In Some Depth

Welcome, once again, reader, to the best/only article in the

world that deals expressly with major-league baseball depth-chart

situations in turmoil.

Below are the 10 turmoil-iest depth-chart situations facing the

fantasy owners this week.

Boomshakalaka:

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

Position: Left Field

Players: Matt Diaz, Xavier Paul, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata

Notes: Early in Sunday’s game versus the Boston Red Sox,

Tabata pulled up lame and was then carted off the field after

running out an infield hit. The injury is to Tabata’s left quad,

but the Pirates may not push the outfielder to the DL – though he’s

likely to miss a few games at the very least. In his place will

likely – although not definitely – be Alex Presley, who’ll have

just been promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis. At 25, Presley isn’t

a prospect, per se, but is slashing .333/.386/.500 (.374 BABIP)

with eight homers and 18 steals in 316 Triple-A appearances.

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

Position: Third Base

Players: Chase d’Arnaud

Notes: Third base has been a bit of a tortured position for

the Pirates this season — or, more tortured than usual, I should

say. Pirate third basemen have batted a combined .232/.285/.332

(.292 BABIP) on the year – a.k.a. bad. With actual starter Pedro

Alvarez (quad) unlikely to return before the All-Star break,

d’Arnaud is going to get most of the reps at third for the time

being. He’s a bit like Presley in that (a) he’s not a prospecty

prospect but (b) he does some things (like go 17-for-20 on

stolen-base attempts) that fantasy owners will appreciate.

Team: Minnesota Twins

Position: Designated Hitter

Players: Jim Thome

Notes: Thome, on the DL since the beginning of June,

recently returned to the Twins and will likely assume full-time DH

duties this week, as the team returns to the American League park.

It’s a good thing, too: despite the fact that Thome and his

above-average .234/.368/.442 have started 23 games at DH for

Minnesota, the team is only getting a line of .209/.284/.327 from

the DH spot – the combined failures of Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau,

and – in one game, at least – Brian Dinkelman. Thome remains a good

source of power, despite his age.

Team: Minnesota Twins

Position: Left Field

Players: Delmon Young

Notes: While it’s, at best, insensitive and, at worst, evil

to laugh at another’s misfortune, the manner in which Delmon Young

(ankle) suffered his most recent injury might elicit a chuckle from

even the most earnest of the earnest. The injury was essentially

self-inflicted — and due entirely to Young’s incompetence in the

field. But that’s not the point. The point is, Who’s gonna play

left in Young’s absence? On Sunday, it was Jason Repko — which,

that’s of basically no help to the fantasy owner. Rene Tosoni, who

played left Monday, is another possibility, though he’s not

particularly interesting, either. A brief tour around the Twins’

upper minor leagues reveals someone named Aaron Bates who (a) is

having a good season (.345/.427/.480, .425 BABIP) and (b) has

played some left field. Still, he’s not that interesting.

Team: Cleveland Indians

Position: Right Field

Players: Travis Buck, Shin-Soo Choo

Notes: It’s surprising not only that (a) the Cleveland

Indians have spend the bulk of the season’s first three months

leading the AL Central but also that (b) they’ve done with one of

their legitimate stars, Choo, slashing just .244/.333/.353 (.302

BABIP) in 306 plate appearances. That line very likely reflects

something worse than Choo’s true-talent level. Unfortunately, it’ll

be about six week until he gets a chance to prove it: Choo suffered

a broken left thumb in Friday’s loss to the Giants after getting

hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and will be out for six months.

It appears as though the Indians will give the majority of

right-field duties to a combination of Travis Buck, Austin Kearns,

and Shelley Duncan — only the first of whom is really interesting

on a fantasy- or real-baseball level.

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

Position: Left Field

Players: Willi Bloomquist, Gerardo Parra, Wily Mo Pena

Notes: Since his promotion last week, Pena has hit two home

runs a combined 900 feet — or, roughly the distance of three home

runs down Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole. This has been during

interleague play, though, where Pena can DH. D-Backs manager Kirk

Gibson is on record saying that he has no plans to use Pena in the

outfield for the moment. That could change – especially as a

replacement for Willie Bloomquist as the right-handed bat in the

left-field platoon with Gerardo Parra – but the chances of Pena

getting significant ABs going forth are slim.

Team: Texas Rangers

Position: Shorstop

Players: Elvis Andrus, Andres Blanco

Notes: As of Sunday morning, it was generally assumed that

Elvis Andrus — who sprained his left wrist Friday night while

stealing second base — would return to the Ranger lineup on

Tuesday. Then, on Sunday morning, Andrus announced that, while his

left wrist was no longer painful to twist, it was still stiff and

that he doesn’t expect to play in Houston on Tuesday. This

information came as a surprise to manager Ron Washington, who

assumed that his shortstop would be regular for play on Tuesday.

Awk-ward!!! In any case, because Andrus’s replacement is Andres

Blanco and because Andres Blanco is a pretty miserable offensive

player, there isn’t much upon which to capitalize here. The best

course of action is to monitor Andrus and see what his return date

is for real-real.

Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Position: First Base and Right Field

Players: Jon Jay

Notes: Last week in these pages, we looked at the injury to

Albert Pujols and speculated as to how manager Tony La Russa might

shuffle his lineup/defensive alignment to best address the absence

of his star. Now, a week later, we have some data with which to

work. In the six games since Pujols’ injury, Lance Berkman has

started at first base six times. So, that’s a thing. In those same

six games, Jon Jay has started the four games against right-handed

starters, with Andrew Brown taking the two against left-handers.

Brown, though was optioned to the minors on Monday with the

activation off the DL of David Freese and Nick Punto — neither of

whom look likely to affect Jay’s playing time. Jay, who also made a

fifth start in center in lieu of Colby Rasmus, is still working

with what is most likely batted-ball luck (.357 BABIP) but also

appears to have enough power, speed, and approach to offer some

value.

Team: San Francisco Giants

Position: Catcher

Players: Pablo Sandoval

Notes: Two weeks ago, we looked at a statement from San

Francisco manager Bruce Bochy regarding the possibility that Pablo

Sandoval might catch upon his return from the DL. Let it be known

that Sandoval returned to the Giants lineup on June 14, has started

12 games since, has started 11 of said games at third base, has

started 12th at first base and has started precisely zero games at

catcher.

Team: San Diego Padres

Position: Starting Pitcher

Players: Cory Luebke, etc.

Notes: Because pitching is mostly just its own world, we

spend considerably less time looking at starting pitching here at

In Some Depth; however, because Luebke’s case is really a matter of

depth — i.e. because he’s moving from the bullpen to the rotation

— it merits attention. The other reason it merits attention is

because he’s probably really good. Issues regarding both of these

points were on display Sunday. On the one hand, Luebke only pitched

five innings as he transitions to a legit starting role. On the

other, he recorded 6 K, 2 BB, and just a single hit en route to

allowing zero runs. Luebke had an excellent 9.92 K/9 and 3.46 BB/9

in 39.0 relief innings. He’s be exposed to more right-handed

batters as a starter, but he appears to have handled himself well

thus far.

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Article first appeared 6/28/11

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