Welcome to In Some Depth, the weekly tour of the most interesting (defined by me) job battles and depth chart situations in the majors.
Since it would foolish to try to determine whether Matt Hague, Eduardo Escobar or Shane Robinson’s lone starts over the weekend were the beginning of them supplanting incumbents on their squads, I instead want to look at the players who started the inaugural series of the season thanks to an injury to someone higher on the depth chart.
Of course, I need more than 10 at-bats to judge how someone will perform for the next 158 or 159 games, but what do these players offer while they are on the field? Could they latch onto at-bats elsewhere on the diamond once their suplantee returns to duty? This little experiment does not include DL-occupants who had been destined for bench duty (i.e. Charlie Blackmon), and I have excluded positions in which the injured should return within the next week or two (i.e. Chipper Jones).
So in alphabetical order…
The Injured: Stephen Drew The Fill-in: Willie Bloomquist
Bloomquist has been the guy at short for the Diamondbacks since Drew went down with a fractured ankle last July, and he should continue to fill that slot and bat leadoff for the duration of Drew’s injury. Bloomquist still has decent wheels at age 34, and his defensive versatility should at least make him an uber-utility option upon Drew’s eventual return.
The Injured: Brian Roberts The Fill-in: Robert Andino
Andino has inherited Roberts’ second base gig to start the season, and a crack at the leadoff slot might not be far behind. The steals should start appearing in the box score once he earns a higher perch in the lineup, and Andino should be able to hold onto a utility role once (if) Roberts returns.
Boston Red Sox
The Injured: Carl Crawford The Fill-ins: Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross, Darnell McDonald
Sweeney, Ross and McDonald should all see time in the corners during Crawford’s injury, with Sweeney showing the most promise of the three. One man may be kicked off the roster when Crawford returns, and McDonald figures to be the odd-man out. Assuming Ross and Sweeney survive, they would share responsibility of the other corner of the outfield.
The Injured: Grady Sizemore The Fill-in: Shelley Duncan
After a brief sojourn on the active roster in 2011, Sizemore is back safely on the disabled list. His absence has pushed Michael Brantley to center, which has opened a slot in left for Duncan. The latter already has two walks and a double through the season’s first series, and he might offer some affordable, yet modest, power in his prolonged stint of regular duty. Duncan could see time at first behind Casey Kotchman when Sizemore returns mid-summer.
Kansas City Royals
The Injured: Salvador Perez The Fill-in: Humberto Quintero, Brayan Pena
Pena will catch Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza while Perez is on the shelf while Quintero will start for the Royals’ younger guns. Neither present much promise at the plate – Quintero OBP’d .258 for the Astros last season and Pena posted a slightly more respectable .288 for the Royals. One catcher (Quintero?) will drop from the roster when Perez comes back midseason.
New York Mets
The Injured: Andres Torres The Fill-ins: Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Scott Hairston
Nieuwenhuis looked good in his MLB debut Saturday, and he is worth taking note of after OPS’ing .908 at Triple-A Buffalo last year. He will likely cede starts in center against left-handed pitchers to Hairston, and it will probably be Hairston who sticks on the Mets’ roster as a fourth outfielder once Torres returns to health. However, Nieuwenhuis could hang around if he provides a needed spark on offense.
The Injured: Ryan Howard The Fill-in: Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome. John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix I’m still not sure why an NL team signed Thome, as even manager Charlie Manuel said the DH-in-1B clothing can not start in the field on back-to-back days. Wigginton is the best-suited to start at first for the Phillies on an everyday basis, but his defensive "prowess" might call him to play third or second when asked. Howard’s activation date is still very much TBA, so I wonder if they might make a move if the going gets rough.
The Injured: Chase Utley The Fill-in: Freddy Galvis
I talked about Galvis a bit last week, and he has fewer hits than Roy Halladay through Sunday. Galvis’ glove (and the lack of other viable options) will keep him in the lineup on a regular basis until Utley returns, after which he will be bound to a backup role or to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
San Diego Padres
The Injured: Carlos Quentin The Fill-in: Jesus Guzman
Guzman should hold down the Padres’ left job while Carlos Quentin is sidelined. Guzman’s minor league power obviously will not play at Petco, but he slashed .346/.412/.551 in 107 at-bats in spacious San Diego last year. Guzman should provide a month’s worth of productivity in Quentin’s stead, but he might not be able to hold onto a regular role once Quentin returns in May unless Yonder Alonso struggles at first base.
San Francisco Giants
The Injured: Freddy Sanchez The Fill-in: Ryan Theriot, Emmanuel Burris Burris can steal, but he can’t hit major league pitching. Theriot can post a semi-respectable batting average, but he can’t steal. Sanchez could be back in the Giants’ lineup by the end of April, at which point the Giants would have four light-hitting middle infielders (including Brandon Crawford at short). Expect either Crawford or Burris to be jettisoned from the roster when that occurs.
The Injured: Mike Carp The Fill-in: Kyle Seager The Injured: Franklin Gutierrez The Fill-in: Michael Saunders
The pair of injuries has forced third baseman Chone Figgins to the outfield, opening up the hot corner to Mr. Seager. Seager has made good contact from the six spot through his first three games, but he posseses little of the requisite corner infield power. In addition, he is probably destined for a bit role if Figgins ever returns to the infield. Saunders has also looked good in a small sample size, and his stream of at-bats could survive one of the injured outfielder’s return.
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