This article is part of our In Some Depth series.
It's Memorial Day, and we are nearly one third of the way through the season. Struggling players may soon get the axe, and promising prospects may be just around the corner in other parts. In Some Depth takes a look at some corner-infield situations from around the league this week.
Without any further ado...
Ike Davis is finally out of the Mets' organization, but the Lucas Duda train continues to sputter along at first base. He has sputtered along to the tune of a .215/.291/.333 line since the Davis trade, and he has an OPS of .593 in high leverage situations. Still, he should be good for 15-20 home runs if he continues to start at first base unabated. The only real impediment to his starts could be Eric Campbell, a 27-year-old rookie who has manager Terry Collins' affection. Campbell has made three starts at first over the past 10 days as Collins tries to find ways to get his bat into the lineup. Campbell's numbers looked good in the inflated environment of Triple-A Las Vegas (.326/.437/.490 over the past two seasons), but his pop in the minors leagues has been disappointing (43 home runs in seven seasons). In other words, he should not steal away too much playing time from Duda.
Speaking of Ike Davis, the Pirates' trade for him has worked out much better thus far than last season's acquisition of Justin Morneau. He has slashed a healthy .303/.395/.424 through his first 99 at-bats in a Pirates uniform, including a .366/.438/.507 line at PNC Park. He has his strikeout rate below 20 percent for the first time in his career, but his batting average may be temporarily buoyed by a .364 BABIP. BABIP aside, he presents a better option than Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez has only started 10 games since Davis arrived on April 19, and three of those starts have come as a DH. Interestingly enough, the Pirates have only faced three left-handed starters since Davis was acquired, so a platoon could still be in the offing with Sanchez slotting in against lefties.
Aramis Ramirez unsurprisingly hit the disabled list two weeks ago with a left hamstring injury, When this happened last year, the Brewers turned to light-hitting options like Jeff Bianchi, Alex Gonzalez, and Yuniesky Betancourt. This year they DFA'd Bianchi and plugged in Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has already committed three errors in his 125.2 innings there, but the advanced defensive metrics paint him in a better light (albeit in a small sample size). Ramirez should return from his hamstring injury in the coming weeks, but it would be surprising if he doesn't miss another chunk of playing time this season. After all, he is on the wrong side of 35, and he only played 92 games last season. Ramirez was also enjoying the worst season of his career prior to hitting the DL. He was making contact at a 76 percent rate (above his career rate of 73 percent), but making less hard contact (only 23 percent of hits going for extra bases). So Reynolds should have the opportunity to play third base even after Ramirez's current spell on the DL ends, while also getting time at first in a platoon with Lyle Overbay. That is if he can continue to hit five-to-six home runs per month as he has done to this point.
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Juan Uribe is out for a spell after he aggravated a hamstring injury this past week. He is obviously out for two weeks, and the Dodgers have not revealed if he will be out longer than that. Justin Turner has hit two home runs in his first four games as Uribe's replacement, and he is set to face his first regular slate of playing time of the year. Chone Figgins is also nominally in the mix for at-bats at third base, but he should only see a start or two per week. Turner will rejoin him in a reserve role once Uribe returns.
Nolan Arenado was one of the, I'm running out of fingers to count the number of players, who have injured their fingers sliding into a base. Arenado is out at least four weeks with a fractured bone in his finger, and the succession sequence at third base is not immediately clear. Charlie Culberson made his first two MLB starts at the position over the weekend, but he has not started extensively at third since 2009 (when he made 132 starts for Low-A Augusta). He hit 14 home runs and stole 13 bags (albeit in 22 attempts) in just under 100 games last season for Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he has yet to exhibit the plate discipline necessary to succeed in the majors. Many assumed Josh Rutledge's return from Colorado Springs would portend D.J. LeMahieu moving to third base, allowing Rutledge to play second, and that may happen, but it has not happened through two games. Jordan Pacheco played a half-season of third base in 2012, and he may get some opportunities there now that Wilin Rosario is back behind the plate.
The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder in the offseason in part because they did not want Mitch Moreland to be their everyday first baseman anymore. Now, after one of the more legendary parades of injuries in the league, Moreland is their only option to play first base every day. Moreland has started all nine of the Rangers' games since Fielder went down for the season with a herniated disk in his neck, and there are literally no other options in the organization that make sense. Perhaps one of the club's catchers (Chris Gimenez, Robinson Chirinos, or J.P. Arencibia) could play a game or two per week once Arencibia rights his bat at Triple-A Round Rock. Kevin Kouzmanoff (back) may also be an option when (if?) he returns later this summer. The Rangers could make sense as a post-draft landing spot for Kendrys Morales, assuming they are still unhappy with Moreland's 20-ish home run bat.
Kyle Blanks became a bit more interesting earlier in the month when the Padres dealt him to the A's. Blanks had forever promised power throughout his minor league career and brief stretches of health in the majors, but he was buried behind Yonder Alonso at first and a plethora of outfielders in San Diego. However, he is nothing more than a right-handed component of a first base platoon with Brandon Moss in Oakland. That is slightly disappointing, given that he is not even that great of a batter against left-handed pitchers (lifetime .718 OPS against them, but an .829 against them in 2013).
It looks like the Indians may be close to pulling the plug on the Carlos Santana-to-third base experiment. Santana leads the league with 43 walks, but he has been awful in the plate appearances in which he has not walked (his .159 batting average is among the AL's worst). The struggles have been most pronounced when he plays third (.129 batting average). Manager Terry Francona has begun to feed Lonnie Chisenhall more starts against right-handed pitchers, and he has started against every right-handed starter since mid-May. Jason Kipnis' return from the disabled list Wednesday should allow Chisenhall and Mike Aviles to platoon at third, while enabling Santana to split his time between first and DH.