Arizona OF Injuries Provide Gerardo Parra Opportunity

When the Diamondbacks went out and signed Jason Kubel to play left field last December, many observers were aghast, arguing that even if he was a small improvement on offense over Gerardo Parra, the enormous gap in their defensive skills would make the transaction a net downgrade at a position Arizona already had depth at. For a team attempting to defend their NL West title, it certainly seemed like they could have found a better use for the 15 million dollars they gave to Kubel.

Two weeks into the season, Chris Young is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, Justin Upton is doing his best to avoid joining him with a thumb injury, and the previously overstuffed Arizona outfield is suddenly an area of deep concern in the desert. While neither injury is expected to be a long-term issue, the Diamondbacks won’t have both players back in the lineup together until early May at the soonest. Young’s injury is a particularly tough blow, since the center fielder was off to a fantastic (if completely unsustainable) .410/.500/.897 start with five homers in the early going. As for Upton, he’s off to a horrendous start, still seeking his first home run and RBI, though the fact that he did pinch-run in the 9th against Pittsburgh on Wednesday does indicate that the Diamondbacks intend to keep him off the disabled list for now. Even if that’s the case, his thumb has clearly affected his play, so expect additional time off, diminished performance, or both until he is fully healed.

For fantasy players also suddenly down an outfielder – and you shouldn’t need me to tell you that Upton & Young are each owned in just about every league imaginable – the immediate action is to look internally, because Parra should now see daily playing time. He started in left with Kubel moved over to right yesterday, though expect him to see time at all three positions. In addition, 24-year-old A.J. Pollock was recalled from Triple-A Reno to make his major league debut. (For exceptionally deep leaguers, Pollock is a 2009 first-round pick who stole 36 bases in Double-A last year, though without much power. The chain reaction there is that 23-year-old outfielder Adam Eaton, who has done nothing but hit since being drafted in 2010, has now been pushed to Triple-A to take Pollock’s spot.)

While Kubel is owned in a majority of ESPN leagues despite a frigid start, Parra is still surprisingly available – he’s owned in just 0.2% of ESPN leagues and at 2% in Yahoo. That’s obviously mostly because of concerns over how the Kubel acquisition would affect his playing time, because he’s coming off a solid 2011 in which he posted a .340 wOBA and nearly 3 WAR, thanks in part to that fantastic defense. While the defense won’t do a whole lot for his fantasy relevance, Parra is now an everyday player for at least the next few weeks until Young returns, and Pollock might be as well depending on how Upton’s thumb responds.

Parra won’t suddenly win your league, but as waiver wire pickups go he’s a pretty decent bet for a bit of pop and the occasional steal. If you’ve just lost either Arizona starter, you could do far worse than a guy coming off a good season who will now see steady playing time. No, really; if you’re in a competitive league where anyone with more than a 10% overall ownership rate is probably already gone – as I know most of you are – a quick glance at the Yahoo outfielder list in Parra’s 2% range gets you names like Trevor Plouffe, Jason Bourgeois, Carlos Gomez, & Brent Lillibridge. That’s not the territory you want to be in, so if you’re an Upton or Young owner in need, Parra is likely your best bet.

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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.

3 Responses to “Arizona OF Injuries Provide Gerardo Parra Opportunity”

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  1. jaw says:

    Good heads up. I’m down Justin Upton and, now, Brett Gardner in my 12-team mixed 7×6 roto keeper league (5×5 categories, plus OBP, SLG, and HLD). 25-man roster, 3 DL slots, but we differentiate among LF/RF/CF, and have a generic OF and a UTIL slot.

    In that format – especially with an eye to OBP – would you add Gerardo Parra or one ore more of the following LF-eligible outfielders:

    Jose Tabata (terrible start, now getting benched? or is it just a rest?)
    Jon Jay (how badly did he bang his shoulder?)
    David Murphy
    Alex Presley
    Luke Scott
    Chone Figgins
    Seth Smith

    Thanks for any insight you have.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      That is a fascinating question. Definitely not Jay, who had his arm in a sling and is probably headed for the DL. I’ve never been a Tabata fan in fantasy, because his overall skill set doesn’t make up for his total lack of power.

      Of those you listed, Murphy, Parra, and Scott would be my top choices. I probably like Murphy best of them all, though if OBP was your top priority Parra is probably your man there, despite his somewhat slow start so far.

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      • jaw says:

        Thanks for the advice. I added Parra, but might try to sneak Murphy on to my roster if possible. I’ve got an outside chance to finish in the crackers this year (going from #10 of 12 to as high as #3 of 12 would be a big win for me). I can’t afford a long DL stint from either Upton or Gardner if things are going to break my way.

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