With Evan Longoria out of action for up to two months with a hamstring issue, who can you turn to in an effort to give your corner infield spot a boost? Also, we'll have an update on two injured Rangers' sluggers - Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre - an a soon to be returning power hitter for Padres.
Replacement Options for Evan Longoria?
Evan Longoria has an issue with his left hamstring, and it's not good news. He has a tear in his wheel which will necessitate him being out of action for anywhere from 4-8 weeks, a major blow to those who drafted him in the first round this season as he was living up to everyone's expectations (he was hitting .329 with four homers, 19 RBI, 15 runs and two steals through 23 games). What do you do if you need to replace Longoria in your lineup? After shedding a tear and picking yourself up off the floor, here are three options you might consider turning to if your offense needs a boost.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
The second player chosen in the 2008 draft, Alvarez has been one of the bigger disappointments in recent years given his inability to hold down an every day job in the big leagues. One of his biggest issues has been an overwhelming propensity to swing at everything a pitcher chucks at him. He still hasn't solved that issue, in fact his current K-rate of 36.4 percent would be about six percent worse than his average entering the year, an at the same time he's also seen his walk rate also cut in half (4.5 percent). Those are not signs of a player who is figuring anything out. However, maybe, just maybe, the light bulb is slowing heating up. Alvarez has scored a run in five of the last six games and over his last nine contests he has 10 RBI. However, the most impressive news is that he's produced two hits in five of his last nine games, homers in his last two, and four homers in his last seven games. That's a fantastic run for a guy who has barely hit his weight at the big league level, but until he learns a bit more discerning eye at the dish he's going to be one hot/cold performer that will make you cheer, then cry, over an over again.
Chris Davis, 1B/3B, Orioles
Did you listen when I touted him this offseason and told you to draft him, or were you afraid because of his repeated struggles at the big league level? Well I hope you listened cause he has looked great so far. After striking out in roughly one of every three at-bats coming into the year, Davis is now better than one every four at-bats, and all that extra contact has been a huge reason that he is batting .333 through 22 games. He's also gone deep five times putting him on pace for roughly 30 homers this season. Given his new approach at the plate there is cautious optimism that Davis has finally figured things out. That doesn't mean he is going to hit .300, he's not that guy, but he could hit .275 with 30 homers and that is pretty spectacular production if it's coming from your third baseman, or better yet, from your corner infielder.
Bryan LaHair, 1B, Cubs
OK this is cheating. For one, LaHair plays third base, but let's just assume you have someone else on your roster you can play at third while you can slide in LaHair at the corner infield slot. Second, it's debatable if LaHair will be available to add even if you're in an 8-team league cause the guy has been ripping it up. So, maybe this is less about 'you can add LaHair to help your team' than it is 'how long can you expect LaHair to help your team?'
Coming into the 2012 season LaHair had all of 195 at-bats in the big leagues, a pretty low number for a guy who began the season as a 29 year old. He'd also appeared in the following number of games at the Triple-A level from 2006-1011: 54, 138, 86, 121, 125 and 129. Does that sound like a guy that was on the verge of a breakout this season? To be fair LaHair hit at least 289 with 25 HR and 80 RBI in 2009 and 2010, and last year he did go nuts hitting .331 with 38 homers and 109 RBI in just 129 games. He was likely undrafted in the majority of 10-12 team mixed leagues this year, and right now that looks like one of the biggest blunders any of us pulled this draft season. Through 20 games Bryan is hitting .390 with five homers, 14 RBI, 11 runs scored an a 1.251 OPS. Yeah, that's Barry Bonds/Ted Williams territory. Of course he won't be able to keep up that pace so the question is, how far will he fall? Some thoughts.
(1) His HR/F ratio is 35.7 percent. By the time the season is over he would be lucky if the number was half of his current mark. (2) He's struck out in 36 percent of his at-bats. It's virtually impossible to do that and hit .300. (3) His line drive rate is 25.7 percent. He's just not that type of hitter. He's much more likely to end the year with a league average mark of 19-20 percent than he is to lead the league in LD-rate. (4) This is one of the more laughable numbers that I have ever seen, and remember, I stare at numbers all day, every day. The big league average for BABIP is .290-300. The league leader is usually slightly above .380 with a rare instance of .400. LaHair isn't worried about greatness, so he's blown right past .400. He isn't worried about the absurd. He's blown past .500 as well. LaHair's current mark would be the greatest number ever posted, and I'm not just talking about setting an all-time BABIP record, I mean it would be the greatest number ever posted in the history of baseball. Better than 762 homers, 511 victories, a 56-game hitting streak, it would top them all. For the season LaHair has a BABIP of .600. He's going to fall hard at some point.
One final note. The Cubs reported today that they realize that even though their future at first base is Anthony Rizzo that they would be mental to bench LaHair if he continues to hit meaning LaHair could serve as a corner outfielder with Rizzo playing first. ‘‘I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but obviously there’s going to be a point in time where you have to get their bats in the lineup at the same time,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. The Cubs may give Rizzo some more time in Triple-A to make sure he is ready, don't forget he hit – if you can call what he did hitting – .l41 with one homer in 128 at-bats last year. He's had no trouble at all in the minors though hitting .331 with 26 homers and 101 RBI in 93 games at Triple-A last year an a titillating .384 with seven homers and 23 RBI in 22 games at Triple-A this season. Look for both batters to be in the daily lineup for the Cubbies by June.
Adrian Beltre was not in the Rangers lineup on Wednesday as he's still dealing with some soreness in his leg due to his tweaked hammy. You can blame the fake grass they use at the Rogers Centre for at least part of that decision, though it is becoming a little concerning that Beltre seems slightly susceptible to leg issues (what is is with the Rangers who seem to have the same situation with Nelson Cruz). Beltre has been pretty impressive when on the field this year hitting .317 with four homers, 13 RBI and 13 runs scored in 21 games, proving yet again why he is one of the top handful of options at the hot corner, even if he isn't one of the true elites.
Josh Hamilton (back) has now missed being in the starting lineup for the Rangers for three straight days (he is close to a return to the regular lineup as this issues will not result in a stint on the DL). You remember when this happened and Hamilton said he would be fine in 12 hours? This is the problem with Hamilton. His level of production is bonkers good (.395-9-25-20 in 22 games), but he is always seemingly beat up. I understand the draw given his talent, but let me repeat for about the 87th time why I wouldn't be counting on Hamilton to lead my team to victory this season. Over the last three years he has averaged 114 games a season. We can all agree that J.D. Drew was one of the most injury prone players in recent memory, right? Over the from 1999-2010, a span of 12 seasons, do you know how many games a year that Drew played on average? How about 123. That's right, Hamilton has averaged less games the past three seasons that J.D. Drew did for the vast majority of his career (I tossed out Drew's 14 game rookie season and his 81 game final season with the Red Sox). Just some food for thought.
Carlos Quentin hit his first home run of the season Tuesday at Triple-A Tuscon. Coming back from knee surgery, Quentin filled the role of designated hitter in his first game back in action. The Padres hasn't announced when he will be ready to return to action, but he could be ready to go at some point next week once he proves the knee is healthy enough to handle the rigors of playing outfield for the Pads. Always an injury risk, the hope is that Quentin has gotten his yearly injury out of the way at the start so that we can hopefully see him out there 120 times the rest of the way. A middling batter average performer with a career .252 mark, Quentin has hit at least 21 homers in each of the past four years despite never having appeared in 135 games, and the past three years he has averaged 24 homers a year in just 116 games a season. Petco Park isn't an easy place to hit, but Quentin has the power to reach the seats in any park he plays, so here's to hoping a return to California, where he was born and went to school, will allow him to have success.
Ray Flowers can be heard, Monday through Friday from 5 PM to 8 PM EDT on Sirius 210, XM 87. You can follow his writing at Baseballguys.com an on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter feed.
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