The Rays may be 0-3 and off to the worst start in franchise history, but the biggest concern in the Tampa Bay area revolves around the health of Evan Longoria.
The All-Star third basemen has been put on the 15 day disabled list and will miss a minimum of three weeks. That loss presents a giant hole to fill for both a Rays lineup that already needed help scoring runs, and fantasy owners who grabbed Longoria in the early rounds of their drafts. The third base position isn’t particularly deep this season, so finding a suitable replacement may prove difficult. Lets take a look at a few possibilities…
These two will be picking up the playing time in Tampa Bay with Longoria out. Rodriguez is owned in nearly 100 percent of ESPN leagues, so he’s not likely to be found on the waiver wire. However, if you have another player on your team that can handle second base or the outfield – Rodriguez’s two eligible positions – he could fill in nicely at the hot corner. One issue facing Rodriguez is the fact that he doesn’t yet qualify at third base. Give it a week or so and he should pick up the minimum amount of starts to qualify. We know what the 25-year-old brings to the table. He hits left handed pitching exceptionally well, and while he struggles a bit against right handed pitching his outstanding defense should allow him more starts against righties.
When Rodriguez is not in the lineup he’ll be replaced by recently recalled Felipe Lopez. A switch hitter, Lopez has better career numbers against righties, but over the last three seasons has hit .297/.350/.413 against southpaws. He already qualifies at third base, as well as second base and shortstop, and that versatility could prove very valuable over the next few weeks. Lopez had a substandard 2010 season, hitting .233/.311/.345 in 441 PA’s, but proved valuable in 2008 and 2009. Marcel projections a .270/.340/.389 line from Lopez this season, and he’s only owned in o.3% of ESPN leagues at the moment. Keep an eye on when he plays, but you could certainly do a lot worse in the shallow pool of third basemen.
It’s rare to find a starter at a shallow position owned in so few leagues (4.1% ESPN), especially one who enjoyed the half season that Danny Valencia did in 2010. In 322 PA’s the rookie put up an impressive line of .311/.351/.448 and even hit seven home runs. Expecting that same type of production is likely foolish, but Valencia is very capable of putting up an average in the .280-.290 range with ~15 home runs. The fact that he’s available in 96% of leagues is frankly shocking to me. You know how many third basemen hit .300 with 15+ home runs last season? Three. Valencia is capable of that. In fact, picking him up only as a replacement for Longoria may be a waste of his abilities. While he might not crack your starting lineup, he’s a very valuable player to stash away on your bench for the entire season.