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The Inevitable Absence of Brian Roberts

Posted By Mike Petriello On April 5, 2013 @ 8:15 am In Second Base | 18 Comments

Out of my various fantasy leagues, only one is auction-style. Near the end of our draft last week, I picked up Brian Roberts for $1, grumbling the entire time that the software was forcing me to pick a second baseman despite already having Matt Carpenter & Josh Rutledge, who I’d planned to use at the position when they gained eligibility.

For a dollar, it seemed, it was worth the gamble, even through years of injury trouble. No one expected Roberts to be anything like the elite star he was between 2005-09, when he was collecting doubles, steals, and homers, but he finally seemed healthy and had a productive spring. You figured maybe he’d manage to give us a decent batting average and perhaps a steal here or there, and for a lone dollar, that’d be fine. After four hits in his first two games, I even dropped Luis Cruz to pick him up in another league of mine this afternoon…

…and then about thirty seconds later, Roberts tried to steal second base in the top of the ninth in Tampa Bay and looked to badly injure his right leg. We’re still waiting to hear the full extent of the injury, which is reportedly a hamstring problem. Unless it’s miraculously small — and it sure didn’t look that way on the field or when he was being helped off it — it almost seems like it doesn’t matter. Though it’s tremendously sad for a once-great player who has spent years trying to make it back, it’s difficult to say that the small upside he offers or his recent health history really requires he get a lot of the benefit of the doubt here.

That leaves both the Orioles and myself to try to patch that second base hole, and the options are slim for both of us. Baltimore is likely to try Ryan Flaherty (career .270 wOBA) or Alexi Casilla (.286), and neither are very appealing. Casilla, at least, has 36 stolen bases over the last two years, but that’s beyond grasping at straws.

If, like me, you’re desperate to fill a keystone hole now that Roberts is gone — or at least until Carpenter or Rutledge gain eligibility — what are we left with? Not a whole lot, to be honest. Here’s the best options that seem to be generally available:

Chris Nelson. Nelson’s actually the primary third baseman in Colorado, at least until Nolan Arenado takes his job, but he’s still eligible at second. Playing in Coors helps, and in 601 career plate appearances — basically a full season’s worth — he’s hit 13 homers with 70 runs batted in, which isn’t terrible for a backup’s backup. He won’t kill you with batting average either, and he seems like an acceptable waiver-wire band-aid.

Daniel Descalso. See how quickly this gets ugly? Descalso is worth noting for one reason and one reason only: with Skip Schumaker in Los Angeles and David Freese on the disabled list, thus requiring Carpenter to play third, Descalso has a clear path to playing time in St. Louis. Considering the alternatives, that’s a good start, and he has five hits in three games, which is nice. Of course, little in his track record indicates he can contribute in any category.

Kelly Johnson. Johnson isn’t even really a second baseman any longer, since he’s already started at first base and designated hitter for the Rays and is expected to see time in the outfield too. He’s also coming off his worst year as a professional, with increased strikeouts and a lousy .299 wOBA. Still, he retains some pop and the increased flexibility ought to at least keep him in the lineup.


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