Sometimes players are overlooked because they are starting the year injured. One of those players just might be Stephen Drew who is coming back from surgery for a significant ankle injury. The White Sox, as if we don't have enough uncertainty with what teams are doing at the end of games, are making things even less certain as they continue to wait on naming a man to handle the 9th inning. The Rays made the right decision and named Sean Rodriguez their starter at shortstop. What does that mean for his 2012 value? I'll also give some quick thoughts on the Tigers decision to use Brandon Inge at second base against lefties before discussing the outlook of two current, and one former. Athletics' arms. There's also time in this piece for me to discuss the return to action of a former 30 homer bat and to break down starting rotations using the Padres as a guide.
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Drew Uncertain As To Return
The D'backs are going to have to go with Willie Bloomquist as their starting shortstop until they get Stephen Drew back on the field. Drew, who has been out since last July when he required surgery on a badly damaged ankle, ran the bases recently as he continues to slowly work his way back into game shape. Drew has also been able to work on his defense so it's not like he is completely out of baseball shape. "The ligament and the tendons [are] great, the bone has healed, everything's solid there," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Just in the joint sometimes he gets inflammation as he goes on and he gets sore.” So when will we see him on the field for the D'backs? If I had to guess, an I'm admittedly doing just that, I'd say early May. It's possible he's back on the field in April, but if the club continues to take the prudent, i.e. measured pace with his recovery, they're much less likely to see Drew go back down with another issue with his ankle.
Why do I bother bringing up Drew? Is it because I love Willie Bloomquist and try my hardest to work him into every article I ever write? Uh, no, though to be fair Willie B. has a decent amount of NL-only appeal right now as he can certainly steal a base. It's because Drew can be had at a major discount right now (I've been hearing from folks that he is going undrafted in some 12 team mixed leagues). If Drew is available give some consideration to adding him to your bench unit. Drew has never reached the heights that were predicted for him after he was taken in the first round in 2004, but he's been a solid source of production nonetheless. From 2007-10 Drew was one of two shortstops who hit at least 12 homers with 60 RBI and 60 runs scored each season. The other was Hanley Ramirez.
Lunacy in Chicago?
We all know the drill by now. Team after team, most recently the Red Sox and Rays, are having to make changes with their 9th inning option because of health issues. Well, we can add the White Sox to the mix of teams with uncertain pecking orders in the bullpen, though at least in their case it's not injury driven uncertainty.
Tuesday the White Sox defeated the Astros and you know who was called on to work the 9th inning? Was it Matt Thornton, the man most expect to work the 9th inning to start the year? No. Was it Addison Reed, the club's 'closer of the future?' No again. Well it must have been veteran reliever Jesse Crain then, right? Strike three (Reed worked the sixth, Crain the 7th and Thornton the 8th). The Sox called on Hector Santiago to work the 9th inning. Adding further to the mystery is the fact that first year manager Robin Ventura has not said who he will go into the season with as his closer.
So, who is this Hector Santiago? Well, he threw 5.1 innings last season for the White Sox, so clearly he's the teams best option to work the 9th inning this season. Has it really come to this? Are we really sitting here having to give serious consideration to a guy with less than a game of big league experience being someone who works the 9th inning leading to high levels of fantasy importance? Really Mr. Ventura? Well maybe Santiago just hasn't had a chance in the majors but he's looked great in the minors. No again. Some data points.
Santiago has never thrown a pitch above Double-A in the minors. Speaking of that, he's only thrown 83.1 innings above A-ball. Furthermore, he made 23 appearances in the minors last season and all 23 of them were as a starting pitcher. Oh he worked as a relievers from 2007-10, but every appearance last year was a start. As for his relief work, he had all of four saves to show for his four years pitching out of the bullpen. He does have a big arm, his 9.6 K/9 shows that, but he's also shown a relative inability to limit the walks (4.1 per nine for his career). Given that Ventura said that the #1 goal for his closer will be an ability to throw strikes – “...guys who are going to get behind and walk guys have more trouble than guys who can pound the zone.” - that would seem to rule out Santiago, but at this point who really knows. Fantastic.
S-Rod Getting Chance
This may not be exciting news for those of you who aren't in AL-only leagues, but it still deserves to be discussed. The Rays made it official Wednesday stating that Sean Rodriguez would be the starter, and barring something unforeseen, get most of the work at shortstop this season (Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson will fill support roles). Some data points with S-Rod.
(1) Most obvious is the fact that Sean qualifies all over the field, and that is a major weapon in AL-only leagues. Sean played 60 games at shortstop last year, 48 at second base and 30 at third which also gives him CI, MI and UT value. That's pretty darn impressive/useful.
(2) He has hit a mere .229 during his 908 at-bat big league career. He's been effective against lefties in his career posting a ..260/.360/.422 slash line over 315 at-bats, but he hasn't fared nearly as well against righties putting together a pathetic looking .212/.278/.337 line. Clearly, if he wants to remain an every day player for any length of time he's going to need to improve that work against righties substantially. If not, a platoon role most certainly awaits.
(3) Since he has only 908 bit league at bats, lets break down his effort into a more manageable size. Per 450 at-bats, less than a full season of work, he's averaged 11 homers, 46 RBI and 14 steals. When combined with his .229 career average it's not like anyone is going to be overly thrilled about that. But, it should be pointed out Jimmy Rollins and Asdrubal Cabrera where the only two shortstops in 2011 to reach those homer, RBI and steal totals.
Rodriguez isn't likely to be a superstar but if everything broke right for him he could hit 20 homers and steal 15 bases, so you've got to be interested in a guy like that who qualifies all over the field – even if his batting average is Carlos Pena like.
Short Hops – Random Thoughts
Two Athletics hurlers are going in opposite directions. Dallas Braden (shoulder) has been shut down for three weeks because of a strain in his wing that he picked up. The hope had been that Braden would be good to go in early May, but that's clearly not going to happen at this point (he underwent platelet rich plasma therapy on Tuesday to hopefully speed up the healing process). Brett Anderson is likely further away from a return to game action, but he hasn't suffered a setback after having Tommy John surgery last July. The club is hopeful that Anderson will be able to return in August if he keeps making progress. He threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session on Tuesday encouraging everyone with the club that he could be a back on the hill in the second half of the season.
A former Athletic, Andrew Bailey, will likely miss at least the first half of the season after being told he need UCL surgery in the thumb of his throwing hand. Reports suggest that a 3-4 month timetable should be accepted as the time that Bailey will miss, but here's my own personal thoughts – bull. My mother had UCL surgery on her thumb and she said it was one of the more painful things she had ever gone through. She also took about a year to get back to full strength, an there are still days when he thumb doesn't feel quite right. If I had Bailey on my roster I wouldn't be expecting him to return to his normal level of effectiveness in the second half, even if the team is putting on a bright face right now.
Corey Hart had two hits in his return to the Brewers lineup. Looks like his operated on knee is in good shape, and the club expects him to open the year as a starter in the outfield. He might not play every day at the start of the year, but he clearly appears to be on track to be his normal, power hitting self early in the year.
Looks like Brandon Inge will be the Tigers starter at second base against left-handed pitching. Of course that is dependent on Inge being healthy as he'll start the season on the DL with a groin injury (he is expected to be ready to go right around the time that he is first eligible which is April 14th). Point #1. Inge isn't a very good hitter, no matter which hand the hurler is throwing with. He is a better performer against lefties in his career but his slash line is only slightly better than “average” at .265/.342/.458. Point #2. Playing Inge against lefties will cut into the playing time of Ryan Raburn limiting the best hitting second baseman that the Tigers have on the roster. The club has been glowing about the defense of Inge, but the guy has never played a big league inning at second, and that has to have at least some of the Tigers pitchers a bit worried.
Joakim Soria had Tommy John surgery Tuesday. He'll miss the entire 2012 season after undergoing the procedure for the second time in his career.
Tim Stauffer (triceps) will not start the year on the DL. It sounds like he will continue to throw to make sure he's alright. Being that it's the start of the season, it's conceivable that he might even make his first start. The reason being that the Padres could just slot him as their “5th starter” giving him plenty of time to work his way back to health. That brings up a point that should be mentioned. People make far too much about who is the teams # whatever starter. As long as you're taking the ball every five days, who cares. It's not like teams always have their ace up against another teams ace. In fact, with the way the schedule is set up, it's just as likely that aces will miss each other as face each other (in fact, it's probably even less likely). Really, until you get into the playoffs it really doesn't matter what spot in the rotation that pitchers fill.