There have been some decent pickups at the middle-infield positions lately for those who play fantasy baseball games. This is nice. The latest recommendation of one of those types doesn’t figure to have much of a shelf life, so the depth of the rotisserie or head-to-head league should figure into a fantasy owner’s decision of whether and how to pursue him. The other rec may be nothing about which to be excited, any time soon, but somewhere, somehow, it probably plays.
2B/3B/SS Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies
Ownership: CBS 11% | Yahoo! 3% | ESPN 0.5%
Pretty simple: The Rockies didn’t see much progress from Troy Tulowitzki (strained hip flexor) in the last few days, so they placed him on the 15-day disabled list. The MVP candidate was calling the injury a cramp initially, but it’s obviously more than that. Tulo may not be ready for activation when his 15 days are up.
Rutledge, 25, was a bit revelatory for fantasy owners in his 2012 MLB debut, when he batted .274/.306/.469, with eight home runs and seven stolen bases, in 291 plate appearances. The showing prompted the crowd to overvalue him in 2013 drafts; he was optioned and recalled a couple of times in broken parts of a .235/.294/.337 campaign that included seven jacks and 12 thefts in 314 plate appearances. He’s been back and forth this season as well, putting together a .298/.356/.471 slash line, with three round-trippers and no steals, in 133 plate appearances.
As his 2014 showing suggests, the disappointment of 2013 shouldn’t have faded his stock much. BlakeMurphy urged folks to give Rutledge another chance earlier this season, when Nolan Arenado landed on the DL because he’d broken a finger. Skipper Walt Weiss seems to have been reluctant to entrust Rutledge with regular PT, as was the case in that instance, however, and it has to be because the infielder is a minus with the glove. In this case, though, Rutledge is the only player on the roster who can pick it at short with any regularity, so he’s expected to be in the lineup pretty much every day while Tulo is sidelined.
Rutledge can produce a little with the stick. We know that. As long as he’s getting the PT, he’s a worthwhile fantasy play, with the potential for a home run here and a stolen base there. There are at least a few players at second base who can do that for the fantasy owner these days, so he’s hardly worth recommending as a better pickup at the sacrifice of a more dependable player who at worst is a tier below Rutledge in this window.
The Rockies’ starting shortstop for the next couple of weeks has multi-position eligibility that should help his prospective owners find a way to add him for the short term, though. In shallow leagues, like 12- or 10-team mixed, it’s easier to recycle, so that should give owners in them some license. He’s owned in both of my mixed leagues, a 15-teamer and a 12-teamer, already, so someone in each of them clearly likes him a little. Ryan Zimmerman (strained hamstring) may head to the DL and open up PT for Danny Espinosa again, but I’d rather have Rutledge, perhaps quite obviously.
SP Robbie Ray, Detroit Tigers
Ownership: CBS 5% | Yahoo! 0% | ESPN 0.4%
Ray, 22, hasn’t been overly impressive in his four games (three starts) this season. The 4.70 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 4.80 xFIP and 4.96 SIERA demonstrate that pretty well. However, most of the damage done to his bottom line came in his final start before Detroit shipped him back to the farm. He yielded nine hits, seven runs (all earned) and four walks, with only one K, in 3 1/3 frames against the Texas Rangers on May 22.
Ray had made a relief appearance for the Tigers four days prior to that outing; perhaps that threw the youngster off his routine. He’d been solid in two previous starts (11 1/3 combined innings), having allowed nine hits, one run (earned) and two walks, with seven strikeouts. His opponents then were the Houston Astros (not quite yet the relative juggernaut, particular against lefties, that we’re getting to know these days) and Minnesota Twins (coming down from their unexpected run as a league-leading offense to open this campaign), so that could have a little something to do with the outcomes.
OK, so Ray isn’t a stud. He did some things Jeff Sullivan liked. He was the Tigers’ No. 2 prospect entering the season, per Marc Hulet. None of his pitches has really checked out as a plus offering (although I do suspect that the data from his last start, again, has made him appear to be a tad more underwhelming than he really is). Hey, the southpaw is a potential innings eater.
I bring up Ray only because I’m pretty scared for Justin Verlander (and his owners, if they were holding on to some shred of hope). We discussed him in the podcast yesterday, thanks to the observations of one of our listeners, who pointed out some changes in the right-hander’s release points and arm angle that bothered this person. Given all that we have observed about Verlander, particularly this season, including the latest – another dip in his velocity, the erosion of his zone percentage, other changes in his Pitch F/X info, the workload and more – I’m worried. Eno sounded almost sad once he ran Verlander through the in-season injury predictor algorithm machine computer device. I began to feel depressed.
Side note: Drew VerHagen (back pain), who made a spot start this past weekend, has been placed on the minor league disabled list. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined. That takes him out of the running for the vacancy I’m predicting. Someone else could get the call, though, or Motown could eventually strike a deal with some washed up vet like Joe Saunders to do the same thing for the rest of the season … if it even comes to that.
I may be overreacting. In the vast majority of fantasy leagues, Ray doesn’t play. This is basically a rec only for those in the deepest of them. It may not even be necessary or a good idea to stash a player like him in them. He may be owned in the niche to which this suggestion applies. I kind of view this as a heads up, too. I couldn’t be more concerned about what’s going to happen to that Verlander fella, not long ago the most dominant arm in our game. It isn’t a given, obviously, but I’m far from optimistic.
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