An already-thin position took a hit this week with Aramis Ramirez hitting the DL with a separated shoulder. With the prognosis leaving him out for at least a month, owners are hitting the waiver wire in search of some short-term Maalox.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible short-term patches. Not all of them will soothe equally.
Adrian Beltre – Don’t think that Beltre is done just because it seems like he’s been around forever. You may be surprised to learn that he is only 30 years old. Possibly because of an oscillating line drive percentage (19% career, 15% currently), Beltre doesn’t own a great career BABIP (.291). That said, he’s current .260 number is unsustainable, and even if he ‘only’ pushes that number up to last year’s .279 level, the average will climb shortly. Perhaps it would help him center the ball if he quit swinging at more than 40% of balls outside the strike zone. Get that back to regular 30% levels and the line drive rate, BABIP, and average should all follow.
Mike Fontenot – How about A-Ram’s real-life replacement? Newly-acquired Ryan Freel and Fontenot will split up the at-bats at the hot corner for the Cubs, and both are decent players. While Freel is more of a speedy player, Fontenot actually has some nice pop. He’s hitting over 40% fly balls, and his double-digit HR/FB percentage (15.6%) looks sustainable when seen against last year’s totals. There are some black marks against the diminutive (5’ 8”, 170 lbs) infielder, however. His 10% line drive rate means that his .250 BABIP won’t necessarily move on it’s own accord. Since most of his contact, walk and strikeout percentages have been steady, it’s just a difficulty making solid contact that’s keeping Fontenot from being the best fantasy and real-life replacement.
Casey Blake – While Beltre is younger than most may think, Blake is older than most would guess. At 35 years old, his bat may also be slowing down. His contact rates are down across the board, and his current line drive rate (16%) is the worst of his career. He’s never had great batting averages, and calling the cavernous Dodger Stadium home (.857 park factor for home runs in 2008) doesn’t make him any more attractive.
Chase Headley – There’s some news in Padre-land, and it’s important to their third-base situation. Huge first-base prospect Kyle Blanks (6’ 6”, 270 lbs) is taking fly balls in left field, meaning that the team is at least considering pushing Headley back to third, and Kevin Kouzmanoff to a reserve role. The good news about Headley is that he’s cut down his strikeouts and is swinging less at balls outside the zone. There’s no number that leaps out and says that he’s been unlucky, but if he continues his natural progression and walks more like he did in the minors, he still has major upside.
Scott Rolen – Rolen may actually be the best short-term replacement for Aramis Ramirez. His BABIP is a tick high (.326) and his fly ball percentage a tick low (38.5%), but the best news is that he feels healthy and his lineup is providing him many ducks on the pond. The biggest worry, his 32% line drive rate, can’t be seen as too much of a negative. Sure, it’s a little high, but at least he’s seeing the ball well. As the line drive rate comes down, perhaps the fly ball rate will increase. Either way, he’s a solid run-producer that should put up the best batting average of the possible replacements.