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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.