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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
Tampa Bay’s Third Baseman is Going, Going, Lon-gonia For a While
Stop me if you’ve heard this before – more third basemen have been bitten by the injury bug. This week’s victim is none other than Evan Longoria. Tampa Bay’s two-time Gold Glove-winner and the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008 left Monday’s game after attempting to steal second base. On Tuesday, an MRI revealed that his left hamstring was partially torn, putting him on the shelf for anywhere between 4-8 weeks.
The Rays, who are currently in first place in the AL East, will certainly miss both his glove and bat. Longoria was hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in his first 23 games.
Longoria wasn’t the only AL East third-sacker who went on the disabled list this week as Boston placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a lower back strain. The Youker was off to a slow start (.219-2-9), but had been hitting better as of late prior to suffering this injury.
The Red Sox called up top prospect Will Middlebrooks from AAA Pawtucket to take Youkilis’ place on the roster. At this point, Middlebrooks probably won’t have much value in anything but keeper leagues, but the Red Sox’ future third baseman is worth keeping an eye on.
As for third-base alternatives likely to see more playing time, Baltimore’s Chris Davis is off to a solid start, hitting .316 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Pedro Alvarez also has been crushing the ball recently with four home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games. Davis and Alvarez are both free-swingers, each of them having struck out at least 20 times so far, so if you add either to your line up you will have to live with the strikeouts and prolonged dry spells.
Headed into this season, expectations in terms of both on-the-field and fantasy success, for the Houston Astros was understandably low. After all this was a team that lost a league-worst 106 games in 2011 while trading away two of its best players in Hunter Pence (Philadelphia) and Michael Bourn (Atlanta).
So far this season, the Astros are 11-14, and probably more surprisingly, are fourth in the National League in runs scored. As a team the Astros aren’t hitting lots of home runs, but they have a lot of guys who are getting on base, as they are second in the NL in both walks and on-base percentage entering Thursday.
They also are getting all of this done with a bunch of no-names, at least as far as your draft probably went, but are more than deserving of your full attention now. Their best hitter is second baseman Jose Altuve, who is third in the NL in hitting with a .358 average, to go along with 16 runs scored, seven doubles, 10 RBIs and four stolen bases.
Not too far behind him is Jed Lowrie. The former Red Sox, who was part of the trade for Mark Melancon in the offseason, is batting .329 with three home runs. Lowrie currently has a six-game hitting streak where he’s 11-21 with six runs scored, two home runs, six RBIs, four walks and just two strikeouts. Lowrie is the Astros’ starting shortstop, but in some leagues he may also have third-base eligibility, meaning he could be a possible replacement if you have the aforementioned Longoria or Youkilis on your roster.
The Astros’ starting third baseman is Chris Johnson, who went 4-4 with two home runs and six RBIs in their 8-1 win over the Mets on Wednesday. Johnson, who hit just .251 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs in 107 games in 2011, is hitting .311 right now, although consistent contact (24 strikeouts, three walks) still appears to be an issue.
Houston’s main source of power this year hasn’t been veteran slugger Carlos Lee (.267-2-13), instead it’s 24-year-old J.D. Martinez. The outfielder, who made his major-league debut last July and posted a .274-6-35 line in a little more than 200 at-bats. He’s picked up where he left off this season as he leads the team with 20 RBIs and is tied for Lowrie for first in home runs with three. Martinez also has shown good plate discipline with a near 1:1 ratio in walks (18) to strikeouts (19).
Jordan Schafer, who came over in the Bourn trade with Atlanta last July, also has done his fair share of damage in the runs scored (17) and stolen bases (nine) departments, while offering a little power (two home runs) from the leadoff spot.
This Week’s Other Significant Injuries
*Justin Morneau left Monday’s game in Anaheim early due to a sore left wrist, which immediately raised the alarm since that’s his surgically repaired wrist. Morneau returned to Minnesota for more tests, including a MRI, which didn’t reveal anything that doctors were too worried about. He most likely won’t play until Friday, but when he does return to the Twins’ line up, this is a situation that bears watching. The two-time AL MVP is still trying to find his old form at the plate. So far, he is batting .230 with four home runs and nine RBIs. Half of his home runs and a third of his RBIs came in one game, April 18 against the Yankees in New York.
*San Diego Padres left-hander Cory Luebke was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday because of a strained left elbow. Luebke was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his first five starts. The Padres replaced Luebke in the starting rotation with veteran Jeff Suppan, who pitched five scoreless innings against the Brewers on Wednesday. Suppan has pitched in parts of 17 major-league seasons and was making his first appearance since Oct. 3, 2010 with St. Louis. For his career, he’s 138-143 with a 4.69 ERA, so I would proceed with utmost caution before even using him as a spot-starter, even in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
*Milwaukee first baseman Mat Gamel is more than likely done for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee while chasing a pop-up in foul territory in Tuesday’s night game in San Diego. Gamel is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair the damage in the near future. The Brewers' former hot prospect was off to a slow start at the plate (.246-1-6), but the team will miss his bat in the line up. For now, it appears that left-handed hitting Travis Ishikawa will receive the bulk of the playing time at first base, and outfielder Corey Hart can play there as well if necessary.
*Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett will miss his next scheduled start this Saturday against Baltimore with what the team is calling a lower-back strain. Aaron Cook will be summoned from AAA to take his spot. Cook who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in the offseason, made 17 starts for Colorado in 2011, going 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA in those games.
Weekend Series to Watch
Baltimore at Boston
Don’t look now, but Baltimore, not Boston is in second place in the AL East, thanks to great pitching (2.83 team ERA, tops in the AL) and surprising offense (fifth in AL in average, third in both doubles and home runs entering Thursday). The Red Sox, on the other hand, got off to a 4-10 start, but then won six straight on the road against Minnesota and Chicago to get back to .500. They come back home for this three-game set against the Orioles, however, having lost three of their last four games.
Baltimore will go with Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel on the mound against the Red Sox. While these three are anything but household names when it comes to fantasy rosters, they have combined to go 7-2 in 14 starts with a collective 2.86 ERA. Hammel (3-1, 1.97 ERA) has been the Orioles’ ace so far, as he has given up just 23 hits in 32 innings with 30 strikeouts.
Offensively, Adam Jones (.316-6-12) and Matt Wieters (.303-7-17) have been doing their part, but Baltimore also has gotten unexpected contributions from Chris Davis (.316-5-13) and Robert Andino (.342, 10 R). They need J.J. Hardy (.196-4-8) to get on base a little more, especially with leadoff man Nolan Reimold (.313-5-10) shelved for the time being with a bulging disk in his back. Reimold may be back in the line up this weekend.
Boston knows all about injuries as Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Youkilis are all out of the line up and on the DL. David Ortiz (.391-6-21, 17 R) and Dustin Pedroia (.294-3-8, 16 R) have done their part, as have Ryan Sweeney (.361, 12 2B), Mike Aviles (.281-5-19, 19 R) and even Cody Ross (5 HR, 18 RBI). It’s really the Red Sox’ pitching that needs to get it going.
No Boston starter has an ERA under 4.32 right now and the bullpen (5.35 collective ERA) has been even worse. Jon Lester (1-2, 4.65 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (3-1, 8.69 ERA) will go Friday and Sunday, with Aaron Cook making his 2012 season debut on Saturday in place of an injured Beckett (see above).
Milwaukee at San Francisco
Both teams are third in their respective divisions entering Thursday’s action, but this is a series highlighted by some intriguing pitching match ups. Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.94 ERA) and Tim Lincecum (2-2, 5.74 ERA) start things off on Friday night by the bay. Greinke has been solid to start the season, with the exception of his second start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field when he was tagged for eight runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Lincecum got off to a horrible start, but has pitched better of late, going 2-0 and surrendering just one earned run in his last two starts.
Saturday afternoon will pit Brewers’ lefty Randy Wolf (2-2, 6.84 ERA) against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (4-1, 2.53 ERA). While Wolf may not seem like the ideal spot-start option, keep in mind the Giants are batting just .239 against left-handed pitching, which ranks them 11th in the National League.
Wolf also may get the added benefit of not having to face the Giants’ best hitter, Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, who is off to a .316-5-15 start and had a 20-game hitting streak to begin his ’12 campaign, left Wednesday’s night game early with an apparent hand/wrist injury. His status for the weekend was unclear as of Thursday morning.
The series concludes on Sunday with Shaun Marcum (1-1, 3.19 ERA) facing off against Matt Cain (1-2, 2.35 ERA). Marcum is coming off of his best start of the season, tossing seven scoreless innings in which he yielded just three hits in Tuesday’s win in San Diego, while Cain has allowed just five earned runs in his last four starts, which covers 32 1/3 innings.
Cain will need to be at the top of his game to slow down Ryan Braun. Braun hit three home runs and a triple in the Brewers’ 8-3 win on Monday against the Padres and is batting .400 (6-15, 2B, 3B) in his career against the right-hander.
— by Mark Ross, published on May 3, 2012