Fantasy Baseball

Duffy injury offers Mazzaro shot

RotoWire.com Derek VanRiper
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Mid-May callups are an intriguing lot, and the opportunities for older minor leaguers to get their first run as everyday options seem to peak as most teams wait until early or mid June to start their prospects' arbitration clocks. In some instances, an organization will give a mid-level prospect his first exposure to the big leagues, and that player will prove capable of replacing a regular while holding onto the job all year.

In other cases, teams spin the tires for a couple weeks as replacements falter, and the placeholders ultimately end up getting move back to the bench (or the minors). For fantasy owners, it's important to consider the things that could go right when evaluating FAAB and waiver-wire targets this time of year, as prices should begin to drop in leagues that use free agent budgets and commitments to players are much less firm.

Here's a look at 10 depth-chart situations around the league that have recently led to a shift in playing time distribution.

Team: Baltimore Orioles
Position: Left Field
Up: Xavier Avery
Down: Ryan Flaherty, Nolan Reimold (15-day DL, neck)

Avery became the sixth player to start in left field for the Orioles when he made his major league debut Sunday. To make matters worse for Baltimore, Reimold is not recovering as expected from the neck injury that led him to the DL last week. Prior to getting the promotion from Double-A Bowie, Avery was hitting .273/.373/.469 with five homers and 16 RBI and an 8-for-8 mark on the basepaths. Until Reimold is healthy enough to get back into the fold, there's little competition for at-bats in Baltimore, and the Orioles' ongoing search for a leadoff hitter could also open the door wide enough for Avery to make an impact in deeper leagues. If the increased contact and walk rates at Bowie are any indication, Avery may prove capable of getting on base at a better clip than his competition.

Team: Cincinnati Reds
Position: Third Base
Up: Todd Frazier, Mike Costanzo, Miguel Cairo
Down: Scott Rolen (15-day DL, shoulder)

Frazier made his third consecutive start at third base Monday, and has become the primary option at the position since Rolen landed on the DL over the weekend. Frazier has now spent parts of four seasons at Triple-A Louisville, carrying a career .261/.335/.453 line there with 35 homers and 36 stolen bases in 246 games. The combination of lineup, home park and eligibility at a position where depth is an issue makes Frazier an attractive waiver-wire target at least until Reds manager Dusty Baker falls in love with writing Cairo's name into the lineup.

Team: Kansas City Royals
Position: Second Base
Up: Johnny Giavotella
Down: Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt (15-day DL, ankle)

This adjustment isn't currently in motion, but it's a situation to keep an eye on. Giavotella was called up from Omaha last week and has only made two starts (one at second base, one at DH) while going 1-for-10 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored. Royals manager Ned Yost said his playing time will be limited mostly to facing left-handed starters for now. Getz has a career-high .294/.347/.426 line over 68 at-bats to start the season, but the sample size is tiny and his career .256/.317/.315 line over 1,054 at-bats is a better indication of what he'll typically provide. The 24-year-old Giavotella is the second baseman of the near future for the Royals, and his improved plate discipline at Triple-A this season (18:11 BB:K, 133 AB) bodes well after his eye took a significant hit after he was promoted last season.

Team: Kansas City Royals
Position: Starting Pitcher
Up: Vin Mazzaro
Down: Danny Duffy (15-day DL, torn UCL), Jonathan Sanchez (15-day DL, biceps)

Apologies if this story is a repeat. I once attempted to trick my wife into a week-long vacation in Corpus Christi to watch Double-A baseball. The primary purpose of that trip was to see a visiting Northwest Arkansas rotation that featured Duffy, Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Chris Dwyer and Aaron Crow. Fortunately, for the good of my marriage, we went somewhere else and my wife doesn't read my columns.

Once upon a time, Mazzaro was carving up Double-A hitters as a member of the A's minor league system. As a 21-year-old, he posted a 104:36 K:BB over 137.1 innings (1.90 ERA, 1.100 WHIP). From there, he started to walk hitters at an above-average clip, which paired with a mediocre strikeout rate spells disaster. He's schedule to start against the Rangers on Tuesday night, and there's reason to believe that Mazzaro could actually eclipse the 14 runs he allowed during a 2.1-inning start against Cleveland last season. Other than Crow, the Royals' once impressive stockpile of Double-A arms has failed to advance or suffered significant elbow injuries. Duffy is likely to join Lamb on the Tommy John surgery comeback trail in the near future after an MRI on Monday revealed a torn UCL in his pitching elbow.

HARMLESS FUN?

Josh Hamilton and his Rangers teammates played slip-and-slide on the rain tarp.

Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: First Base
Up: Taylor Green, Travis Ishikawa
Down: Mat Gamel (Out for the season, torn ACL)

The Brewers are looking for a solution at first base following the loss of Mat Gamel to a torn ACL last week. Green was given the nod against the Mets on Monday and has now started five of the last eight games with Ishikawa taking the other three. Although he's fanned four times in 15 at-bats without drawing a walk, Green collected a hit in each of his first four starts and is making it easier for manager Ron Roenicke to give him a look as a regular option. Green hit .336/.413/.583 with 22 homers and 88 RBI over 420 at-bats with Nashville as a 24-year-old last season, and he appears to have a much higher ceiling than Ishikawa at this stage of their respective careers. Both players are left-handed hitters, however, effectively ruling out a straight platoon arrangement.

Team: Oakland A's
Position: Center Field
Up: Collin Cowgill
Down: Yoenis Cespedes (15-day DL, hand), Coco Crisp (15-day DL, inner ear infection)

In deeper leagues where stolen bases on the waiver wire can translate to significant gains in the standings, Cowgill has become an intriguing option after starting his fourth straight game Monday. Cowgill consistently displayed a combination of average power and good speed at this minor league stops and was simply moved from one crowded outfield situation to another as part of the Trevor Cahill trade this winter. With Cespedes eligible to return from the DL on May 22, Cowgill's run of playing time could be short lived as Seth Smith has heated up recently and Josh Reddick carries an .874 OPS through 34 games this season while securing his hold on the everyday job in right field. Further, Cowgill could be squeezed off the roster completely once Crisp gets back from a DL stint with an inner ear infection.

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Position: Left Field
Up: Jose Tabata, Nate McLouth
Down: Alex Presley

The Bucs started Presley in left field for 23 of their first 26 games. During that time, he went 24-for-98 (.245) at the plate with a homer, six RBI, a .267 OBP and just five extra-base hits. Since then, Presley has started just three of the Bucs' last nine games, including Monday's game against the Marlins. For that start, manager Clint Hurdle dropped Presley to the No. 6 spot in the order after using him mostly in the leadoff spot and two-hole to this point. Tabata has been manning both corner spots while playing regularly and setting the table for the Pirates, leaving McLouth, Garrett Jones and Yamaico Navarro to pick up the extra playing time in right field when Tabata slides over.

POWER RANKINGS

See if your favorite team is pointed in the right direction this week.

Team: San Francisco Giants
Position: Second Base
Up: Charlie Culberson
Down: Connor Gillaspie

After a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League in 2010, Culberson had a disappointing follow-up campaign at Double-A last season (.259/.293/.382). The Giants promoted him to Triple-A Fresno anyway, and he improved his contact rate to 80 percent over his first 36 games there while providing a .284/.320/.496 line. Culberson's plate discipline figures to be a big concern as he adjusts to big league pitching, but as a middle-infield eligible option with decent pop, he could prove to be a solution in what has been a revolving door for the Giants at second base this season.

Team: Washington Nationals
Position: Left Field
Up: Roger Bernadina
Down: Jayson Werth (15-day DL, wrist)

Lose a right fielder, get a new left fielder. The Nats lost Werth to a broken wrist last week, which prompted the decision to shift Bryce Harper into the role of everyday right fielder (he's played five of six games there entering Monday while moving to center field against a left-handed starter). Bernadina is platooning with Tyler Moore, getting his sixth start in seven games Monday. A career .241 hitter with a 77-percent contact rate, Bernadina will likely be a drag in the batting average department, but he offers the potential for double-digit power as a near-everyday player and could be capable of stealing 25-30 bags the rest of the way if the Nationals are unable to upgrade their outfield depth via trade.

Team: Washington Nationals
Position: Catcher
Up: Jesus Flores
Down: Wilson Ramos (15-day DL, torn ACL)

The Nats have been hammered by injuries all over the diamond this season, and Ramos' knee injury over the weekend was just the latest in a growing list. Flores was once considered the Nats' catcher of the future following a .256/.296/.402 line along with eight homers and 59 RBI over 301 at-bats as a 23-year-old in 2008. A severe shoulder injury cost him most of 2009 and all of 2010, which ultimately led the Nats to acquire Ramos from the Twins and ultimately pushed Flores into a backup role. Although he's already 27, Flores has lost significant development time to injury and could get a chance to finally deliver on his potential as the primary backstop in Washington the rest of the way.

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Tagged: Orioles, Royals, Brewers, Athletics, Reds, Nationals, Pirates, Giants, Nate McLouth, Travis Ishikawa, Jesus Flores, Nolan Reimold, Roger Bernadina, Chris Getz, Wilson Ramos, Jose Tabata, Mat Gamel, Vin Mazzaro, Alex Presley

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