Fantasy Baseball: depth chart analysis
After a week lay-off for the All-Star break, we're back this week with its usual tour of depth charts from around the league.
Without any further ado.
You know your offense is going bad when adding Jeff Francoeur seems like a wise idea. Francoeur joined the Giants just before the All-Star break, and the team has instituted a platoon of he and Kenuske Tanaka in left. Francoeur should see playing time against left-handed starting pitchers, while Francouer should be the man against righties. Andres Torres, who had a career-worst .306 OBP, will back up Gregor Blanco in center. Playing time could become a bit more plentiful in the outfield if the Giants deal Hunter Pence, but that option does not appear to be on the table quite yet.
Aramis Ramirez is still out for a few more weeks, and it looks like Jeff Bianchi will be the team's primary option at the hot corner until then. Bianchi has started at third base for five of the Brewers' last six games against right-handed starting pitchers, with Yuniesky Betancourt in the mix against lefties. Juan Francisco had been in the mix, but he moved to the other side of the diamond to cover for the hole that is first base. Ramirez's injury should prevent him from being dealt prior to the July 31 trade deadline, which means Bianchi's playing time should be limited after Ramirez's return.
Starter: Matt Adams
Next: Allen Craig
I should include a caveat here that Matt Adams is the Cardinals' starting first baseman, but he will only occupy that role temporarily. Allen Craig is normally the man, but he is currently covering for the DL'd Matt Holliday (hamstring) in left. Holliday may return as soon as this weekend, but it is really Adams' first opportunity at extended regular playing time all season. Adams has started six straight games, and 11 of the Cards' last 15 after never starting more than two consecutive games prior to July 2. He is only hitting .267/.353/.400 since the start of July, but he has shown enough power thus far this season to get excited if he can maneuver his way to more regular playing time somehow after Craig returns to his regular station.
Wilson Ramos has finally taken over from Kurt Suzuki behind the plate for the Nationals. The two started the season in a 50/50 timeshare before a string of Ramos injuries provided Suzuki with decent job security at catcher from April through June. However, Ramos has wasted little time grabbing the majority role since returning from the disabled list in early July. He has started 10 of 13 games since his July 4 return, and he has a .892 OPS with two home runs over that stretch. Suzuki, on the other hand, only has four hits in 23 July at-bats.
Starter: Josh Phegley
Next: Tyler Flowers
Josh Phegley is no longer the catcher du jour - he is now the bona fide starter for the White Sox. Manager Robin Ventura's remarks were hesitant when Phegley first joined the club on July 5, but Tyler Flowers has started all of four games since Phegley arrived. Phegley has yet to walk in 37 plate appearances, but his six extra-base hits have made the lack of patience palatable. Regardless of of whether the walks come, the White Sox seem committed to seeing if he can be a better long-term option than Flowers showed in his 495 at-bats with the club. Phegley could move up in the order later this season if/when the White Sox trade some of their bigger bats.
Nolan Reimold's time as the Orioles' DH came to an end last week as likely neck surgery brought about an end to his season. The Orioles will use this opportunity to see what minor league hot shot Henry Urrutia can do in a major league platoon with Danny Valencia. The 26-year-old Cuban ex-pat came to American baseball with considerably less fanfare than Yaisel Puig or Jorge Soler, but it is hard to not get a little curious after he hit .365 between Double- and Triple-A. We have already seen what Valencia can do, and it has not been pretty since his 2010 breakout with the Twins. Still, he will be the right-handed component of a lefty/righty platoon with Urrutia.
Matt Joyce may have 14 home runs and a 113 OPS+ through 316 plate appearances, but his playing time opportunities are currently on thin ice. Wil Myers' arrival from Triple-A Durham has pushed Joyce from right field and forced him into a crowded situation in left. Joyce had started 19 of 20 games in right prior to Myers joining the team, but he has only started 15 games in left in the 29 games since. Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have been the other major players behind Joyce, with Sam Fuld also receiving the occasional start. Manager Joe Maddon will likely have little impetus to modify the situation as long as the Rays are on a roll. His choice in left will likely be matchup-specific, with Joyce most likely to see the bench against left-handed starting pitchers.
Blue Jays 3B
For some reason, the Blue Jays thought it would be a good idea to move Brett Lawrie from third base to second as he returned from the disabled list. Sure, the Jays have seen little production from the second base hole, but then they left an equally glaring hole at third. The Jays pulled the plug on the Lawrie-to-second experiment after three games where his defense was indefensible. So he goes back to the top of the heap at third base, with Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa serving as his primary backups.
Matt Tuiasosopo returned from the disabled list just before the All-Star break, and the Tigers' platoon in left field returned with him. Tuiasosospo has started five of the Tigers' nine games since he returned July 8, but all five of those starts have corresponded with a left-handed starting pitcher on the opposing mound. Dirks has been on the field when the pitcher's handedness has been right. However, this development should not have much of an effect on Dirks' playing time, as he has not started against a left-handed starter in over a month (June 21). Tuiasosopo is hitting .316 with a .579 slugging in 57 at-bats against lefties this season, so he could be a sneaky platoon player for fantasy purposes.
Has Lonnie Chisenhall finally figured out how to play at the major league level? After flirting (and failing) with the Indians' starting third base role for the past three years, Chisenhall has strung together 24 games of .284/.333/.494 ball. He has more RBI (14) than strikeouts (13) over that stretch, and he has more walks (six) than he did in the 26 games before his mid-May demotion (three). His 11 extra-base hits since his recall nearly matches the 12 he hit in all of 2012. He may not be an All-Star, but he is doing enough to fend off Mark Reynolds at third base. Reynolds has not played the position since July 3, instead sharing first base with the likes of Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana.
The youth movement continues in Houston, as the team designated Carlos Pena, who entered the season as the team's oldest player, for assignment Sunday. Pena was not playing well (he had an 87 OPS+ through 325 plate appearances), and his departure guarantees Chris Carter and Brett Wallace should see a fair shake at first base down the stretch. Pena had not been much of a factor at first base in a month, but his departure is just another level of guarantee. The news is even more exciting for Wallace, as he does not have Carter's option of playing the outfield. Wallace's .217 batting average is nothing to get excited about, but it sat at .071 on June 25, and he has slugged .603 with five home runs over his last 68 at-bats.
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