Interleague play may affect your MLB fantasy roster.
Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
Will they ever play?
It can seem like forever waiting on an injured star, especially when other players on your roster start filling up the disabled list. You may have stashed some big names that have not played in 2012 on your DL, but what can be expected upon their return?
Ryan Howard – Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils slugger is finally on the field in Clearwater, facing some minor leaguers in extended spring training games. Howard has yet to play in the field or run the bases. While the prospect of a late power edition to your club is enticing, it’s difficult to see the former MVP doing much damage this season. Lower-body injuries and 250+ athletes do not mix.
Chase Utley – Philadelphia Phillies
The former All-Star is also playing in Clearwater and seems further along than his partner on the right side of the Philadelphia infield. Utley is swinging well and running the bases, and he hopes to have no setbacks with his chronic knees. He could provide a boost in the second half but only batted .259 with a .769 OPS in 103 games last season.
Carl Crawford – Boston Red Sox
A disappointing 2011 season on the field in Beantown has turned into an exhaustive 2012 rehab campaign. Wrist surgery and an elbow injury have Crawford’s frustrations at an all-time high. He can swing the bat but has not been cleared to throw. Unless you’re an extreme optimist, there’s not much here for the ’12 season. Remember, Crawford only had a .289 OBP last year.
Stephen Drew – Arizona Diamondbacks
The shortstop is scheduled for a Triple-A rehab assignment this week, but he may be dealing with other issues from the club. Arizona managing partner Ken Kendrick recently said on radio that he thought Drew was more concerned with his 2013 team than playing for the franchise that is paying his salary. Ouch. The reality here seems to be that Drew’s stellar 2008 season looks much more of an outlier than a sign of consistent potential.
Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
The young closer burst on the scene last year with 43 saves, and he should give you the best chance for a second-half boost of the players on this list. Storen had been long-tossing every other day during his rehab from elbow surgery, but earlier this week he threw on consecutive days. The Nats stopper should be back after the All-Star break.
DL Watch and Other Injury News
• Texas placed left-hander Derek Holland on the 15-day DL today with shoulder fatigue. Holland (5-4, 5.10 ERA) has been battling a stomach ailment of some sort that’s caused him to lose 15 pounds over the last few weeks and resulted in diminishing stamina and velocity on the mound. On May 30, Seattle touched up Holland for eight runs on eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings. He pitched much better in his last outing on Tuesday in Oakland, getting the win as he gave up just three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he was clearly not the same pitcher late in that start as the Mariners hit him pretty hard in the fifth and sixth innings. Alexi Ogando, who went 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA as a starter last season, will move from the bullpen to take Holland’s spot in the rotation.
• Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila was placed on the DL on Wednesday due to a right hamstring strain. The team called up Bryan Holaday from AAA to take Avila’s place on the roster. Holaday went 1-for-4 with a run scored in his major league debut last night against Cleveland.
• Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman left Wednesday’s game against the Marlins with a bruised left index finger. Freeman, who had a RBI single in the fourth inning, injured his finger trying to break up a double play as he was hit with the relay throw. His finger was put in a splint and he was scheduled for x-rays and additional tests today. At the very least, expect him to miss a few games this weekend. It could be worse for Atlanta, who’s still missing Chipper Jones, but the Braves upcoming interleague series are at home, so they don’t need to worry about a DH. Eric Hinske will more than likely take over for Freeman at first.
• Speaking of Jones, the Braves’ long-time third baseman should be back soon, possibly the end of next week. Jones, who went on the DL on May 24 with a calf injury, appears to be getting to the point where he will be ready to go on a brief rehab assignment before rejoining the team.
• Jason Bay, who’s been on the DL since fracturing a rib in late April, should make his return to the Mets’ line up this weekend. Bay was in the starting lineup for today’s matinee against Washington, but was scratched before the game due to the flu. Bay is expected to see a lot of time at DH during the Mets’ upcoming interleague series against the Yankees and Tampa Bay. After those two series, manager Terry Collins has said he will probably employ some sort of outfield rotation with Bay, Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andres Torres.
Weekend Interleague Notes
Interleague play resumes on Friday, which means some National League teams will be employing a DH. Besides not having to watch pitchers swing the bat, this extra hitter in the NL team’s line up also could present a short-term opportunity to give your fantasy line up a boost. Here are some names worth considering during interleague play:
Jason Bay – As was mentioned earlier, Bay should return to the Mets’ line up as early this weekend. With the Mets in New York for the Subway Series against the Yankees and then on to Tampa Bay, he will probably get the bulk of the DH at-bats when he’s in the lineup. Bay (.240-3-5) is off to a slow start at the plate, but he’s had pretty good success in his career against both the Yankees (.333-6-28 in 40 G) and Rays (.283-8-25 in 27 G).
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – The Mets’ rookie outfielder has made the most of his opportunities in Bay’s absence. Entering Thursday, he was hitting .295 with three home runs and 20 RBIs, along with three stolen bases. Not surprisingly, the left-handed hitting Nieuwenheis fares better (.326) against righties than southpaws, so you may want to be wary of using him against the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte or Rays’ David Price, should he be in the lineup for those games.
Jim Thome – The Phillies’ first baseman was activated from the DL on Wednesday, just in time for interleague play. Thome is no stranger to DH, having played 18 of his 22 seasons in the American League, or interleague play. For his career, Thome is a .270 career hitter with 59 home runs and 150 RBIs in interleague series. The Phillies open a series in Baltimore on Friday before going on to Minnesota to face the Twins starting next Tuesday. Thome’s teammate Ty Wigginton (.269-6-26) could be another option in deeper leagues.
National League teams aren’t the only ones who have to adjust their usual strategy during interleague play. American League teams don’t get to use the DH when they play in NL parks, which means some managers have to get creative to make sure their best hitters stay in the lineup.
For example, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has already said that Albert Pujols will move over to third base for their interleague series in Colorado against the Dodgers, with Kendrys Morales taking over at first base. In some leagues those six games may be enough for Pujols to gain third-base eligibility. Just something to watch.
Also, don’t be surprised to see Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez roaming in right field next week when the Red Sox play the Marlins in Miami. It’s something manager Bobby Valentine is said to be considering to get either rookie Will Middlebrooks or veteran David Ortiz in the lineup.
Kevin Youkilis can move over to first to make room for Middlebrooks at third or Ortiz can play first with the Youker or Middlebrooks staying at the hot corner. Middlebrooks also has been practicing at shortstop, although that situation was more the result of second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s thumb injury rather than the upcoming interleague play. The bottom line is this with Valentine calling the shots, there’s no telling how the Red Sox’ lineup and defensive alignment will look when their series against the Marlins opens up on Tuesday.
Another AL first baseman who could find himself in the outfield this weekend is Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. It’s probably a long shot, but Royals manager Ned Yost has tossed out the idea of moving Hosmer to the outfield so normal DH Billy Butler can go to first.
Hosmer owners could care less about whether he gains outfield eligibility or not, they are just glad the young left-handed hitter has finally started to hit the ball more consistently. Sitting at a pitiful .172 through May 20, Hosmer has been raking as of late. Since May 21, he is batting .352 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Even better, he’s hit .368 with as many stolen bases (two) as strikeouts (two) in his first six games in June.
--By Mark Ross and Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on Twitter)