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In Some Depth: Next Man Down?

Ryan Eisner

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

The old cliche holds that teams start taking stock of their fate around Memorial Day, as they begin to think more seriously whether this is their year or not. Some teams made that decision months ago, and others will delay the inevitable for a few more months. However, across the league, players' stocks are dropping as cold streaks turn into real slumps.

Here's to hoping that you enjoyed your Memorial Day BBQ's and Arrested Development marathons.

Without any further ado...

Rockies 2B
Starter: D.J. LeMahieu
Next: Jon Herrera

The Rockies handed D.J. LeMahieu the keys to second base last week after they sent Josh Rutledge to Triple-A Colorado Springs. LeMahieu makes enough contact to support a .300-ish batting average, but he has virtually no power and is a mediocre basestealer (26-for-39 in three minor league seasons). In other words, he can provide unspectacular, but perfectly acceptable, play from the middle infield. Rutledge's demotion had more to do with his defense at second base than his .242/.298/.357 line through 43 games. He should be back in the starting role after honing his D at Triple-A.

Mets 1B
Starter: Ike Davis
Next: Justin Turner, Lucas Duda

Ike Davis hit 19 home runs as a 23-year-old and 32 as a 25-year-old, but it took a two-hit effort Sunday to raise his age-26 batting average to .158. One of those hits helped the Mets snap their recent losing streak, and may have won him some good will with Mets fans and management. However, there appears to be some discussions in the organization's front office about sending him to Triple-A Las Vegas to re-gain his swing/confidence. At the very least, Justin Turner has been manning first base more regularly when the Mets face a left-handed starter. However, Lucas Duda (who hit his ninth home run Sunday) would be the more likely long-term fill-in if Davis cannot turn the corner and winds up in Las Vegas.

Nationals 2B
Starter (but ailing): Danny Espinosa
Next: Steve Lombardozzi, Jeff Kobernus

Danny Espinosa should return to the Nationals' lineup this week after sitting out for a few days with some wrist issues. And by wrist “issues,” I mean he has been playing with a fractured bone in his wrist for the past month or so. Steve Lombardozzi has been the fill-in of choice so far, and while he puts the ball in play a frequently (84 percent of his plate appearances), he does not hit the ball very hard. Still, he is likely the team's best option at the spot behind Espinosa, so he would likely see a big boost in playing time if the wrist “issues” worsen. Jeff Kobernus, who the Nationals recalled over the weekend, is a good basestealer, but he may be better suited for the outfield than the middle infield. The Nationals also have Will Rhymes at Triple-A Syracuse, but he is not on the organization's 40-man roster. Perhaps the answer will come in the form of another callup for Anthony Rendon, who has spent more time recently manning the keystone at Double-A Harrisburg.

Rangers 2B
Starter: Jurickson Profar
Next: Leury Garcia
Injured: Ian Kinsler

Well, Jurickson Profar is showing he can hit at the major league level. He may enter Memorial Day's doubleheader with a .263 average and no walks in 19 at-bats, but he has held his own in his first week-ish of regular MLB duty in 2013. However, the big question will be is he hitting well enough to hold onto an MLB job after Ian Kinsler returns from the disabled list? The answer to that is above this writer's pay grade, but it would be my hunch that they prefer to option him back to Triple-A Oklahoma City rather than utilize him as a backup, as they have with Leury Garcia for the first two months of the season. Profar played a bit of short Sunday with Elvis Andrus receiving some rest, but that should not be a frequent occurrence.

Tigers C
Starter: Alex Avila
Coming on: Brayan Pena

Alex Avila's playing time has been slipping recently. A .168/.248/.286 line and a 46 OPS+ will do that. His defense has also been subpar. He may have caught Anibal Sanchez's gem the other day, but he has only caught seven of the 29 baserunners who have tried to steal against him. Enter Brayan Pena, who has started five of the Tigers' last 11 games and has slashed .328/.343/.469 in his 64 at-bats. That line is not destined to last (he had a .291 OBP in 832 plate appearances with Kansas City), but he may very well continue to poach starts from Avila.

Red Sox 3B
Starters: Jose Iglesias, Pedro Ciriaco
Injured: Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks hit the disabled list Friday with a back injury. The injury is not supposed to be serious, but he will be out for at least the next two weeks. This will open playing time at the hot corner, and it looks like Jose Iglesias will receive the first look there. Of course, Iglesias entered the weekend with just one game of minor league experience at the position, but he started two of the Red Sox's three games against the Indians. He OBP'd .500 in eight games as Stephen Drew's replacement earlier in the season, but he only slashed .202/.262/.319 in 33 games for Triple-A Pawtucket – a reminder of his soft bat.

Yankees 1B and 3B
Starters: Lyle Overbay, David Adams, Jayson Nix
On the Mend: Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis
Injured: Eduardo Nunez, Alex Rodriguez

After missing nearly two months of action, Mark Teixeira is on target to return by the end of the week. Kevin Youkilis has only been on the disabled list for half that time, but he should not be far behind in his return. So what happens to those corner infield Yankees that have helped buoy the team through this dark period? Lyle Overbay has started at first base for 43 of the Yankees' 49 games and has surprised most with eight home runs, but he should be on the way out of relevance when Teixeira returns. Overbay may hang onto a roster spot for a bit as an insurance policy against a future Teixeira injury, but it may be hard for him to hold onto one for long, especially when he shares a handedness with Youkilis and Travis Hafner.

Youkilis' return should force one of David Adams from the active roster. Adams has made 10 straight starts at third, but he still has minor league options, and Jayson Nix could always slide over from short to cover for Youk at third. Eduardo Nunez and Alex Rodriguez may factor into the hot corner discussion later in the season if/when they return from the DL.

Diamondbacks LF
Starter: Jason Kubel
Next: Cody Ross, Martin Prado

Jason Kubel may have hit 30 home runs season. He may also be making $8 million this year. However, he no longer plays against left-handed pitcher. Zero of Kubel's 19 games started on the season came when the Diamondbacks faced a left-handed starter, and he has only recorded 10 plate appearances (out of 87) against pitchers of that handedness. He only hit .234 against left-handed pitchers last season, so his avoidance of them this year could help his overall batting averages. That is, if he ever starts hitting right-handed starters with any sort of consistency. Cody Ross has been filling in in left when Kubel sits. Kubel could conceivably sit more often if hit bat remains cold once (if?) Adam Eaton returns and crowds the outfield.

Mariners 2B
Starter: Nick Franklin
Gone: Dustin Ackley

The Mariners made waves this past week when they sent Jesus Montero down I-5 to Triple-A Tacoma, and the same happened to Dustin Ackley on Monday. He is hitting an MLB-low .138 in the month of May, and he has a cool .288 OBP since the start of the 2012 season, and his standing is in question after the M's recalled top middle infield prospect Nick Franklin from Tacoma on Memorial Day. Franklin hit .324/.440/.472 in 142 Pacific Coast League at-bats, which may not translate well over the 40-mile trip from Tacoma to Seattle, but he may still provide a bit more punch than Ackley has. Look for Franklin to play regularly at the keystone for the Mariners with Ackley's demotion.