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In Some Depth: Pressing Issues

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Welcome, once again, reader, to the best/only article in the world that deals expressly with major-league baseball depth-chart situations in turmoil.

Below are the 10 turmoil-iest depth-chart situations facing the fantasy owners this week.


Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Position: Left Field
Players: Matt Diaz, Xavier Paul, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata
Notes: Early in Sunday's game versus the Boston Red Sox, Tabata pulled up lame and was then carted off the field after running out an infield hit. As of press time, the injury (a) appears to be to Tabata's left quad and (b) may not push the outfielder to the DL -- although he's likely to miss a couple games at the very least. In his place will likely -- although not definitely -- be Alex Presley, who'll have just been promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis. At 25, Presley isn't a prospect, per se, but is slashing .333/.386/.500 (.374 BABIP) with eight homers and 18 steals in 316 Triple-A appearances.

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Position: Third Base
Players: Chase d'Arnaud
Notes: Third base has been a bit of a tortured position for the Pirates this season -- or, more tortured than usual, I should say. Pirate third basemen have batted a combined .232/.285/.332 (.292 BABIP) on the year -- a.k.a. bad. With actual starter Pedro Alvarez (quad) unlikely to return before the All-Star break, d'Arnaud is going to get most of the reps at third for the time being. He's a bit like Presley in that (a) he's not a prospecty prospect but (b) he does some things (like go 17-for-20 on stolen-base attempts) that fantasy owners will appreciate.

Team: Minnesota Twins
Position: Designated Hitter
Players: Jim Thome
Notes: Thome, on the DL since the beginning of June, recently returned to the Twins and will likely assume full-time DH duties this week, as the team returns to the American League park. It's a good thing, too: despite the fact that Thome and his above-average .234/.368/.442 have started 23 games at DH for Minnesota, the team is only getting a line of .209/.284/.327 from the DH spot -- the combined failures of Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, and -- in one game, at least -- Brian Dinkelman. Thome remains a good source of power, despite his age.

Team: Minnesota Twins
Position: Left Field
Players: Delmon Young
Notes: While it's, at best, insensitive and, at worst, evil to laugh at another's misfortune, the manner in which Delmon Young (ankle) suffered his most recent injury might elicit a chuckle from even the most earnest of the earnest. As the video reveals, the injury was essentially self-inflicted -- and due entirely to Young's incompetence in the field. But that's not the point. The point is, Who's gonna play left in Young's absence? On Sunday, it was Jason Repko -- which, that's of basically no help to the fantasy owner. Rene Tosoni is another possiblity, although he's not particularly interesting, either. A brief tour around the Twins' upper minor leagues reveals someone named Aaron Bates who (a) is having a good season (.345/.427/.480, .425 BABIP) and (b) has played some left field. Still, he's not that interesting.

Team: Cleveland Indians
Position: Right Field
Players: Travis Buck, Shin-Soo Choo
Notes: It's surprising not only that (a) the Cleveland Indians have spend the bulk of the season's first three months leading the AL Central but also that (b) they've done with one of their legitimate stars, Choo, slashing just .244/.333/.353 (.302 BABIP) in 306 plate appearances. That line very likely reflects something worse than Choo's true-talent level. Unfortunately, it'll be about six week until he gets a chance to prove it: Choo suffered a broken left thumb in Friday's loss to the Giants after getting hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and will be out for six months. It appears as though the Indians will give the majority of right-field duties to a combination of Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, and Shelley Duncan -- only the first of whom is really interesting on a fantasy- or real-baseball level.

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Position: Left Field
Players: Willi Bloomquist, Gerardo Parra, Wily Mo Pena
Notes: Since his promotion last week, Pena has hit two home runs a combined 900 feet -- or, roughly the distance of three home runs down Fenway Park's Pesky Pole. (If you haven't seen video of the blasts, direct your attention here.) This has been during interleague play, though, where Pena can DH. D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson is on the record now saying that he has no plans to use Pena in the outfield for the moment. That could change -- especially as a replacement for Willie Bloomquist as the right-handed bat in the left-field platoon with Gerardo Parra -- but the chances of Pena getting significant ABs going forth are slim.

Team: Texas Rangers
Position: Shorstop
Players: Elvis Andrus, Andres Blanco
Notes: As of Sunday morning, it was generally assumed that Elvis Andrus -- who sprained his left wrist Friday night while stealing second base -- would return to the Ranger lineup on Tuesday. Then, on Sunday morning, Andrus announced that, while his left wrist was no longer painful to twist, it was still stiff and that he doesn't expect to play in Houston on Tuesday. This information came as a surprise to manager Ron Washington, who assumed that his shortstop would be regular for play on Tuesday. Awk-ward!!! In any case, because Andrus's replacement is Andres Blanco and because Andres Blanco is a pretty miserable offensive player, there isn't much upon which to capitalize here. The best course of action is to monitor Andrus and see what his return date is for real-real.

Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Position: First Base and Right Field
Players: Jon Jay
Notes: Last week in these pages, we looked at the injury to Albert Pujols and speculated as to how manager Tony La Russa might shuffle his lineup/defensive alignment to best address the absence of his star. Now, a week later, we have some data with which to work. In the six games since Pujols' injury, Lance Berkman has started at first base six times. So, that's a thing. In those same six games, Jon Jay has started the four games against right-handed starters, with Andrew Brown taking the two against left-handers. Jay, who also made a fifth start in center in lieu of Colby Rasmus, is still working with what is most likely batted-ball luck (.357 BABIP) but also appears to have enough power, speed, and approach to offer some value.

*Breaking: the Cardinals haved optioned Brown the the minors. David Freese and Nick Punto -- neither of whom look likely to affect Jay's playing time -- will be activated from the DL before Tuesday.

Team: San Francisco Giants
Position: Catcher
Players: Pablo Sandoval
Notes: Two weeks ago, we looked at a statement from San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy regarding the possibility that Pablo Sandoval might catch upon his return from the DL. Let it be known that Sandoval returned to the Giants lineup on June 14th, has started 12 games since then, has started 11 of said games at third base, has started 12th at first base, and has started precisely zero games at catcher.

Team: San Diego Padres
Position: Starting Pitcher
Players: Cory Luebke, etc.
Notes: Because pitching is mostly just its own world, we spend considerably less time looking at starting pitching here at In Some Depth; however, because Luebke's case is really a matter of depth -- i.e. because he's moving from the bullpen to the rotation -- it merits attention. The other reason it merits attention is because he's probably really good. Issues regarding both of these points were on display Sunday. On the one hand, Luebke only pitched five innings as he transitions to a legit starting role. On the other, he recorded 6 K, 2 BB, and just a single hit en route to allowing zero runs. Luebke had an excellent 9.92 K/9 and 3.46 BB/9 in 39.0 relief innings. He's be exposed to more right-handed batters as a starter, but he appears to have handled himself well thus far.