Back Where I Belong
Todd reviews some players returning from injury or the minors and discusses their expected category impact.
Let’s run through some players that have either returned from the disabled list or been recalled from the minors the past week or so with an eye towards where then can make a significant CATEGORY IMPACT. See what I did there?
Josh Rutledge – Called up when Nolan Arenado hit the DL, Rutledge has been sharing time with D.J. LeMahieu and Charlie Culberson. LeMahieu I can understand, but Culberson? If Rutledge were given a real shot, he’s got a nice power and speed combo just don’t expect much by way of average.
Russell Martin – Martin appears to be more content making a difference defensively. In mixed leagues with one receiver, Martin is borderline useful. In deeper leagues, don’t expect the same level of pop Martin exhibited the past couple of years. In fact, depending on who you were using when Martin was hurt, you may want to consider continuing with that.
Daniel Nava – Injuries to Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli have resulted in Nava’s recall but he’s been given inconsistent playing time despite being a switch-hitter. If given the time to get in a groove, Nava makes the most impact in on-base leagues.
Ben Zobrist – Given a literal thumbs-up, the versatile Zobrist is back at second base for Tampa, hitting out of the two-hole. Though he capable of more, it’s best to consider Zobrist a 15/15 guy so you still have about 10 to 12 homers and steals on the way.
Jason Grilli – With saves in two of his three appearances since returning from the DL, it appears Grilli is once again the closer in the Iron City. When healthy, he also piles up strikeouts but the chance he makes it through the next four months devoid of another DL visit is pretty slim. As such, if you can afford to stash Mark Melancon, he’s not finished getting saves quite yet. Melancon himself can make an ERA and WHIP impact in National League only formats.
Chris Davis - On one hand, it drives me nuts that some are calling last season a fluke. The dude did hit .270 with 33 bombs in 2012, doing so in only 139 games. But on the other hand, both seasons his contact rate was poor and since hitting a homer his first game back, he’s fanned 11 times in the subsequent 19 at bats. For the season, his whiff rate is comparable to the past couple of campaigns so I expect the power to return. Prorate 35 homers to the next four months and Davis smacking 20-24 more is viable.
Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia – Target Field has the reputation of being a pitcher’s park – and it is. But the HR index for righties is 91 which hurts power but doesn’t squash it. It means a right-hander projected to hit 15 homers at a neutral home park would smack 13 or 14 in Minnesota. Granted, Arcia’s a switch hitter so he’s looking at a 75 factor when hitting left-handed, but both he and Willingham are capable of mid-teens dingers the rest of the way.
Jason Kipnis – Back and hitting cleanup, Kipnis is primed to get his season back on track. Before hurting his oblique, Kipnis was making his usual strong contact but he was hitting into some tough luck in terms of average. He did have 3 long balls and was 4-for-5 stealing so all was not lost. So long as his oblique is healed, Kipnis should be able to knock another 10-12 out of the yard with high teens steals.
Adam LaRoche – LaRoche was off to a fast start before hurting his quad and has picked up where he left off upon his return. His average is propped up by a high BABIP due to correct. However, LaRoche's contact is as good as it’s been since his rookie campaign in 2005 so when the regression occurs, his average should settle to a mark better than expected along with his usual pop. It will be interesting to see how much time LaRoche cedes to Ryan Zimmerman once Zimmerman is ready to return. The plan is to make the third baseman more of a multi-position guy playing left field and first. But let’s be real – assuming Zimmerman can still swing, his future is at first.
Omar Infante – It’s not often someone says, “Get this guy for runs” but that can be said about Infante. At least he should score a bunch of tallies hitting in the two-hole ahead of Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. Well, on paper that quartet should get it together rendering Infante and Norichika Aoki prime candidates to impact the runs category.
Alex Cobb – Don’t worry about Cobb’s struggles with the Blue Jays his first game back. Toronto has been putting a hurting on a lot of tossers lately. Cobb should be good for an ERA a tick above 3.00 with a solid WHIP and above average strikeout rate. He’s a pick ‘em and stick ‘em guy – matchup proof.
Chris Sale – My second ranked pitcher in the pre-season, Sale was making me look good before he hit the DL. Now he’s back, picking up where he left off. The only caution is even the White Sox have to be smart enough not to over-extend their top arm. The main reason Sale was ranked so high was the expectation of 220-plus innings. Obviously with the DL visit he’ll fall short, but also expect that Sale be lifted a bit earlier from some contests. He’ll still be an absolute beast; just temper your innings expectation.