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In Some Depth: Rocky Footing

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

After spending the last couple weeks surveying the three minor-league pitchers from each organization (American League and National League) most likely to get promoted, we return today to regularly scheduled programming.

Below, in brilliant Technicolor®, we have 10 depth-chart situations currently lighting the baseball world on fire.

Team: Colorado Rockies
Position: Left Field
Players: Charlie Blackmon, Dexter Fowler
Notes: Fowler was placed on the disabled list last Tuesday with an abdominal strain, and Blackmon, slashing a robust .342/.396/.576 (.361 BABIP) at Triple-A Colorado Springs, was a pretty obvious candidate to replace him. At this point, there's very little not to like about Blackmon. He's got excellent contact skills, decent power, and speed. Moreover, so far as his role is concerned, it's not only the case that the Rockies are committed to him starting for the duration of Fowler's injury, but that Jim Tracy has stated publicly that he'd like to get Blackmon into the leadoff role as soon as the latter feels comfortable. It's possible that there'll be a bit of a learning curve for Blackmon, but he's valuable for ten-hundred reasons.

Team: Colorado Rockies
Position: Second Base
Players: Jon Herrera, Chris Nelson
Notes: Chris Nelson didn't start at second base on Sunday -- which is the first time that had happened since Saturday, June 4th, a span of seven games. Nor has Nelson failed to make the most of his opportunity: as of Sunday, he was slashing .324/.333/.500 (.355 BABIP). That line's better than what he'd produce in a larger sample, but something like .286/.324/.414 projected at his player page is wholly possible. Additionally, he could end up qualifying at both second and third base.

Team: Oakland Athletics
Position: Right Field
Players: David DeJesus, Conor Jackson, Ryan Sweeney
Notes: New manager Bob Melvin announced this past weekend that, while he feels comfortable starting Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp in left and center field, respectively, he's unsure whom to name the starter in right -- and he seems particularly interested in naming a starter. The candidates are up there, and Melvin hasn't tipped his hand much. Honestly, none of the above have a ton of fantasy upside in terms of 5x5 leagues, as most of their (all of them) value is in getting on base. Because he bats lefty, is probably the best fielder, and is still only 26, Ryan Sweeney is probably the leading candidate -- maybe at, like, 35%.

Team: Atlanta Braves
Position: Whole Outfield
Players: Jason Heyward, Eric Hinske, Nate McLouth, Martin Prado, Jordan Schafer, Matt Young
Notes: On Sunday, the Braves deployed an outfield of Eric Hinske, Jordan Schafer, and Matt Young -- i.e. entirely different than their opening day outfield of Martin Prado, Nate McLouth, Jason Heyward. Prado's out till at least late-June with a staph infection; McLouth for about a week longer with an oblique; and Heyward also for about a week with shoulder inflammation. Of the three current replacements, Young is actually the most interesting from a fantasy perspective. Though he's found major-league ABs hard to come by (as in, this is the first time he's ever had them), he's posted excellent stolen-base numbers and contact skills in the minors. Hinske, obviously, has some power.

Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: Shortstop
Players: Yuniesky Betancourt, Craig Counsell, Josh Wilson
Notes: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Friday the words that smarter Brewer fans have likely been longing to hear -- namely, that Yuniesky Betancourt's prolonged struggles have made him (i.e. Roenicke) more likely to turn elsewhere for a shortstop. "Elsewhere," for the time being, is Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson -- in other words, not exactly Magic Land. Nor do the minor leagues offer much. Eric Farris at Triple-A Nashville has the highest fantasy ceiling with his speed, but it's not clear whether he could handle short as a regular (not that Betancourt does, either). Zelous Wheeler is another In Some Depth favorite -- for his name, if nothing else -- but he has similar concerns to Farris plus he's just returned from an Achilles injury.

Team: Milwaukee Brewrers
Position: First Base / Designated Hitter
Players: Mat Gamel
Notes: No, no, Mat Gamel isn't about to usurp the very hot Prince Fielder at first base. Rather, this next Friday sees the Brewers visit Boston in interleague play, and news out of Beer Land is that the Brewers might consider promoting Gamel for their American League swing. Gamel's currently slashing .299/.372/.509 (.329 BABIP) in 250 Triple-A plate appearances. The frightening thing is his 43.4% strikeout rate in 167 major-league plate appearances between 2009 and '10. It's hard to produce while only putting the ball in play in about half of one's at-bats. Gamel's currently striking out in only 18.3% of his Triple-A at-bats. He's unlikely to lock down any regular time this season, but he could be trying out for the first base role for 2012.

Team: San Francisco Giants
Position: Catcher!
Players: Pablo Sandoval
Notes: With Buster Posey out for the season, the Giants are pretty thin at catcher, between the offensively challenged Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart. They could become less thin (joke!) at the position, though, if manager Bruce Bochy's recent statement about playing Big Panda at catcher comes true. If you'll remember, Sandoval was originally a catcher and logged major-league innings (albeit not that many of them( at the position in both 2009 and '10. Ideal for fantasy owners would if Sandoval played just enough catcher to qualify in fantasy leagues but not so much that the physical demands of the position affect his numbers -- which were great before his injury -- greatly.

Team: Minnesota Twins
Position: Catcher
Players: Drew Butera, Joe Mauer, Rene Rivera
Notes: Twins catchers have batted .187/.234/.269 this season -- i.e. roughly what Joe Mauer's sideburns could bat all by themselves if given proper training. The latest reports have Mauer returning Thursday or Friday of this week, though. That's good news for everyone.

Team: Minnesota Twins
Position: Outfield-ish
Players: Jason Kubel, Ben Revere, Denard Spand, Delmon Young, whatever
Notes: I don't want to dwell on this team, because it's a cavalcade of depression at the moment, but there is currently a lot of movement in the outfield. Usual right-fielder Jason Kubel's on the DL with a sprained foot, and may not come off when he's eligible in the middle of the week. Denard Span is currently on the 7-day DL and, while he's feeling better, might also not be available. Delmon Young is technically playing, but his .246/.273/.317 (.295 BABIP) is less than impressive. All of this means that prospect Ben Revere should be in the lineup for at least another week. Revere is 5-for-6 in stolen-base attempts in his 25 major-league games this season, and, between his contact ability and speed, is a candidate to hit in the .290-.300 region. Oh, and then there's Brian Dinkelman. But it looks like I'm running out of space here.

Team: Texas Rangers
Position: Whatever Mike Napoli Does
Players: Michael Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba, Michael Young
Notes: The Rangers placed Michael Napoli on the DL with a strained oblique muscle on Sunday, leaving them without a player who appeared in 46 of the team's first 66 games and slashed .221/.344/.493 in so doing (while qualifying at catcher in most, if not all, formats). For the time being, the Rangers have called up Taylor Teagarden to take over Napoli's catching duties, where he was starting about a third of the team's games. Michael Young will most likely get whatever first-base starts against lefties would have made. There's not a lot to be gained here, unfortunately, unless Teagarden's .321/.406/.750 (.360 BABIP) in 96 PA this season is more telling than the .216/.285/.425 (.301 BABIP) he's posted in his 361 major-league PAs -- which, it's probably not.