On the heels of a 7-game road trip, the Texas Rangers will return home to Arlington and have two presents waiting for them: Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. Both are expected to be in the lineup Monday against the White Sox. Bringing these two back onto the 25-man roster will have a significant ripple effect.
First who will get taken off the roster to make room? The most obvious candidates are Taylor Teagarden, Chris Davis, and Endy Chavez. The Rangers carried Teagarden through their first inter-league series where a third catcher can be valuable. Davis has started to hit better, but still can’t seem to hit breaking pitches. All three can be optioned, but Chavez might be placed on the DL with a tight hamstring. None of those three should be on a fantasy roster, so that doesn’t affect fantasy moves.
The second ripple is that Hamilton will exclusively DH for at least the first two series back and Cruz will be in right field. Michael Young has been the Rangers’ most consistent hitter, so he’s staying in the field, and will rotate amongst the infield positions. This will hurt Mike Napoli’s playing time. Texas is expected to face two lefties in the next 6 games (Monday and Friday), so Napoli should start them at catcher, but not in the other 4 games. The way he’s swung the bat lately, it might be a good idea.
Every infielder should also get at least one game off this week. We could see Michael Young play 2nd and 3rd at some point in the 6 games against Chicago and Kansas City giving Kinsler and Beltre a day off. Andres Blanco will probably give Elvis Andrus a day off as well. So basically there are only two position players you can count on to play every game next week, and that’s Nelson Cruz and Michael Young. Look for scouting reports early.
Projection (Hamilton): 105 games (out of remaining 114), .315, 22 home runs, 70 RBI’s, 60 runs scored, 1 steal.
Projection (Cruz): 108 games (out of remaining 114), .290, 26 home runs, 65 RBI’s, 54 runs scored, 5 steals.
Julio Borbon was placed on the disabled list Saturday, joining Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton as the other Opening Day outfielders on the DL. AAA outfielder Endy Chavez was recalled and RHP Brandon Webb was transfered to the 60-day DL to make room for Chavez on the 40-man roster.
Borbon was on the heels of a 10-game hitting streak and a 17-game stretch that saw his batting average jump 100 points, up to .270.
Endy Chavez will take over the center-field responsibilities for the time being. He hit leadoff for Ron Washington on Saturday, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He was hitting well at AAA (.305 BA), but if he struggles there for more than a couple of games, expect another lineup shuffle by Ron Washington.
The player to keep an eye on in this situation is Leonys Martin, a recently signed Cuban import who made his professional debut Thursday, going 3-for-5 with 2 doubles and a steal. Professional scouts have conflicting ideas on who he plays like, with projections of Juan Pierre with a better arm, or Kenny Lofton, or Jacoby Ellsbury.
Borbon has played well enough so far and has the talent to be a solid player, so he’ll be given a chance if/when he comes back from the disabled list. If he struggles or doesn’t recover fully from the injury, Martin could see the Major Leagues sometime between the All-Star Break and the trading deadline.
Martin is not a blip on the fantasy radar yet. In keeper leagues, he’s worth a speculation buy.
Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was placed on the Disabled List today with a strained right quadriceps muscle.
Cruz had struggled since his epic 1st week of the season, down to a .219 batting average and a .741 OPS, well below the .318 and .950 he hit last season. In his last 6 games before he went on the DL, Cruz had gone 2-23 with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks.
Nellie was on the DL last season three times for hamstring issues, so leg issues are not foreign to him. Hopefully the time off will help him regain his focus.
Analysis: While the Boomstick is sidelined, Mitch Moreland will see regular playing time in the outfield. Mitch has been solid in his second season, with 11 RBI’s and 15 runs in 30 games, along with 4 home runs. His lefty/right splits are horrific (.100/.280/.100 vs. .315/.383/.616), but with Craig Gentry as the only other outfield option, Moreland will get his chances to experience “growing pains” against left-handed pitchers. But remember, he did blast a home run off the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez in the World Series.
Ron Washington could also change up the lineup, dropping Kinsler to a run-producing spot. But that might just be against left-handed pitchers.
NOTE: Moreland is hitting 7th tonight against the Yankees against RHP Bartolo Colon.
Recommendations: While Moreland has nice potential, his numbers against lefties does not bode well for a two-week stint in fantasy baseball. Both Gerardo Parra (owned in 1% of leagues) and Nate McClouth (owned in 11% of leagues) are top-50 players over the last two weeks and have higher ceilings across the board.
The Texas Rangers placed right-handed setup pitcher Darren O’Day on the 60-day DL today with a torn labrum in his left hip.
Aside from one of the best chants in baseball when he pitches, O’Day had become a viable part of the Rangers’ bullpen. With Alexei Ogando moved to the rotation, combined with Mark Lowe’s ineffectiveness and Neftali Feliz’s injury, O’Day was arguably the best righty left in the bullpen.
Apparently O’Day has had this injury for years, but it flared up after his scoreless inning Tuesday night, prompting the Rangers to place him on the disabled list.
Analysis: With 6 wins and a 2.03 ERA last season, O’Day was a decent option for those fantasy owners who like to play the middle-relievers-as-a-starter strategy. But through 7.1 innings in 2011, he had walked 4 batters and given up 7 hits. He walked 12 all of last year in over 60 innings.
This move won’t affect too many fantasy owners, since he was owned in just 5% of Yahoo Leagues (far more than most middle relievers), but it does thrust Pedro Strop into a more prominent role. Strop has strong strikeout/inning potential, with a 10.9K /9 IP over his minor league career. He’s struggled with command so far in 2011 with 6 walks in 6 innings, but has struck out 8 and only allowed 2 hits.
Strop is worth keeping an eye on, as his strikeout per inning rate is very valuable in rotisserie leagues.
Projection (Strop): 48 innings, 3 wins, 3 saves, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 60 strikeouts
2010 Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz went on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation today, and the immediate question becomes, who replaces him as the closer?
Analysis: There seems to be three choices here; Darren O’Day and Pedro Strop, and Arthur Rhodes. Strop has a sensational line (1.68 ERA, .118 BAA), but a monstrous 1.50 WHIP. O’day’s numbers (2.84 ERA, .250 BAA, 1.58 WHIP) are worse.
Strop seems to be too loose with no runners on base, indicative of his 8th inning last night – 2 walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly. He’s still raw, but never discount a 96 mph fastball to close out the 9th inning.
O’Day has struggled so far this season. He has walked 4 in 6.1 innings, while he walked 12 all last season in 62 innings. His velocity is down a little bit, down from the low 90’s to the high 80’s, and that’s having an impact on his control. Maybe the adrenaline of the 9th inning will get that little extra “oomph” on O’Day’s fastball that made him so dominant last season.
Rhodes is the most experienced arm in the bullpen. He hasn’t started a game since 1997. He was an All-Star for the first time last season, and is probably the first choice to close. He’s got the mental toughness needed for the position, but is the softest thrower of the three.
Projection: Manager Ron Washington loves to play matchups. The best guess is that if there’s a save situation with 2 or more right-handed batters, he’ll go with Strop or O’Day. If there’s 2 or more left-handed batters, he’ll go to Rhodes. Either way, Feliz isn’t expected to miss more than the 2 weeks he’ll be on the DL. I wouldn’t expect any reliever to get more than 3 saves in that span, so it’s not worth picking up a middle reliever.