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In Some Depth: Playing Time With the Twins

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Like last week, I've opted to provide 10 noteworthy depth-chart situations currently unfolding in the majors right now.
Unlike last week, there's actually something like an order to what follows. Specifically, we might call that order "relevance to the fantasy owner." For each scenario below, I've considered both (a) the likelihood that one player or another might be staking some kind of long-term claim to a spot, (b) the likelihood that said player might be productive as a starter, and (c) the likelihood that a fantasy owner might be able to benefit from said player's increased role.

For example, Ryan Roberts (a) appears well-positioned to take over a significant portion of the starts at third base in Arizona, (b) could hit pretty decently given the plate appearances, and (c) is likely to be available on most waiver wires at the moment. As a result, the Arizona third-base spot places pretty highly on the following list.

Of course, this isn't the case for every position I've highlighted below. In some cases -- like with Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay third-base spot -- it's as much to note that certain players will be losing time. In any case, the idea is to highlight possible instances where values might change greatly.

Team: San Diego Padres
Position: First Base
Players: Kyle Blanks, Jorge Cantu, Brad Hawpe, Anthony Rizzo
Notes: Cantu and Hawpe have basically split first-base duties -- Hawpe has 12 starts; Cantu, 11 -- and the two players appear determined to out-terrible each other, with both sitting closer to the whatever "Line" signifies a .100 batting average. Neither has had much batted-ball luck, so some regression is in order (the good kind), but it's hard not to notice that Anthony Rizzo is hitting .420/.487/.768 in 69 at-bats at Triple-A Tuscon. Also, Kyle Blanks has been rehabbing with Double-A San Antonio. Both could play first and both have more interesting upside than either Hawpe or Cantu.

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Position: Third Base
Players: Melvin Mora, Ryan Roberts
Notes: It's hard to believe that an organization -- esp. one run by Kevin Towers -- would enter a season and just be like, "Uh-huh, that's cool, yeah: we'll have Melvin Mora start at third for us." Mora has been average-at-best since 2005, and he's a 39-year-old on a club that would do well to look for more interesting options in this, the Post-Mark Reynolds Era. However, More has been dealing with a sore foot for the last week, giving seven consecutive starts to Roberts. Nor has Roberts failed to take advantage, slashing .340/.436/.660 through 55 plate appearances with a not-crazy .343 BABIP. There's some precedent here, too, as Roberts played well in extended time back in 2009. "More interesting than Melvin Mora" isn't the highest compliment, but it's better than a kick in the face.

Team: Colorado Rockies
Position: Third Base
Players: Jose Lopez, Ian Stewart, Ty Wigginton
Notes: Ian Stewart was optioned to Triple-A on April 19th, since which date Wigginton has started four games at third base; Jose Lopez, one. Neither player has really distinguished himself thus far. Wigginton is slashing .192/.283/.288, Lopez just .173/.204/.308. At this point, neither player is really begging to be picked up. Lopez is the better defender, however, which might ultimately (should ultimately?) make him the favorite until such a time as Stewart is recalled.

Team: Minnesota Twins
Position: Designated Hitter
Players: Jim Thome
Notes: In the beginning of the season, Ron Gardenhire planned -- so far as I understand -- to use four players (Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Thome, and Delmon Young) at three positions. Or maybe it was five players (with Justin Morneau) at four positions. In any case, things have gotten messed up. Cuddyer's filled in a bit at second base for the injured Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Young has missed some time recently with a rib situation. As a result, however, Jim Thome has played seven consecutive games at DH. Young is expected to return in the middle of this week. If he doesn't, though, and if it appears he might be headed DL-ward, then Thome becomes a pretty reliable (and generally pretty cheap) source of power.

Team: Florida Marlins
Position: Left Field
Players: Emilio Bonifacio, Scott Cousins, Logan Morrison
Notes: Morrison, off to an excellent .327/.424/.636 start, sprained ligaments and strained a muscle in his foot and will be out 2-4 weeks. In his place, the Marlins appear ready to deploy out-machine Emilio Bonifacio and actually somewhat interesting Scott Cousins. Last year in Triple-A, Cousins slashed .283/.333/.459 (.315 BABIP), adding 14 homers and 12 stolen bases (on 16 attempts). Contact will be an issue (has already has 20 Ks in his 58 major-league PAs), but the broad base of skills makes him compelling. Unfortunately, manager Edwin Rodriguez appears unprepared to just hand Cousins the job, making the situation unfriendly to fantasy owners.

Team: Los Angeles Angels
Position: Third Base
Players: Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis
Notes: If, for some reason, you began the season with one or the other of these guys, then congratulations, you're telepathic! Izturis has slashed .338/.384/.500 in the early going. Callaspo, getting more playing time than usual with Erick Aybar on the DL, has also done well, slashing .304/.400/.420. Unfortunately, two things. Izturis's line is propped up by a .379 BABIP and will almost definitely gravitate towards his career line of .278/.342/.394. Callaspo, for his part, will go back to more of a utility role with Aybar having returned. If there's good news, it's that Izturis played 11 games at short, and likely qualified there in a whole bunch of leagues.

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Position: Shortstop
Players: Ronny Cedeno, Brandon Wood
Notes: From a real-life perspective, claiming a recently DFA'd Brandon Wood makes sense. Though his minor-league power numbers were certainly aided by some hitter-friendly ballparks and leagues, and though contact has always been an issue, Wood's upside continues to be "power-hitting shortstop" -- which, that's not a widely available commodity. From a fantasy perspective, he's not an insta-pickup by any means, except for deep or dynasty-type leagues. Again, the plate discipline is a huge concern: Wood has a 13:153 BB:K ratio in 494 career plate appearances.

Team: Boston Red Sox
Position: Shortstop
Players: Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro
Notes: It should be noted that Marco Scutaro is not a bad shortstop. He about an average defender and hitter for the position. The beginning of the season has been a bit tough for him, but it's almost entirely due to a super-low .195 BABIP. All that said, Jed Lowrie has been excellent -- not just since the beginning of the season, but since last July, when he returned to the majors. Since then, Lowrie's slashed .320/.397/.563 in 252 plate appearances, hitting 12 home runs while walking almost as much as he strikes out (28 BB, 31 K). Nor does his .328 BABIP over that period suggest he's headed for any kind of serious regression. Dan Szymoborski's ZiPS projection system has him slashing .272/.349/.453 the rest of the way this season. Will manager Terry Francona play him?, is the question. The answer, at this point is probably something like, "As an 80% or 85% starter." If you're in a daily lineup league, that's fine. For owners in weekly leagues, though, that's a bit annoying.

Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Third Base
Players: Evan Longoria, Felipe Lopez, Sean Rodriguez
Notes: Longoria is expected to come off the DL on Friday, April 29th, and will likely be ready that day.

Team: Milwauke Brewers
Position: Right Field
Players: Corey Hart, Mark Kotsay, Sanity
Notes: Hart, who's been on the DL with an oblique problem since the beginning of the season, is scheduled to play nine innings for Triple-A Nashville on Monday. Provided all goes well, he could be back in the Brewers' lineup as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning that Mark Kotsay -- who I'm totally sure is a good guy, but is not a super-good baseball player -- will return to a fourth-outfielder and pinch-hit role.