Nelson Cruz hits the DL – Rangers offense sputters

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.

Rangers lose another arm, O’Day to 60-day DL

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


Feliz to DL, who will close for Texas Rangers?

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.

A Special Time of Year

For me February is the transitional month when it comes to sports. We come off the highs of the college bowl games and NFL post season and labor through nasty weather that accompanies winter sports.

March brings hope, the Boys of  Summer begin spring training games, college basketball heads towards Madness, NBA rides the home stretch and the fresh smell of cut grass fills the air.

Football also reappears with the NFL wrapping up its annual combine in Indianapolis and teams make final preparations for the April draft. College football also returns for a brief tease as teams across the land hold spring practices culminating with inter-squad games.

Winter into Spring also brings the NHL post season, the Daytona 500, the Masters and the French Open.

Off the field issuess will certainly take focus this Spring as both the NFL and NBA face possible work stoppages. Baseball is forever testing athletes for banned substances and college football debates the BCS versus playoff system.

While we will touch on all of this in this forum, one thing will remain constant, helping you win your fantasy league.