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Thursday 23rd Mar 2017

This past cycle of games has been brutal for middle infielders, with Jose Reyes, Gordon Beckham, Erick Aybar, and Scott Sizemore all falling to the DL for some period between a few weeks and the end of the season.

This time, let's start by looking at those spots, and who is likely to get playing time, and where we can look to fill their void, especially in deeper formats, starting with the Jays and Reyes. Toronto has covered their bases pretty well in the event of such an injury, as they have both Macier Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio on their roster, not to mention Mark DeRosa. Izturis is the likely candidate to get time at shortstop while Reyes is out for 1-3 months. Bonifacio will continue to play mostly second with a little outfield and short, but, if DeRosa, of whom we recently wrote, is still floating around in the free agent pool, he is the guy I would look to get the at-bats, and even productive ones. For now, DeRosa, who can play second, third, short, and the outfield as well, is covering third pending the return of Brett Lawrie, but I like the veteran to get some everyday playing time till both Reyes and Lawrie are back in the starting lineups. I would ignore Munenori Kawasaki, who had a short but unsuccessful stint with Seattle last year. Something to monitor is Brett Lawrie is playing second on rehab (Joey Bats actually played the hot corner over the weekend). The Blue Jays outfield depth with Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose on the farm is better than their infield depth so if Lawrie shows the Toronto brass he can handle the keystone, they may leave Bautista at third and use Bonifacio and Davis in the outfield. DeRosa will still see some playing time thus would continue to be viable in AL-only formats.

The Angels situation is both better and bleaker as Aybar, down with a badly bruised heel, will only be out for a few weeks. On the other hand, they would probably love to still have Izturis, who left for the greener fields of Toronto as a free agent last off-season. The Angels have Andrew Romine and Brendan Harris to cover for Aybar, who is likely to be down just a couple of weeks (a similar injury hit him last season) and while Romine has some glove, his major league line is .196-0-1 over 32 at-bats, and a slightly more promising .277-19-213 minor league mark over 611 games. Harris has had better success in the Majors, with.260-29-149 big league totals over 492 games (.282-87-481 over 912 minor league games) and is probably the better bet.

I was really big on Scott Sizemore going into the season as being the second sacker in Oakland until he fell victim to the same ACL injury that ended his 2012 season. The Athletics did call up Andy Parrino, who has a terrific glove, but no stick at all (.193-1-10 major league line over 83 games). In fact, Parrino made several great defensive plays at short Saturday versus Justin Verlander and the Tigers, but was caught looking with runners on base twice, making the final out of the inning and killing rallies twice. I would simply bite it and stick with Eric Sogard, who has been performing adequately, at second, maybe looking at Adam Rosales when he returns from the DL. The truth is I don't see either player as an everyday guy, nor do I see Jemile Weeks as a solution Oakland trusts (if they did, he would have been recalled before Parrino), so Billy Beane might look to trade to fill the void with some offense. Irrespective, were I stuck, Sogard is where I would go.

The White Sox lost Gordon Beckham to a broken hamate bone (something that did not exist when I was a kid watching baseball, along with a rotator cuff) for roughly six weeks, but like the Jays, they have their bases pretty well covered with vet Jeff Keppinger, a player I really liked going into the 2013 drafts and season. So, while I see Keppinger getting time at second, I would take a look at Conor Gillaspie, who has been getting at-bats at third (where Keppinger can play when Beckham returns). A first-round pick of the Giants in 2008, I have seen Gillaspie at the AFL, at spring training, and even during his short stints at ATT, and he can indeed hit. So far, the third sacker is hitting .435-0-0 over 23 at-bats, but as with Sogard, if you need the at-bats in a deeper format, go with Gillaspie. 

On the south side of Chicago, Darwin Barney is similarly down, and the Cubbies have been rotating Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge around, and just recalled Alberto Gonzalez. I would give the versatile Lillibridge, who enjoyed his best major league season at US Cellular in 2011 when he hit .258-13-29 over 183 at-bats. That season his slugging was .505, and OPS .845 suggesting he has pop and some versatility (can play second, third, short, and the outfield). In fact, I like Gonzalez and his major league slash of .242-3-85 over 411 major league games, over Valbuena and his .224-18-87 over 329 contests. Valbuena does have the pop, but I just think that Gonzalez is a better bet. Either way, I like Lillibridge best among the troika.

One other infield to watch is Houston's ever evolving cluster, where the only set thing is Jose Altuve. Matt Dominguez could move to to first where Brett Wallace (.043-0-0 over seven games) is not delivering. That is because Marwin Gonzalez (.333-2-5 over nine games) should get the time at third, or even short depending upon Ronny Cedeno who is hitting adequately, but who is similarly not a long term solution to much of anything (if the Astros are smart, they can swap Cedeno to one of the above teams for some future considerations). Either way, Gonzalez is a guy to look at and add if you can in a deeper format. 

With Freddie Freeman out, the Braves advanced Evan Gattis who has made quite a splash with a .333-4-8 line over eight major league games. A 23rd-round pick of Atlanta in 2010, Gattis has a pretty good minor league resume of .308-44-167 over 222 games, with 62 walks to 147 whiffs (.373/.546/.920). The 26-year old is indeed hot, so ride the hot hand while you can.

Looking to a couple of pitchers, Nick Tepesch has had a couple of nice starts for the Rangers. Drafted out of high school in 2008 by the Red Sox Tepesch chose the college (University of Missouri, Columbia) path instead, then signing with the Rangers after being drafted in the 14th round of 2010. As a minor leaguer, Tepesch assembled a 19-7, 3.77 mark over 305.1 innings (58 games, 50 starts) with 250 strikeouts to 77 walks and 317 hits (1.298 WHIP). 

It is hard to ignore those two strong starts, but if you rememer back to last year, the Rangers also gave Justin Grimm (1-1, 9.00 over five games, two starts, and 14 innings) a shot and after his first strong start, Grimm stumbled. He wound up with an 11-6, 2.81 season over 134.1 innings split between Round Rock and Frisco. With a 19-9, 3.07 mark over 281 minor league innings with 234 whiffs to 80 walks and 256 hits (1.196 WHIP). Truth is, I like Grimm better than Tepesch as a gamble.

Finally, one of my regrets this pre-season was that I could not protect Jhoulys Chacin on my Strat-O-Matic team simply because I did not have enough spots (Carlos Marmol also went back to the pool). I had a strong feeling, based upon his 3-2, 2.80 second half and not his 0-3, 7.30 first half starts, Reality is that Chacin was only able to make 14 starts all season, spending time on the DL with a dead wing, but he is clearly back in force with 2-0, 1.96 numbers over three 2013 starts. Oh how I wish I had been able to protect Chacin. Such is life. Pick him up if you can.

Comments   

0 #4 Lawr Michaels 2013-04-16 18:39
Lowrie is pretty good at short, but the real glove is Andy Parrino, who unfortunately is a switch hitter who cannot hit either way. But dude has a serious glove.

I see Lowrie easily holding the spot. I don't see Weeks as a consideration, nor Green.

Were they worthy of any consideration the A's would have called them back instead of Parrino.

But, I don't see either Rosales or Sogard as a real solution at second, either. Or Nakajima (Kawasaki, redux).

I see a trade out there somewhere.
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0 #3 OaktownSteve 2013-04-15 21:53
seems like you see some A's games. Are you impressed with Lowrie defensively? I'm not. I like him overall as a player. I would think if they had an upgrade at SS they might see if Lowrie could shift to 2B. Wonder if they want to give Nakajima a look. He was putrid in the spring. Jemile is now playing SS at Sacramento and Grant Green has been getting the time at 2nd. Lots of directions they could end up going.
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0 #2 Perry Van Hook 2013-04-15 20:22
The White Sox lineup today previews what I thought might happen - sitting Gillaspie against some LHP so Keppinger moves back to third and today Greene getting the start at 2b
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0 #1 Ryan Carey 2013-04-15 15:27
Tyler Greene also got called up with the White Sox. Looks like a pure UT guy for them at this point, taking the roster spot of the injured Angel Sanchez - but I guess if Gillespie doesn't hit, he'll get some starts at 2B. Still worth a flyer in AL only.
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