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In Some Depth: Roster Expansion Season

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Roster Expansion Season is upon us. It's kinda like the Holiday Season, except way warmer and totally non-denominational and you don't have to buy dumb presents for all the people you "love."

In any case, the Season does affect baseball's depth charts -- which, below you'll find 10 depth-chart situations of particular note.

Here they be, sorted from AL East to NL West:

Team: New York Yankees
Position: Designated Hitter
Players: Andruw Jones, Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada
Notes: Jesus Montero has now started three of the last four games at DH for the Yankees. It's important to note, however, that the Yankees have faced lefty starters in three of their last four (i.e. the very same) games. As of this moment, Montero probably isn't a better option against right-handers than Jorge Posada. He may not even be better against lefties than Andruw Jones (slashing .252/.358/.503, .297 BABIP, in 176 plate appearances this season, most of them against lefties). Still, with their playoff spot all but clinched, the Yankees have the freedom to give their prized prospects some major-league plate appearances over the course of September.

Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Outfield
Players: Brandon Guyer et al.
Notes: It's getting difficult to conceive of a scenario in which Brandon Guyer, part of the return from last offseason's Matt Garza trade, isn't an average major leaguer (or fantasy player) given playing time. His plate-discipline numbers are passable, he can handle all three outfield positions, and he has a power/speed combination (14 HR, 16 SB this season) that you generally find only with much more highly touted prospects. Guyer was recalled from Durham when rosters expanded and has started three of the Rays' last four games as of press time. Not even accounting for Sam Fuld, Guyer still has considerable outfield competition between Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist. He's someone to monitor in the event that a full-time role comes around.

Team: Cleveland Indians
Position: Left Field
Players: Jerad Head
Notes: The Indians' hypothetical starting outfield -- Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore, and Shin-Soo Choo, from left to right -- is hypothetically excellent. The Indians' actual starting lineup on September 4th -- Jerad Head, Ezequiel Carrera, and Kosuke Fukudome -- is something less than that. The 28-year-old Head showed good power this season (28 HR in 463 PA) at Triple-A Columbus, but had almost exactly four times as many strikeouts as walks (25:99). With Michael Brantley out for the season and both Choo and Sizemore injured, Head could make quite a few appearances in left for the duration of the season, but he's unlikely to provide much in return.

Team: Washington Nationals
Position: Center Field
Players: Jayson Werth
Notes: Werth started in center field for the Nats on Sunday -- the fifth time he'd done so (a) all season and (b) in the team's last eight games. In the latter two of those games, Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel started in right field, respectively, suggesting that manager Davey Johnson, and the organization as a whole, is giving him a real look there. Expect the experiment to continue for much of September.

Team: Chicago Cubs
Position: First Base / Left Field
Players: Bryan LaHair, Carlos Pena, Alfonso Soriano
Notes: Bryan LaHair got hit first major-league start Sunday since 2008, playing left field (with Alfonso Soriano on the bench) and going 2-for-4 with two singles and a strikeout. LaHair had 38 home runs at Triple-A Iowa this season, his third consecutive minor-league season with 25 or more homers. He's unlikely to usurp Soriano, signed through 2014, in left field, but might be a candidate for first base, which Carlos Pena will vacate when he leaves for free agency after the season.

Team: Cincinnati Reds
Position: Catcher
Players: Yasmani Grandal, Ryan Hanigan, Ramon Hernandez, Devin Mesoraco
Notes: Between the four guys listed above, the Reds have four guys who could probably handle a starting catcher role in the majors. Hernandez is a free agent after the season, but Hanigan is signed (rather cheaply) through 2013, and Grandal and Mesoraco have as yet to start a major-league game. That will change on Monday, as Mesoraco is slated to make his first start in the bigs. He could get decent playing time down the stretch, as the Reds will be looking forward to 2012.

Team: Cincinnati Reds
Position: Third Base
Players: Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, Scott Rolen
Notes: It's not necessarily that taking walks is an important skill in and of itself -- although it's certainly not a bad thing -- but rather that it's generally a sign that a player knows what's happening in the strike zone. That will help the reader understand why Francisco's 99:591 BB:K in the minor leagues represents some cause for concern. Be that as it may, Francisco has excellent power and has posted decent averages throughout his minor-league career on the basis of his home run-hitting and high BABIPs. He'd have gotten more time in the oft-injured Scott Rolen's place if it weren't for some poorly timed injuries of his own.

Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: Third Base
Players: Taylor Green, Casey McGehee
Notes: Last Monday, during my weekly radio spot on RotoWire's Sirius XM radio show, Chris Liss had the temerity -- that's right, I said temerity! -- to refer to the present column as In Too Much Depth, suggesting that I was digging too deeply. Clearly determined to defend my honor, Taylor Green -- i.e. a player about whose future I'm particularly optimistic -- began his career with three consecutive hits and enters the week 5-for-8 as a major-leaguer. Playing time is the issue, as Casey McGehee has rounded into form over the last month or two, but Green's long-term outlook is excellent -- especially with the dearth of third-base fantasy talent.

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Position: Middle Infield
Players: Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers
Notes: After the Dodgers sent Rafael Furcal to St. Louis at the trade deadline, it appeared as though shortstop prospect Dee Gordon would slide right into Furcal's starting role. In fact, Gordon imitated Furcal too well: within days, he'd injured himself and was placed on the DL. Justin Sellers was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas to take over short in Gordon's absence. Having posted decent numbers in Las Vegas -- even after accounting for the home field's inflated park factors -- Sellers has also posted decent numbers in his first 80 major-league plate appearances. To his credit, manager Don Mattingly has handled the situation well, having given Sellers two of the last three starts at second base. Sellers has shortstop eligibility by a number of formats already, though, giving him more value.

Team: San Diego Padres
Position: Various Corners
Players: Kyle Blanks, James Darnell, Jesus Guzman, Anthony Rizzo
Notes: James Darnell is probably a corner outfielder or first baseman who's stretched at third base; Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman are probably first basemen who are stretched in an outfield corner; and Anthony Rizzo is merely a first baseman -- yet all four have interesting offensive profiles. Though the least likely to get playing time, Darnell is actually my favorite of the group, having shown excellent power (17 HR in 346 PA) and excellent, excellent control of the strike zone (52:48 BB:K) this year at Double-A. Look for the quadrumvirate to all steal time from each other.