In and out of line for playing time

While we, as fantasy players, are told and try not to overreact to frustratingly slow starts by some players, when the real managers and general managers of those players begin to react in terms of playing time, we must adjust expectations accordingly. Even if you think Kila Ka’aihue will bat .300 with 20 home runs given a full season of at-bats, when the Royals management does not want to see him in the majors, there is nothing you can do.

So, with that in mind, here are some players whose playing time situations you should be aware of:

Already displaying high-quality UV radiation protection for his eyes, Gardner could now see increased lineup protection for his bat. (Icon/SMI)

Yankees grit

Brett Gardner—The Yankees’ play-hard left fielder is spotlighted here first because I wrote praising words about his abilities back in March and thus far he has lived up to my word. Batting .330 with nine steals already, Gardner is providing elite speed without sacrificing average.

Much ado was made about my statement that “although Gardner is slated to bat last in the Yankee lineup, batting ninth in that lineup will provide similar run and RBI opportunities to batting second in many other lineups.” Gardner has been productive in the runs department with 12 despite batting last, and the interesting news to share is that Gardner will see some time in the second slot in the lineup moving forward, which truly is a goldmine with Jeter in front and Teixeira and A-Rod behind.

If batting second is something that sticks with manager Joe Girardi, Gardner could end up being one of the best value picks of 2010 drafts.

Marlins choking

Chris Coghlan—Last year’s ROY looks like he lost all of the tools that led to his award-winning rookie campaign. Gone is the plate discipline, the solid gap power, and the Emmy-nominated contact ability. Although no one should believe those tools are lost forever, the Marlins have no choice but to take action with their .357 OPSing left fielder. For the time being, Brett Carroll will be the beneficiary of some extra at-bats, but Carroll is not much of a threat long term.

Mike Stanton—the Marlins’ home-run-hitting machine of a prospect, not the retired relief pitcher—is currently lurking at and tearing up Double-A simultaneously. At a mere 20 years of age though and with no experience above Double-A, it is my opinion that Florida’s management will let Stanton establish himself more in the minors before exposing him prematurely to major league pitching. In other words, in non-keeper and dynasty leagues, Stanton is not a body to stash on your bench.

Blue Jays blooming

Brett Wallace—The Jays hoped to get a lot in return for trading Roy Halladay, and Wallace was a major part of that “a lot.” A player the Blue Jays have actually targeted since his high school days, Wallace is currently taking advantage of PCL pitchers, batting .292/.387/.662 with seven home runs in 18 games. Wallace projects to play first base in the majors and looking at what the Jays currently offer at first—the terribly struggling Lyle Overbay—methinks Wallace is not far away from his first big league at-bats. And in Ike Davis-like fashion, Wallace could similarly produce right off the bat.

Turmoil in the Rockies

Seth Smith—It is amazing how much one day can change your opinion of a player. Before April 25, Smith was a player who, although I believed could be productive, did not seem to have enough regular playing time to gain any momentum and was batting only .194. Then after April 25—a day on which Smith blasted two home runs and Brad Hawpe landed on the DL—my confidence in him was reignited.

Smith should see fairly regular playing time over the next few weeks and if he continues to produce while Dexter Fowler‘s struggles continue, the playing time dynamic in the Rockies outfield could shift heavily in Smith’s favor even after Hawpe returns. Even in fairly shallow mixed leagues, I would pickup Smith for the following few weeks with the possibility of keeping him for the entire season if things work out. A .280s-.290s batting average with 25 home runs is not out of the question for him.

Clint Barmes—Save for his 2008 campaign, this Rockies middle infielder has been below average with his bat since joining the majors regularly in 2005. So far in 2010 Barmes has been well below average, prompting the Rockies to call up Triple-A second baseman Eric Young Jr. to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere.

I say to the delight of fantasy owners because while Young should not provide much batting value to an actual baseball team, he can steal boatloads of bases to help your fantasy team greatly. An average above .270 would be pleasantly surprising, but somewhere in the .260s range seems most likely for him. All that matters for Young, though, is playing time and steals, and plenty of them.

Metropolitan woes

Carlos Beltran—The updated bad news is that his knee is not healing well and he is unlikely to return by the end of May. A June or July return is now what’s expected though there have been grumblings about him possibly missing the whole season. Good news for Angel Pagan owners, I suppose.

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I agree Dexter Fowler is struggling immensely. I thought he would develop much more this year, but I guess time will tell whether he can step up his performance. I think he is one year away.

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I say to the delight of fantasy owners because while Young should not provide much batting value to an actual baseball team