but with Milwaukee scuffling and Cesar Izturis doing a whole lot of nothing at shortstop, it’s not inconceivable that the top prospect and stolen base machine will be back with the big club later this year.
• Liriano has been nothing short of maddening this season—he came off a strong spring training, imploded over the season’s opening weeks, found himself demoted to the bullpen, and has since alternated between high-strikeout games and catastrophes like last Monday, when he was nuked for seven earned runs in fewer than three innings against his current employer, the White Sox. The potential, as always, is there with Liriano, and although he’ll be pitching in a better hitter’s park, perhaps a change of scenery will boost his fantasy value.
• The Pirates are serious about finishing over .500 for the first time since 1992, and as if to prove that point, the team went out last week to acquire Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros in exchange for three minor-leaguers. This trade can only help Wandy’s fantasy value, as he’s coming over to a team with a better offense, bullpen and ballpark, not to mention a pulsating life force, all things which are sorely lacking in Houston.
True, Rodriguez’s 6.2 K/9 would represent a career low if the season ended today (and would mark the fourth straight year in which that mark has lowered), but his sub-four ERA is backed up by FIP and xFIP, and a cruel 68.4 percent strand rate should improve over the season’s last two months.
• Before 2011, Ryan Roberts was a fantasy vagabond, unknown to just about everyone. That was before he smashed 19 home runs and swiped 18 bases while gaining eligibility around the infield. This year, the mediocre batting average remained, but the power and steals disappeared, allowing Arizona to move the 31-year-old to Tampa Bay to soak up playing time ahead of Evan Longoria’s return.
This move probably boosts his value a tad, since any change at this point has to be seen as an encouraging sign and most certainly helps the case of power-hitting prospect Ryan Wheeler, who was recently called up by the D-Backs, though it seems he’ll split playing time in the near term with Willie Bloomquist at third base.
Karl de Vries is a New Jersey-based writer and journalist who prefers following fantasy baseball to watching his hapless Mets embarrass themselves on TV every night. He can be reached at karl[dot]rotodiamond[at]gmail.com or followed on Twitter at @Karl_de_Vries.