Fantasy Baseball: depth chart analysis
Another week, another tour around the depth charts throughout the league.
The Padres acquired Pedro Ciriaco from the Red Sox on June 14, which proved to be prudent timing. Everth Cabrera came down with a hamstring injury a few days later, and Ciriaco has been the Padres' everyday option at short since June 19. He has only slashed .243/.282/.405 in 37 at-bats since becoming the starting shortstop, and his on-base percentage has been a bit inflated by two (!) intentional walks. However, he showed some signs of offensive competency with the Red Sox last season, and he should gain eligibility at several positions as the season wears on. Cabrera could return from the disabled list this week, but it will be worth monitoring the wires for any mention of his hamstrings, especially considering his main tool (speed) relies upon them. It would not be unreasonable to see Logan Forsythe see a start or two at short after Jedd Gyorko returns. Brewers 1B
News emerged over the weekend that Corey Hart, the right fielder turned first baseman, will miss the remainder of the 2013 season after undergoing knee surgery. The announcement does a heck of a lot for Juan Francisco's job security. Francisco has hit four home runs in 21 games since coming over from the Braves, but he has only slashed .200/.280/.431 over his 65 Milwaukee at-bats. Still, he must only beat out Yuniesky Betancourt for playing time, which is not a difficult task. The only real threat to Francisco's playing time at first would be an organizational decision to afford major league playing time to Hunter Morris, who is one of the few prospects of some intrigue in a weak, weak system. Morris only has a .240 average at Triple-A Nashville, but he has been able to slug .481 in his first season at the level. He has recorded an extra-base hit in 10.8 percent of his plate appearances, which would rank second on the Brewers' current major-league roster. Pirates SS
Starter: Jordy Mercer
Next: Clint Barmes
Clint Barmes opened the season as the Pirates' all-glove, no-bat shortstop, but his start Sunday was his first at the position since June 14. The string of non-starts has not been due to injury. Rather, manager Clint Hurdle prefers Jordy Mercer's ability with the bat to Barmes' with the glove. The two had been sharing time at the position since mid-May, but Mercer has earned the regular role with a .308/.400/.404 line over a two-week stretch. Compare this with the .222/.263/.309 mark Barmes has posted since he joined the team last season. Mercer has an even 7:7 K:BB since taking over the starting shortstop job, whereas Barmes has a 40:5 K:BB on the season. Mercer should be the starter moving forward, and Barmes should serve as a defensive replacement and receive the occasional start. Cardinals CF
For the past few seasons, Jon Jay has been the Cardinals' little engine that could. Never a prospect of any sort of repute, he emerged in the St. Louis outfield in 2010 at the age of 25, and he went on to hit an even .300 over his first 381 major league games. He has hit .244 through Sunday, and he has not hit a home run since May 14. His struggles have been largely unexplained. His .283 BABIP is well below his career average of .336, but many of his other stats have been in line with those from previous years. Whatever the cause for his struggles, Shane Robinson has taken on a bigger role in center, especially when the Cards face left-handed pitching. Oscar Taveras, who entered the season as one of the top offensive prospects in the game, is not an imminent threat here. For one, he hit the minor league disabled list last week with an ankle injury. For two, he still needs to work on his approach against left-handed starters, as he has hit .222 against them in his first turn at Triple-A. Still, he could feasibly poach playing time from a struggling Jay come mid-August or September. Marlins LF
Justin Ruggiano needed a new outfield home after Giancarlo Stanton returned from the disabled list and crowded the Marlins' greeny areas. It looks like he has found one in Juan Pierre's territory. Pierre has 18 steals on the season, but a .288 OBP has allowed Ruggiano to steal six starts at the spot in the Marlins' last 10 games. Only half of those six starts have come against left-handed starters, and the starts should continue to come after Ruggiano hit .314/.340/.529 in June. Chris Coghlan could become a factor here, but he remains out indefinitely with a back injury. Mets 1B
I touched on this situation in last week's article and incorrectly predicted Daniel Murphy would see the lion's share of playing time at first with Lucas Duda on the disabled list and Ike Davis slugging at Triple-A Las Vegas. Instead, it has been Josh Satin starting seven straight games at first for the Mets. The string of starts may be partly a function of the Mets facing five left-handed starters over the course of the week, which has kept Jordany Valdespin off of second base (and hence Murphy off first), but Satin's 9-for-24 run during that stretch is also helping. He has also demonstrated sound plate discipline over the past week, recording five walks (all unintentional) to just three strikeouts in 24 at-bats. The one element missing from Satin's game has been power, but he looks to be perfectly acceptable filler at the position while the Mets wait on Duda and Davis. Davis has five home runs in 18 games for Las Vegas, but a promotion does not appear to be imminent. The Mets will face a left-handed starter Monday and Tuesday, so Davis figures to remain at Triple-A for at least those contests before a recall is considered. Astros 1B
The Astros appear to be giving Brett Wallace another try at first base after spending much of the season using a combination of Carlos Pena and Chris Carter at the position. This may be one of Wallace's final chances to prove he is more than just a Quad-A player. He continually looks like an All-Star at Triple-A (see a .326/.398/.554 line at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season), but he then continues to struggle at the major league level (see a .689 OPS over his last 300 major league plate appearances). Chris Carter has nearly matched his home run total from last season (15 in 263 at-bats), but he also leads the majors with 111 strikeouts. He should see time in left field in the coming weeks, especially with Justin Maxwell back on the disabled list. Royals RF
Starter: David Lough
Next: Lorenzo Cain
The Jeff Francoeur experience finally came to an end in Kansas City over the weekend when they designated him for assignment. Instead of opening up playing time for the now-Ray Wil Myers, Francoeur's disappearance will avail a spot in the outfield for David Lough, a 27-year-old rookie who had been stealing Francoeur's playing time anyway. Lough puts a ton of balls in play (82 percent of his plate major league appearances have resulted with the ball in play, as have 78 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances), which should help him maintain a usable average. The one threat to his playing time would be Jarrod Dyson, who could force Lorenzo Cain to the corner if manager Ned Yost decides to play him more in center. Blue Jays 2B
Things are not going well for Emilio Bonifacio. The generally reliable source for stolen bases only has 11 through his first 71 games. Of course, it is hard to steal second when you are rarely reaching first. He is barely keeping his batting average above .200, and his virtual lack of walks (eight in 221 plate appearances) prevent him from running wild on the bases. More than a lack of stolen bases, he may also be at a lack for starts at second base. The Blue Jays recalled Munenori Kawaski from Triple-A over the weekend, and he started at second base Sunday. Maicer Izturis may also be in the mix more, especially if Brett Lawrie (ankle) returns to third base sooner rather than later. Seattle CF
The Mariners outfield is both overcrowded and underwhelming. Endy Chavez has a .288 OBP on the season, and he has gone 9-for-48 (.188) over the last two weeks. Michael Saunders has four home runs and 10 steals, but he is also hitting .211. Jason Bay also has 10 home runs on the season, but he is only hitting slightly better at .220. Franklin Gutierrez has stayed healthy for all of 60 at-bats. The newly-converted Dustin Ackley got on base in nearly half of his plate appearances with Triple-A Tacoma, but it remains to be seen whether he can hit major league pitching. Raul Ibanez leads the team with 19 home runs and 45 RBI, but he is also 41 years old and a decline is likely inevitable with everyday play. Such mediocrity has left the Mariners' center-field situation in a bit of a quandary. In an ideal world, Saunders would play every day here, while Ackley and Chavez played the corners. In reality, Saunders (when healthy and productive) and Ackley (when healthy and productive) will likely alternate between center field and the bench.
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