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
Josh Hamilton fractured his right shoulder in the first inning of Tuesday’s game against the Tigers trying to score on an unconventional pop-fly. With Hamilton on 3rd base, Adrian Beltre popped up to the left side of foul territory that sent Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez scrambling. Inge made the catch but no one covered home plate, so Hamilton took off. Inge tossed the ball to Martinez and tagged Hamilton just before he touched home plate.
It was a gusty move, and that’s the kind of intensity that wins pennants. However the Rangers will have to wait until June before they get their MVP back.
In the meantime, you don’t have to look very far to find a fantasy stop-gap for Josh Hamilton. Just look down the roster and you’ll find David Murphy.
Analysis: After Julio Borbon’s gaffe and Murphy’s game-winning double opening day, many people were clamoring for Murphy to replace Borbon. Well, “Murph’s” going to get his shot just 11 games into the season.
Murphy has always had talent. He was a 1st-round draft pick in 2003 by the Red Sox. His minor league numbers weren’t all that great (.273, 39 home runs in 1900+ at-bats), but has proven himself as a very capable major league hitter. His career batting average is .283 and his OPS is .804. Unlike most left-handed hitters, Murphy ISN’T abysmal against left-handed pitchers, putting up a very modest .266 batting average. That means he won’t sit against a pitcher just because they’re left-handed.
David is a line-drive hitter, hence why is BABIP is well above .300 for his career. There will be plenty of RBI opportunities in that Rangers lineup and should score plenty of runs.
Almost every player of fantasy value in the Rangers’ lineup should have been scooped up by now, so the possibility of 200 at-bats from a player in that lineup is well worth the risk. Murphy is worth adding to your roster across any format, regardless of if you had Hamilton on your team or not.
Projection (while Hamilton is out – about 50 games): .280, 9 home runs, 38 RBI’s, 7 steals, 38 runs scored.