Fantasy managers ready to make trades
With the fantasy baseball and Major League Baseball seasons hitting the final stretch, managers in both have likely considered late moves that will help them close the gap in some areas over the last few weeks. Be it a backup shortstop here, a stolen base specialist there, a big bat on the bench, a better glove in the outfield, a not-so-top prospect who might nonetheless contribute, everyone is looking for that slight edge. This week's In Some Depth covers some of those players and considers how they might assist their teams.
Without further ado, 10 observations from around the league:
Starters: Luis Valbuena, Josh Vitters
This has been one of the most-oft featured positions in this column. There is a new name on the north side of Chicago as the Cubs recalled first-round draft pick Josh Vitters on Aug. 1 from Triple-A Iowa. Vitters had 17 home runs and a .869 OPS in 415 Iowa at-bats, but the looks like he will begin his major league career in a platoon with Luis Valbuena. Valbuena should start primarily against right-handed starters and Vitters against lefties. Valbuena has not impressed since taking over the hot corner in mid June, so Vitters could grab a larger share of playing time before long.
When Nate McLouth started in left field for the Orioles on Saturday night, he became the 10th player to man the position for the Orioles this season. Lew Ford should pair with McLouth for one of the majors' most unproductive platoons. Ford, who has gone 2-for-18 in his first six games back in the majors, will likely have the advantage against left-handed starters. McLouth's major league struggles extended to his time at Triple-A Norfolk, where he could not even hit .250 against minor league pitching. However, Chris Davis remains poised to steal away playing time in left field if Jim Thome can return this season and take over at designated hitter.
Red Sox DH:
Some analysts expected Ryan Lavarnaway to challenge for a 25-man roster spot during the spring, but his admirers have had to settle for an Aug. 1 call-up for a reserve role. He hit 34 home runs across all levels in 2011, but that power disappeared in 2012 as he hit just eight long balls in Triple-A Pawtucket. He has made a start behind the plate and a start at DH in the five games since the call-up, but more time may become available at DH now that Jarrod Saltalamacchia's bout with food poisoning has passed and he can resume full-time catching duties. Pedro Ciriaco, who hit his first home run over the weekend, may also seek out time at DH with Mike Aviles back at short.
Starter: Scott Rolen
Next: Todd Frazier
One of the secondary consequences of Joey Votto's placement on the disabled list in mid-July has been Scott Rolen taking on the Reds' everyday third base role as Todd Frazier covers first on a regular basis. Rolen has started 16 of the team's 20 games since July 16 (which was the Reds' first game without Votto), and he has slashed .333/.431/.556 with six extra-base hits over that span. It goes without saying the 37-year-old Rolen will probably not provide much power potential anymore, but he has proven he can be productive when healthy, which he appears to be. Indians LF:
Cleveland pulled the plug on Johnny Damon and his .610 OPS, and it looks like the freshly-recalled Ezequiel Carrera will be the new starter in left, at least against right-handers. Carrera is one of the fastest players on the Indians, but he has not been the most efficient base stealer over the course of his career (10-for-15 last year in the majors, 26-for-33 this year at Triple-A Columbus). He had two steals and a home run in Sunday's extra-inning loss to the Tigers, and he should have an extended leash over the likes of Shelley Duncan and Brent Lillibridge.
Chris Getz returned from the disabled list back in mid-July, but he did not finally wrest control of the Royals' starting second base job from Yuniesky Betancourt until last week. Further proving that second base is Getz's job to keep , the Royals designated Betancourt for assignment on Sunday. Playing time may be Getz's strongest asset down the stretch, as he has been less active on the basepaths since returning from the DL and he hits too far down in the Royals' order to accumulate many counting stats.
The Rangers surprised many observers last week when they announced the promotion of top-prospect Mike Olt. The almost-24-year-old Olt skipped over Triple-A after hitting 28 home runs for Double-A Frisco and walking 61 times in 421 plate appearances. The only question is where he will play in Texas. Manager Ron Washington initially said Olt would only play against left-handed starters, but he may also receive starts against right-handers as Adrian Beltre's backup at third (as was the case Sunday). Michael Young led the majors in hits last season, but his batting average has tumbled to a career-worst .269. The fact that more than 50 percent of his balls in play have been on the ground may have something to do with that. In addition, Mitch Moreland was reinstated from the DL recently and has been hitting well.
Ryan Roberts has taken the Rays' third base job and ran with it since the club acquired him from the Diamondbacks. He has started all but one game since that date, and not even a 3-for-32 start (.094) has jarred him from that spot. What should remove him from a starting third base job is Evan Longoria's return from the disabled list. Roberts may pick up a handful of starts if Longoria is not immediately ready for everyday duties. Jeff Keppinger has annihilated left-handed pitchers this summer (.423/.455/.521 in 71 at-bats against them), but he is more likely to see time at DH than at third.
The Phillies re-made their outfield during the trade deadline. Even Juan Pierre, who remained in town, is destined for a reserve role despite logging 27 steals in 87 games. His replacement in left, Dominic Brown, has struggled thus far with his new found playing time, but there is no reason for the Phillies to remove him from that role before the end of the season. Nate Schierholtz is also a big beneficiary of the team's new outfield arrangement, as he moves from a reserve role in San Francisco to the Phillies' everyday right fielder. The augmented playing time could warrant a lower-priority outfield spot in five-OF formats. Mayberry is the only one of the three to have been on the Phillies' roster the entire season, but he did not have many consecutive starts under his belt prior to Shane Victorino's departure. He has eight home runs on the season despite the lack of consistent playing time, so he could be a guy to add down the stretch.
Blue Jays RF:
Starter: Anthony Gose
Next: Moises Sierra, Rajai Davis
It looks like Jose Bautista (wrist) will not be returning from the disabled list as early as initially expected, which means the Jays' right field gig will belong to Anthony Gose for a little while longer. Gose had back-to-back two-hit games over the weekend to elevate his batting average to .229, and his speed should garner him more than his current three steal attempts once he starts getting on base more. When Bautista does return, Gose could shift to left field with recently-traded Travis Snider no longer an obstacle.
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