Commentary

Hit Parade: Dealing with early injuries

Updated: April 9, 2009, 2:54 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

The theme of the week, other than the typical pleasant "hellos" from our writers, is injuries.

Christopher Harris discussed what to do with injured starting pitchers in Tuesday's Sixty Feet, Six Inches, and Eric Karabell followed up by discussing injured closers such as Trevor Hoffman in Relief Efforts. And when it comes to injuries to hitters this early in the season, there aren't a lot to report, but I do have a lot to say about 'em.

We say all spring not to overrate performances and injuries, and guess what? That doesn't change in April. Now, I won't give you the perennial warning not to overreact to April happenings; if you haven't heard it by now, you probably have more to learn than just that tip, and if you haven't heeded it, then you're probably not inclined to. But I will say a common, more innocent, mistake fantasy owners make is overreacting to injuries to key players by doing one of two things: 1.) Trading or even cutting a usable player because he's hurt; and/or 2.) Trading for a good player to replace the felled player.

Alfonso Soriano
Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMIAlfonso Soriano managed 29 home runs and 19 steals in just 109 games in '08.

Why not trade or cut? Well, if it's a fringe player, have at it. But if he's better than that, realize that there's just so much time left in the season for that player to rack up his numbers. Alfonso Soriano got hurt April 15 last season and was placed on the DL. He also missed almost a month and a half later in the season, and still he finished with 29 homers and 19 steals. If you tack in the numbers of his replacement (fringe) outfielder for the eight weeks in the times he missed, you still have a 35-25 guy or better. Dealing him takes his future production away from you and gives 'em to your opponent. Plus, you'd be dealing the guy at the bottom of his value, which is never good.

So with that established, why not trade for a good replacement? Well, because when your key option returns, you're going to have a logjam there. Sure, you can make another trade at that point, but your trade counterpart will sniff out immediately what your motivation is, giving him more dealing leverage. Unless there's a hole you can fill elsewhere with the trade (for instance, you can move the guy you traded for to another position or replace another player), then it just doesn't make sense.

It's good business, really. Don't sell low, don't have so many assets in one area that you end up wasting one and don't allow a business counterpart to have the leverage. Instead, hang tight for the next 2-3 weeks, and then enjoy the remaining the remaining 22-23 weeks. And if your team suffers an injury over the next 3-4 weeks, the same applies.

With that, I welcome you to another year of the Hit Parade. We'll be with you every Thursday for about the next 26 weeks, addressing all the key issues and timely topics regarding hitters. Glad to be back, and glad to have you with me.

Fortunes Rising

Top 100 Hitters

Note: Brendan Roberts' top 100 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued.

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA
2. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
3. Jose Reyes, SS, NYM
4. David Wright, 3B, NYM
5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET
6. Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE
7. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL
8. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI
9. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI
10. Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC
11. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY
12. Carlos Lee, OF, HOU
13. Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU
14. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
15. Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX
16. Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX
17. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI
18. Nick Markakis, OF, BAL
19. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM
20. Matt Holliday, OF, OAK
21. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY
22. Manny Ramirez, OF, LAD
23. Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL
24. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA
25. Carl Crawford, OF, TB
26. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB
27. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL
28. Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN
29. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD
30. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, ChC
31. Jason Bay, OF, BOS
32. B.J. Upton, OF, TB
33. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN
34. Alex Rios, OF, TOR
35. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, BOS
36. Brian McCann, C, ATL
37. Vladimir Guerrero, OF, LAA
38. Nate McLouth, OF, PIT
39. Curtis Granderson, OF, DET
40. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS
41. Russell Martin, C, LAD
42. Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL
43. Magglio Ordonez, OF, DET
44. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SD
45. Bobby Abreu, OF, LAA
46. David Ortiz, DH, BOS
47. Alexei Ramirez, 2B, CWS
48. Derek Jeter, SS, NYY
49. Stephen Drew, SS, ARI
50. Corey Hart, OF, MIL
51. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN
52. Carlos Quentin, OF, CWS
53. Johnny Damon, OF, NYY
54. Derrek Lee, 1B, CHC
55. Chris Davis, 1B/3B, TEX
56. Geovany Soto, C, CHC
57. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD
58. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL
59. Shane Victorino, OF, PHI
60. Carlos Pena, 1B, TB
61. Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI
62. Adam Dunn, OF, WAS
63. Hunter Pence, OF, HOU
64. Ryan Ludwick, OF, STL
65. Jay Bruce, OF, CIN
66. Adrian Beltre, 3B, SEA
67. Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, BAL
68. Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, COL
69. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS
70. Torii Hunter, OF, LAA
71. Chris Young, OF, ARI
72. Andre Ethier, OF, LAD
73. Jermaine Dye, OF, CWS
74. Michael Young, SS, TEX
75. J.J. Hardy, SS, MIL
76. Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA
77. Vernon Wells, OF, TOR
78. Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA
79. Chone Figgins, 3B, LAA
80. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY
81. Jayson Werth, OF, PHI
82. Ryan Doumit, C, PIT
83. Lastings Milledge, OF, WAS
84. Chris Iannetta, C, COL
85. Brad Hawpe, OF, COL
86. Conor Jackson, 1B/OF, ARI
87. Victor Martinez, C, CLE
88. Xavier Nady, OF, NYY
89. Alex Gordon, 3B, KC
90. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, SF
91. Jose Lopez, 2B, SEA
92. Jim Thome, DH, CWS
93. Jhonny Peralta, SS, CLE
94. Carlos Delgado, 1B, NYM
95. Milton Bradley, OF, CHC
96. Placido Polanco, 2B, DET
97. Adam Jones, OF, BAL
98. Mike Cameron, OF, MIL
99. Justin Upton, OF, ARI
100. James Loney, 1B, LAD

Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: Get this guy on your roster. I'm not talking about NL-only leagues, I'm not talking about deep-mixed leagues; I'm talking about all leagues. Fowler ranks in the top 20 on most experts' prospect lists, and No. 12 in Jason Grey's Top 100 prospects for 2009. He has legit five-category fantasy potential, and lemme tell ya, he won't remain a fourth outfielder for long. He started Wednesday and homered in his first at-bat. The switch-hitter doesn't have much pop from the left side, but he does so much on defense and on the basepaths that he still deserves to start. He's the future of the Rockies, and it's apparent the team already realizes that. Let's just say he's not here to sit and watch.

Emilio Bonifacio, 3B, Marlins: Well, well, well, look who's 8-for-14 with a triple and an inside-the-park homer. Just to show you how reactive our fantasy owners are, Bonifacio is sitting at 35.8 percent ownership. One week ago, that number was 1.4 percent. Obviously, he's in demand, but should he be? Well, I put a lot of heed in what the scouts think of talent and "projectability" (it is too a word, just like drinkability). And I didn't see Bonifacio too high up in many prospect rankings over the years. Sure, he is/was young, making him tougher to project, but just two years ago, he was hitting .285 with just two (2!) homers and a 105/38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 551 Double-A at-bats. He was basically given up on by two organizations, Arizona and Washington. He does have speed, I'll give you that, but it won't take long before his weaknesses are exposed. Consider him only a short-term play.

Jordan Schafer, OF, Braves: We've already seen the best of what he can do: He's a fine center fielder, he has quick hands and legit power, and he has a great baseball body, which should help his endurance and day-to-day stamina. What we haven't seen is his downside, and there is one. Was talking to a minor league source this spring, and he said that Schafer was prone to lengthy slumps, which he exacerbates by swinging at too many pitches. Granted, that describes probably more than half of rookie hitters, but it's something that likely will surface with Schafer. In a non-keeper league, you might want to deal him at the first early sign of this tendency.

Fortunes Falling

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: To be fair, Helton hasn't done anything that has caused his "fortunes to fall," but I've gotten a disturbing report from a source in Denver that said he was still running like his back is hurting him. A Denver Post blog said the same thing. I still believe in Helton's bat, just not his health. And the fact that he played a handful of games this spring and then appeared to be hurting from his chronically tender back is not a good sign for his season. Whether the Rockies treat him with caution or he ends up on the DL, you shouldn't expect to get much from him. On the flip side, I do believe in Ian Stewart a bit more now.

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates: Ugh, where do I begin with this guy? Well, I guess you'd have to start with his failed attempts to grab the starting 3B job with the Dodgers, his .166 batting average in 2008, then all the back problems this spring. Now you can tack on three errors in his first two games, earning him a spot on the bench for Game 3 and criticism from Pirates infield coach Perry Hill, who told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that LaRoche is "flipping his glove." I want to believe in him, but I just can't.

Justin Upton, OF, D-backs: I'm a believer in Upton, just not for this year. Well, his '09 projections have certainly taken a hit in the past week. First of all, he finished off a .197 spring season in which he struck out 19 times in 61 at-bats, and his team actually hit pretty well. Then it was announced over the weekend that he likely would hit seventh or eighth in the lineup to begin the season, not the fifth or sixth slots that he hit most frequently in last season. And then he didn't start on Opening Day; Eric Byrnes played instead. Don't give up, of course, but with Byrnes healthy, Upton might end up platooning.

Pickups of the Week

Mixed: Nyjer Morgan, OF, Pirates. I'm calling it now: He'll be this year's Fred Lewis, with a few more steals and a slightly lower average.

AL-only: Nomar Garciaparra, IF, A's. Likely unowned in many AL leagues, Nomar is healthy (for now), has earned a platoon versus lefties and had eight homers and 28 RBIs in just 163 at-bats in 2008. Best of all, he qualifies at shortstop.

NL-only: Luis Rodriguez, SS, Padres. Admittedly, he's a boring option, but he does have the shortstop job to himself in San Diego, and quietly hit .310 while starting regularly there the last two months of 2008.

Normally this area of Hit Parade would be filled with useful tidbits about meaningful stats, stat splits, ballpark observations, 5x5- or points-league notes, upcoming schedule analyses and more, but this week there are simply too many position and lineup notes to mention.

Position Watch

Just a handful of the playing-time situations I'm tracking right now:

• It sounds like Carlos Guillen will DH often in April, just as he did on Opening Day. That shouldn't affect his value much, but it does affect Marcus Thames, since the team no doubt would rather have Josh Anderson than Thames patrolling the outfield on days that Guillen DHs.

Rocco Baldelli appears to have earned a platoon spot starting in right field against lefty pitchers. Considering his upside, that makes him worth watching. It doesn't drop J.D. Drew much, because occasional time off is not a bad thing for him anyway.

• By all accounts, Mike Fontenot seems to have grabbed the starting second-base job in Cubs Land to himself, with Aaron Miles coming off the bench. Lou Piniella even confirmed that in a recent quote to the Chicago Tribune.

• So how's the Twins' outfield situation shaking out? Well, you never know how things can change, but it appears Delmon Young is the odd man out. He has started just once in the first three games (he went 0-for-4), and it was against lefty Erik Bedard. He's scheduled to start today against Jarrod Washburn, also a lefty. Hello, lefty-righty platoon.

• Ian Stewart started over Clint Barmes at second base on Opening Day, and according to reports out of Denver, that didn't go over well with veteran Rockies. Barmes has been back in the lineup the past two games, with Stewart starting off on the bench.

• It sounds like the Twins will bring up catcher Drew Butera and have him platoon with Jose Morales if Mike Redmond ends up on the DL. Of course, neither are intriguing fantasy options.

Vladimir Guerrero was changed in the lineup Wednesday from right field to DH, reportedly because his arm wasn't feeling right. No biggie; he was still in the lineup (though he did go 0-for-4). But this forces Juan Rivera to left field, which is less than ideal for the Angels defensively. If this becomes a regular occurrence, don't be surprised if Gary Matthews Jr. starts in left field instead of Rivera.

• Amid all the Felix Pie hype, Luke Scott is obviously still the regular starter in left field, and Ty Wigginton seems to be a regular at DH. Pie looks more like a fourth outfielder.

Lineup Card

Mike Lowell hitting seventh? That appears to be the case after he hit fifth much of last season. That's not the end of the world in the Red Sox's lineup, but his runs would definitely take a hit.

• Speaking of the seven-hole, that's where Conor Jackson hit on Opening Day. He did hit fifth Tuesday and fourth Wednesday, but track this. C-Jax needs to hit in the middle of the lineup to help mixed owners.

Cameron Maybin didn't start Wednesday and hit eighth on Opening Day. In between, he hit second (on Tuesday). Stay tuned.

• It sounds like B.J. Upton will hit leadoff when he returns, a lineup spot he got only 27 at-bats at in 2008. But he did hit .370 in those at-bats.

Khalil Greene is being slotted favorably by Tony La Russa. He hit cleanup (behind Albert Pujols) on Opening Day, fifth on Tuesday, and second (in front of Pujols) Wednesday.

One stat note

According to MLB.com, an official scorer has changed an Emilio Bonifacio two-base error in Monday's game to a double for Ryan Zimmerman. The scoring change hurts Ricky Nolasco more than anyone; his ERA jumps by a run and a half because Zimmerman eventually scored. But make sure Zimmerman's hit is added in your league commissioner. He is now 2-for-14 this season, not 1-for-14.

On the Farm

Ryan Strieby, 1B, Tigers organization: A name to watch for the future, Strieby homered twice Wednesday on Opening Day for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. The massive Strieby (6-foot-5, 235) led the (high Class A) Florida State League with 29 homers, and also collected 94 RBIs despite missing much of the final month because of a broken hand. The former SEC Player of the Year likely won't get a cup of coffee in the bigs this season.

Brandon Wood, SS/3B, Angels: He has little left to prove in the minors, but he heads there anyway because the Angels had no room on their big league roster for him. That said, the team reportedly is working on his swing in hopes of cutting back his strikeouts, even if it means fewer homers (i.e., they don't want him to be another Dallas McPherson), so at least he has an objective down there. If he succeeds in doing so, look for him earlier rather than later.

Final thoughts

I've mentioned this tip before, and I'm doing it again: Be sure to have a designated "drop" player on each of your rosters, someone you know is the "25th man" -- to steal a big league term -- and can shove off in a moment's notice. Early in the year, add/drops tend to be more sudden and less thought-out as owners look for closer changes, grab hot hitters or react to changes in a team's rotation. It has happened to me more than once: I go to pick up a new closer and I hem and haw on who to drop just long enough for someone else to grab the guy. Knowing, at least mentally, which player is most cut-worthy on each roster can save you some very important minutes.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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