Welcome to the inaugural edition of Roto Medic! We’ll be giving you tips on how to patch up your squads when players are sidelined by injuries, lay mired in slumps, or get caught in off-the-field shenanigans this year.
How are we going to help you stitch up your squad? We’ll present a pair of players every week that will be missing time and give you a trio of options that are under 30% owned (and offer a few more in case they aren’t available) to shoot for on the waiver wire to plug that hole in your lineup. Don’t worry, deep leaguers, we haven’t left you out either: every guy we cover will include a potshot at an almost certainly available best-of-the-bottom replacement. If the problem’s bad enough that it can’t be remedied by the wire, we’ll offer up suitable trade targets instead.
Spring piled on the pain in 2011, with fantasy cornerstones and prime picks going down before seeing or throwing a meaningful pitch. The top tier of hurlers lost Adam Wainwright when he was shelved for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and one of the league’s only two superstar 2Bs, Chase Utley, continues to battle the mysterious gremlins that infiltrated his right knee (just in case you needed more reminders that you should hold your draft as close to April as possible).
And things haven’t gotten any better since Opening Day. So get ready for the first pair of many meatball surgeries we’ll try to guide you through:
Matt Holliday (Day-to-day – appendectomy)
That silly organ that nobody needs tends to strike at the most inopportune times. Holliday’s season barely got started when the Cardinals announced that he needed to get his appendix snipped before it burst. and Adam Dunn needed emergency surgery to remove his appendix Tuesday. We’ll focus on Holliday since Dunn said he plans to be back in the next few days and has incredible super-fast healing powers like Wolverine from X-Men.
Conflicting early reports had the Cardinals’ clean-up hitter out anywhere between 2-6 weeks, but Holliday seems determined to avoid the DL, and the Cards have agreed to keep him off it (for now). Holliday was cleared to resume baseball activities on Tuesday, and skipper Tony LaRussa suggested that Holliday may even be ready to return as early as this weekend.
The Cards have no pressing reason to hurry Holliday back on to the field since there’s over 150 games left to grind out, but he seems to be recovering smoothly. While most MLB players have gone on the DL after getting their appendix sliced, some have come back within two weeks. Barring any complications, Holliday should be back on the field in a couple weeks max, so in the fantasy world he should be easy to replace.
Don’t worry about making a move because of Holliday if you have a reasonable fourth OF rostered like Denard Span or Marlon Byrd. If you didn’t take that precaution, then drop that extra middle reliever you’re holding on to in hope of some errant saves or that long-shot starter and grab one of these guys for the next week
- Brennan Boesch (17% owned) – Last year’s first half rookie darling was an ice cube down the stretch, but the kid’s proven he can hit in the bigs. Boesch’s playing time is limited in a crowded Tigers outfield, but as long as he’s hot (and he’s opened the season raking), Jim Leyland will find room for him, as least long enough to plug in for Holliday on your squad.
- Hideki Matsui (17% owned) – Godzilla’s days of destruction are long past, but Matsui’s proven that he can still produce decent power numbers with his bat at the ripe old age of 36, mashing 21 HRs with 84 RBIs last year with the Angels. He’s also played over 140 games the past two seasons, making him a reliable enough fourth OF this year, Holliday injury or not.
- Ben Francisco (28% owned) – The Phillies’ corner OF has stepped into the hole left behind by Jayson Werth’s departure and is looking to douse any notion of an RF platoon. Even if he can’t quite accomplish that, his bat is a reasonable short-term option to turn to.
Other mixed league options - Garrett Jones (16% owned), Willie Bloomquist (28%), Cameron Maybin (15% owned), Josh Willingham (19% owned)
Deep league potshot – Willie Harris (2% owned)
Evan Longoria (15-day DL – strained oblique)
Hoo-boy. The kid’s having a rough 2011 and we’re only four months deep. His Camaro gets jacked, thieves snag his AK-47 from his house, and now he finds himself on the 15-day DL after suffering an oblique injury in the third game of the Rays’ season. The superstar 3B will be out for most, if not all of April, leaving Longo’s fantasy draft bulls hanging. Sean Rodriguez is Longoria’s primary replacement in the field, with Ben Zobrist moving to 2B and Matt Joyce starting in right.
Trading a top-five hitter like Longoria won’t get you a fair return days after a fairly serious injury, so don’t fall for the vultures swooping in with tempting (but mediocre) Alex Rodriguez-based packages. Longoria is primed for a monster season, tweaked oblique or not. There’s no need to fire off a panic-induced trade for a mid-tier 3B either, since there are some solid stopgaps to be found down on the waiver wire that can give you a month’s worth of fill-in time.
Keep tabs on that oblique though, because if he suffers a setback this whole situation will change, and there’s likely no one available on your wire that’s worthy of a full-time gig. Here are the best options to offset the loss of Longo’s numbers until his probable May return:
- Edwin Encarnacion (13% owned) - Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston defended Encarnacion’s status as the starting 3B in Toronto after a terrible pair of starts in the field, but his tune could easily change later in the season. Through April he’ll be fine, and even if he somehow loses the job, Gaston’s perfectly willing to stick that power bat at DH.
- Sean Rodriguez (28% owned) – The Rays are primarily starting Rodriguez at 3B with Longoria out. The main fantasy gripe against S-Rod is the lack of playing time, but with the injury the door has opened for the former Angels prospect to make an impact, at least until his team’s star slugger returns. He still isn’t eligible at 3B yet on most sites, but soon will be, so you would have to fill-in with one of these other guys for a week or so.
- Chase Headley (27% owned) – The streak-happy Padres 3B is slotted in the sixth spot of a horribly weak lineup behind Brad Hawpe and Ryan Ludwick, but he always has the potential to run off a set of stat-filling games.
Other mixed league options – Danny Valencia (14% owned), Jose Lopez (12%), Brandon Inge (7%), Jhonny Peralta (28% owned)
Deep league potshot - Jack Hannahan (4% owned)
Kim writes for Business Insider's sports page and runs a sports business blog at Spizness.com while attending NYU as a graduate student in Business and Economic Reporting. Catch up with him at the Cafe as Kim Bhasin, and follow him on Twitter (@KimBhasin).
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