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In Some Depth: Up the Middle

Ryan Eisner

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

Another week, another In Some Depth. I typically stick away from themed editions of the column, but there has been enough movement at catcher, second and short over the past week to make this an "up-the-middle" edition.

Without any further ado...

Baltimore C
In the mix: Caleb Joseph, Nick Hundley
On the DL: Matt Wieters
In the minors: Steve Clevenger

The Orioles made a move for Nick Hundley when it became clear that Matt Wieters (elbow) would be out for a while, but he has not immediately taken over the O's starting catcher role. Hundley did start his first four games in the organization, but 28-year-old rookie Caleb Joseph has started six of the club's last nine games. Joseph hit 22 home runs last season at Double-A Bowie, but he was also 2.5 years older than his competition. His defense has impressed the Orioles thus far (not his bat), but Hundley should attain more playing time as he becomes more familiar with the staff. Wieters threw a few days in the previous week, but it now appears as though a trip to Dr. James Andrews is on tap.

Marlins 2B
In the mix: Donovan Solano, Ed Lucas, Jeff Baker
On the DL: Rafael Furcal
In the minors: Derek Dietrich

Defense usually doesn't matter in fantasy until it costs a player his job. Derek Dietrich had a 111 OPS+ through 41 games, but his perpetually unimpressive fielding skills earned him a demotion to Triple-A New Orleans. It is unclear how long he will be down there, but the rehabbing Rafael Furcal (hamstring/groin) could beat him back to the majors. In the meantime, Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas should share duties at the keystone with Jeff Baker backing them up.

Dodgers C
Starter: Drew Butera
Next: Tim Federowicz
On the DL: A.J. Ellis

Tim Federowicz got the first crack at the Dodgers' catcher job when A.J. Ellis hit the disabled list earlier this season, but the Dodgers have entrusted Drew Butera with that responsibility this time around. Butera has gone a whopping 8-for-38 since taking on the role, but that is an improvement on Federowicz's performance from earlier this season. Neither of these guys get on base much, which is a major bummer considering they would then at least see some ancillary benefit from the Dodgers' lineup. But hey, at least neither of these guys have ever bitten off a teammate's ear.



Diamondbacks 2B
Starter: Aaron Hill
Next: Didi Gregorious, Martin Prado

Former shortstop Didi Gregorious started at second base Saturday in place of a resting Aaron Hill. Hill was back at it Sunday, but Gregorius' start there showed that there is the possibility that the D-Backs start both he and Chris Owings in the same middle infield after the two sub-25-year-old's competed for the starting shortstop job this spring. Hill remains under contract for two more seasons, but he could be shopped around to one of the many contenders in need of a middle infielder. Such a move is purely hypothetical at this point, but it would allow the Diamondbacks to start both Gregorius and Owings in the same middle infield (and potentially Nick Ahmed too later this season).

Astros SS
Starter: Jonathan Villar
Next: Marwin Gonzalez

Villar was something of a sleeper entering the season after he stole 18 bases in fewer than 60 games last season. Of course, as former speedsters will tell you, getting on base is a prerequisite to stealing the next one. Villar has only gotten on base at a .260 clip this season, and his three hits Sunday nearly matched the seven he notched over the past 30 days (66 at-bats, or a .106/.181/.121 line). His slumping ways permitted Marwin Gonzalez to take on a more significant role at shortstop, starting eight of the Astros' last 14 games.The job is Villar's if he can make some contact or draw a walk, and a guy with his speed could be a nice cog in an Astros lineup that is quickly becoming impressive. Of course, he may just as easily find himself back at Triple-A Oklahoma City if the slump continues.

Tigers SS
Starters: Eugenio Suarez
Next: Andrew Romine
In the minors: Hernan Perez

It looks like the Eugenio Suarez era is underway in Detroit. Suarez started the final two games of the Tigers' three-game set against the Red Sox, going 3-for-7 in the series with a home run off Jon Lester. Entering the weekend, the three men to previously play shortstop for the Tigers (Andrew Romine, Alex Gonzalez, and Danny Worth) combined for one home run. Romine has been exceptionally awful in his 40-game stay as the Tigers' starter, posting a 43 OPS+ to go with seven errors (fifth-worst among AL shortstops). Suarez may be a bit unprepared with only 12 games of Triple-A experience, but at this point, he looks to be better than the alternatives. Fellow Venezuelan Hernan Perez has served as the primary shortstop at Triple-A Toledo, and he has been a pretty good contact guy for his seven minor league seasons. However, that contact has only translated to an average above .260-ish in one season.

Red Sox SS
In the mix: Stephen Drew, Jonathan Herrera
Next: Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt

Welcome back to Boston, Stephen Drew. Well, actually make that at "semi-welcome," as Drew has already received two days off in his first week back. It is not clear if those days off can be attributed to his now-present oblique injury, or if he was just getting back into the swing of things after spending the season's opening months on the shelf. A bit of rust is to be expected considering he had not played in a competitive baseball game since the 2013 World Series, so there should be the opportunity for guys like Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt to see spot action at short. I would think the Red Sox would avoid shifting Xander Bogaerts back unless it turns out that Drew's injury will be a longer-term thing.