There may only be two-plus weeks left in the regular season, but that does not mean the MLB landscape is devoid of any drama. Below are 10 observations from around the league's depth charts that could have some impact on your league's outcome.
Without any further ado:
Starter: Neil Walker
Next: Brock Holt, Josh Harrison
Brock Holt stole my heart last week when he leapt out out to a .414/.400/.517 slash line in his first seven starts as a big leaguer, but it looks like Neil Walker's return from a back injury Saturday signals the end of Holt's reign in Pittsburgh. Holt wound up with a .327 average and three extra-base hits over his 11-game tenure as the Pirates' second baseman, but he still has “work to do” defensively. Walker went 1-for-9 in his first two games back, but his owners can rest assured that he will be out there on a daily basis for the Pirates.
Starters: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Josh Willingham
Next: Darin Mastroianni, Chris Parmelee, Ben Carson, Ryan Doumit
Denard Span returned from the disabled list this past week, and he immediately returned to that top line of Minnesota outfielders. Span's return may have the greatest negative impact on Chris Parmelee, who had made 11 consecutive starts in right prior to a groin injury, but will now need a new home with Ben Revere shifting from center. Some time in the DH slot could be an answer, but time there will be far from regular if the Twins provide Joe Mauer more time off the field. Darin Mastroianni has quietly stolen 20 bags this season, but a lack of both hits and starts may curtail his ownership levels.
Starter: Mark Ellis
Next: Nick Punto, Adam Kennedy, Dee Gordon
Mark Ellis has started all but nine of the Dodgers' games since he returned from knee surgery in early July, and he has hit a respectable, yet vanilla, .264/.332/.379 with four home runs and two steals in his first 227 at-bats back. Nick Punto has started three games there since coming over from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but he has not been a legitimate threat to start more frequently. Perhaps most interesting has been the news that Dee Gordon has fielding ground balls at the position, but it would be unreasonable to think he could overtake Ellis as the starter with only two-plus weeks remaining on the season and zero games of experience at the spot.
Starters: Brandon Moss and Chris Carter
Chris Carter had a terrific, yet surprising run from his late June callup to the end of August. He OPS'd in the neighborhood of 1.000 for that two-month stretch, but Brandon Moss appears to have become a factor once again after a hot streak of his own. Moss has six home runs over his last 14 games (50 at-bats), and has accumulated nine starts at first since August 30. Carter is a lock against left-handed starters, but the inconsistent playing time may be getting to him – he has gone 5-for-30 (.167) in his eight September starts.
Starter: Wilson Valdez
Next: Didi Gregorius
Injured: Zack Cozart (oblique)
Zack Cozart started 121 of the Reds' first 136 games, but he has been sidelined since September 3 with back and oblique injuries. Enter Wilson Valdez, who has raised his batting average from .196 to .203 in eight starts since Cozart went down. Didi Gregorius, a 22-year-old from the Netherlands, has started the other three games, including a 3-for-5 performance in Sunday's extra-innings win. Do not let that get you too excited, as Gregorius slashed.243/.288/.427 over 48 games for Triple-A Louisville prior to his MLB debut.
Starter: Jason Bourgeois
Next: David Lough
Injured: Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson
Lorenzo Cain admitted over the weekend that he will probably not play again in 2012 after suffering a Grade 2 strain in his right hamstring, so his season will end after playing just 61 games. Jarrod Dyson would be the first guy to plug in here, but he will be extremely limited down the stretch because of a strained lat. He may still provide some value with his legs as a pinch-runner, but the Royals will likely rely on the likes of Jason Bourgeois and David Lough to get the job done in center. Bourgeois likely has the lead on the basis of major league experience, but don't overlook Lough's 11 triples and 26 steals from Triple-A Omaha.
Red Sox C
Starter: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Next: Ryan Lavarnway
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway make up the least-spell position share in the American League. Saltalamacchia is on the cusp of the Red Sox's record for home runs by a catcher, but back issues have limited him to seven starts behind the plate in September. Lavarnway has started the team's other seven games, and he has also been a frequent presence in the club's DH rotation. He has two home runs on the month, but only five hits total through 40 at-bats.
White Sox CF
Starter: Alejandro De Aza
Next: Dewayne Wise, Jordan Danks
Dewayne Wise received an uptick in playing time when Alejandro De Aza went down with back/ribs/oblique injuries in mid-August, and Wise has had a hard time giving center field back. Wise has OPS'd close to .800 with five home runs and 10 steals in 116 at-bats with the White Sox, and he has entranced manager Robin Ventura so much that he frequently hits third when Adam Dunn sits. De Aza, on the other hand, has hit .190 since returning from the DL, but he has been successful in all three of his stolen-base attempts since the beginning of September. Left field had been an option for the surplus outfielder in recent days with Dayan Viciedo subbing in the DH slot for an ailing Dunn (oblique), but that luxury will not be as available over the season's final weeks, which means one of De Aza or Wise will need to sit.
Starter: Adam Eaton
Next: Gerardo Parra
Injured: Chris Young (quad)
Adam Eaton has made 10 straight starts in center for the Diamondbacks since the team brought him up from Triple-A Reno, benefiting from a .396 OBP and Chris Young's quadriceps injury. Meanwhile, Gerardo Parra has been limited to two starts in left field over that span Eaton has been caught stealing (two) more times than he has been successful (one) through his first 10 games, but that imbalance should not persist if he continues to receive starts.
Starting and ailing: Derek Jeter
Next: Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix
Eduardo Nunez has picked up a string of four straight starts at shortstop over the past week thanks to Derek Jeter's DH-limiting ankle injury. However, Nunez's run could be short-lived, as Jeter is supposed to return early next week, and the Yankees are unlikely to take their foot off the pedal down the stretch with the Orioles still within striking distance. Jayson Nix has played 134 innings of short this season, so he may be a factor if Jeter's injury lingers.