Mark TrumboMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsMark Trumbo is tied for second in the majors in home runs and sixth in RBIs.

The struggling Arizona Diamondbacks made a stunning ninth-inning rally to win at Wrigley Field Wednesday, but the day was marred by the news slugging outfielder Mark Trumbo will miss an extended period of time with a stress fracture in his left foot. If you’d have asked me Wednesday morning to name five players who could lead the majors in home runs, Trumbo, who launched five home runs his first nine games and two since, would be on that list. But now, he’s obviously not on that list.

So what does “extended period of time” mean and should you continue to roster Trumbo? Well, the first pretty much decides the second. If it’s a month he misses, you can and should keep him owned and wait. If it’s three months, then you move on. Full disclosure: I’ve rarely been a Trumbo fan to start with, as the power potential comes with a batting average price and he’s had long stretches of utter plate catastrophe making him free-agent fodder, but I recognize few players hit home runs like he can. A foot injury shouldn’t hamper that potential when he returns. But does he return in May or August?


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Albert PujolsPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesWith one week left in April, Albert Pujols is already tied for his second-most homers in the month.

The fact that Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols became the first player to hit his 499th and 500th career home runs in the same game Tuesday night is not reason alone for fantasy owners to trust the future Hall of Famer this season. After all, Pujols has been around for a long time and been rather successful, and few would presume the ol’ MVP version is back. Then again, the two home runs he hit off Washington Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan Tuesday gave him eight in April, more than anyone else, and all in the past 13 games.


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Moustakas, Peralta, Lawrie AP PhotosMike Moustakas, Jhonny Peralta and Brett Lawrie are off to slow starts, each batting below .165.

Perhaps no hitter illustrates how wildly unpredictable Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) can be more than St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta. A year ago with the Detroit Tigers, Peralta hit .303 with a .374 BABIP, including a ridiculous .482 mark versus left-handed pitching. In 2012, his BABIP was .275. This year, through three weeks and way too small a sample size, Peralta entered Monday with a lowly .152 BABIP. It’s never wise to spend much time looking at individual batting averages in April, because it’s just not enough at-bats to tell us much, but one look at the BABIP leaders can tell us who has been a bit unlucky, and vice versa.

It’s important to note that luck doesn’t always even out, with Peralta a great example. Still, if you’re trying to figure out whether to keep a hitter on your roster, it is worth it to look at the statistic before making those fateful clicks. The league average for BABIP is just below .300, and while some speedy hitters can create a baseline well above this mark -- Ichiro Suzuki's career BABIP is .344 -- in general if your guy is generating a sub-.200 BABIP, then better days are ahead. Peralta is one of those guys.


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Ike DavisVincent Pugliese/Getty ImagesIke Davis and his fantasy owners welcome the change of scenery, but will it make him worth owning in standard leagues?

There’s hardly a guarantee that the Ike Davis who handled first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates a few days this weekend will hit any differently than the one that struggled so much last season for the New York Mets. The Davis who singled and doubled Saturday and singled in six at-bats Sunday didn’t look like a totally new hitter, though he probably felt quite a bit more comfortable with his new role. We need a bit more than a weekend to come to any true conclusions.

Fantasy owners tend to forget that sometimes all a player really needs is a change of scenery. After all, don’t fantasy owners also crave this in their lives from time to time? Davis, who was acquired from the Mets in an odd sell-low trade for a relief pitcher this weekend, has massive power upside. We saw it when he smacked 32 home runs in 2012. Will we see it in 2014?


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Nick CastellanosDenis Poroy/Getty ImagesNick Castellanos could add third base eligibility as soon as Friday.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos isn’t quite a third baseman in ESPN standard fantasy formats yet, but it should happen soon. For those who keep wondering about the ESPN rules of eligibility, it takes 10 games in-season to add it, 20 from the previous year. Castellanos, an outfielder in his brief time in the majors last season, played his ninth game of this season at third base Thursday afternoon, contributing a single and a walk in a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians. Castellanos hasn’t hit much, but he will, and he’ll look better for fantasy owners with third base eligibility, which figures to arrive Friday night.

For most players in new positions the 10-game threshold already has been passed, making things a bit easier for their owners. Boston Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts, a pretty good shortstop but eligible solely at third base in drafts, is now eligible at each position. Because some people continue to ask, we’ll remind that players do not lose eligibility during a season, no matter what position they’re playing. Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer remains catcher-eligible for all of 2014 and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera can be used at either corner infield spot this entire season, if one so chooses.


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Julio Teheran and Cliff LeeAP PhotoJulio Teheran and Cliff Lee both went the distance Wednesday, a rarity these days.

PHILADELPHIA -- Entering Wednesday, one complete game had been thrown in baseball this season. It’s only a few weeks, but still, it’s clearly been a rarity. During the afternoon Wednesday, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto joined San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner with a shutout, doubling the total. And then, on a chilly Philly Wednesday night, Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran and Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cliff Lee added a few more complete games to the underwhelming ledger, with Teheran prevailing in a fantastic 1-0 shutout win.

Fantasy owners don’t need reminders of how good -- and unlucky, really -- Lee is, for it’s not the first time he fanned 13 Braves in a 1-0 loss. It also happened in his last outing of 2013! Lee is a top-five starting pitcher pretty much any way one analyzes these things, and there’s nothing to worry about with him. But this was a bigger night for Teheran, as his 38th career start turned into the first complete game of his young career. Teheran entered play having allowed 20 hits in 19 innings and striking out only nine hitters, leading fantasy owners to wonder whether he had been a bit overdrafted in ESPN leagues: Teheran was the No. 29 starting pitcher chosen in ESPN average draft position, a 13th-rounder overall.


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Michael BournAP Photo/Carlos OsorioMichael Bourn's fantasy value has dropped considerably the past two seasons, due to a decline in batting average and steals.

It’s easy to forget now, but it wasn’t too long ago that speedy outfielder Michael Bourn was regarded as a really valuable fantasy option. In 2012, he was a fourth-round pick in ESPN average live drafts. Last season, he was a sixth-rounder. Today, after he and his now-healthy hamstring finally made their season debut Wednesday night, the 20th-rounder remains a free agent in a quarter of ESPN standard leagues. Talk about a fall from grace!

Bourn came off the disabled list this week and Wednesday he hit leadoff as the Cleveland Indians held on for a 3-2 win over Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers. Bourn walked on five pitches to start the game and scored a run, then made four outs, but at least he was out there and healthy. Remember, during the four-year period ending after 2012, Bourn averaged 54 stolen bases and 93 runs scored per season, while batting .280. Last season, his first with the Tribe, he battled hamstring problems and hit .263 with 23 stolen bases in 130 mainly disappointing games. It was his worst season since 2008 and many a fantasy owner, including myself, seems skeptical about Bourn returning to prior glory, even though he’s only 31 years old.


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There's big news in the fantasy baseball world today, as the Houston Astros made the surprising but welcoming decision to promote intriguing outfield prospect George Springer to the major leagues for Wednesday's game. Springer was ESPN Fantasy's No. 7 prospect for 2014 production prior to the season. Perhaps as soon as Wednesday, Springer will deliver numbers we can use, and this is certainly meaningful news in all fantasy formats.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Springer
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonGeorge Springer definitely has home run pop, but he also has blazing speed, stealing a combined 45 bases between Double- and Triple-A in 2013.
I ranked Springer as my No. 5 prospect for this season, but had I suspected that he would be in the big leagues this soon, he might have been first, to be honest, ahead of even Chicago White Sox slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, polished New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, special Boston Red Sox shortstop/third baseman Xander Bogaerts and certainly overrated runner Billy Hamilton, who can't seem to hit big league pitching consistently. Yeah, I think Springer will be that good, a fantastic amalgamation of power and speed, more impactful in fantasy than all other rookies because he brings instant offense across all categories.

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Neil WalkerJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesEntering the season, Neil Walker had three career homers in April. He's got five already in 2014 with two weeks left in the month.

Big league second basemen don’t generally contend for home run titles, and when one comes along with enticing power, fantasy owners tend to gravitate toward that player. Last season, for example, 26 hitters managed to reach 26 or more home runs, and the only middle infielder among that group was Robinson Cano. In 2012, Cano also stood alone as a middle infielder among the 36 players who hit 27 or more home runs. This theme is partly why San Diego Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko and Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy bring special value as power hitters at positions that don’t generally provide those statistics.

It’s possible that Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is on his way to surprisingly joining the club of power-hitting middle infielders. Walker’s fantasy owners have already received three blasts this week -- he hit two of them in the rain on Monday -- and that means he’s only one off the big league lead with five home runs after 14 games. Walker has been a reliable yet modest fantasy contributor for years, hitting 12 or more home runs four consecutive seasons, including last year’s career-best 16, but he’s obviously on pace for far more after only two weeks.


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Homer BaileyFrank Victores/USA TODAY SportsHomer Bailey has improved his ERA each of the past five seasons, but has been hit hard in his three starts in 2014.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Homer Bailey entered his Monday outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates having been torched for four runs in each of two outings by the strong St. Louis Cardinals lineup, leaving many of his fantasy owners concerned. Bailey had permitted 16 hits in all over 9 1/3 innings, and despite the fact this was the No. 16 starting pitcher chosen in ESPN average live drafts this season, there were some people panicking and dropping him from rosters.

So what did Bailey do Monday, against a Pirates franchise he’s had the most success against in his career? He gave up four home runs in five odd innings, that’s what! In fairness, everyone except Dave Concepcion was seemingly hitting home runs in this crazy, rain-impacted game, one which is scheduled to be completed Tuesday, but still, now the Bailey panic meter will really rise. Bailey owners won’t care about the nine strikeouts with nary a walk, focusing solely on the negative, and Twitter was ablaze Monday night with one Bailey owner after another asking if he/she could drop him for the likes of Mark Buehrle, Aaron Harang and Scott Feldman, starting pitchers performing well above their means on the mostly irrelevant (at this stage) Player Rater so far.


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A second member of the top 10 in ESPN average live drafts has hit the disabled list, as Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw has company in Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. However, while Beltre was placed on the DL Sunday, it’s likely he could return before Kershaw, who hasn’t played in three weeks. In the case of Kershaw, the best pitcher in the game, his ailing back will be given plenty of time to heal. With Beltre, now the best third baseman since Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera moved to first base, his strained quad is not viewed as a serious problem, and an April return seems likely.

In other words, there are injuries fantasy owners might want to panic about, but Beltre’s doesn’t seem to be one of them. He was injured Tuesday in a game in which he singled, doubled and knocked in two runs, and he was deemed day-to-day after that. Beltre, who missed a total of seven games the past two seasons combined, sat out the entire weekend series with the Houston Astros, making his DL stint retroactive to April 9. I think one reason the Rangers feel comfortable without him for the short term is because they really seem to like replacement Kevin Kouzmanoff. It’s been only a few days, but Kouzmanoff, a 32-year-old journeyman whose last big league at-bat came in 2011, impressed in spring training (1.035 OPS) and has hit for modest power in the past. It might seem like he’s getting only a fortnight to prove himself, but who knows for sure? He could stick around if he hits. It’s not like David Ortiz is handling the team’s designated hitting duties, after all.

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Dayan ViciedoEd Zurga/Getty ImagesDayan Viciedo is a force against left-handed pitching, but rather underwhelming versus righties.

The loss of Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia for the rest of the season because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder shouldn't send shockwaves through the fantasy baseball world. After all, Garcia, 22, was owned in barely 10 percent of ESPN standard leagues at the time of Wednesday's injury, hitting .267 with two home runs. ESPN Fantasy projected him to hit 14 home runs and steal nine bases, so he wasn’t exactly a fantasy building block. However, the guy likely to replace Garcia on a regular basis really isn’t special, either.

Dayan Viciedo, the 25-year-old Cuban, saw his home run output fall from 25 in 2012 to 14 last year, and through 10 days of this season was essentially platooning with left fielder Alejandro De Aza. Viciedo bats right-handed and can’t do much with right-handed pitching, but now he's going to face it regularly. This is not a good thing. His big league career spans more than 1,200 plate appearances and while the .915 OPS against lefties shines, the .674 OPS against right-handers is a problem. Similarly, De Aza also will be exposed because he will, in theory, face all pitchers, even the lefties that tend to flummox him. De Aza has nary a hit in the past week after smacking a few home runs early, and unless he's stealing bases, he's not a top-50 outfielder, either.


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The Atlanta Braves debut for right-hander Ervin Santana could not have gone much better. The veteran Santana, who was signed seemingly out of desperation after two of the team's starting pitchers ruined their elbows, made his first start Wednesday at home against the New York Mets, and eight shutout innings later, having allowed three hits and nary a walk, with six strikeouts, Santana is 1-0.

The Braves are off to a 5-3 start thanks to their pitching, which has been outstanding (2.06 team ERA). Five Braves pitchers are owned in more than 90 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which is awfully rare. One is the game's top closer, right-hander Craig Kimbrel, who sure looked mortal Wednesday, and then the first four starters below. Let's take a closer look at the Braves rotation:

Santana: I generally have avoided this fellow in the past because of his year-to-year inconsistency; his good years have made him a fantasy boon, his bad years have killed fantasy teams.

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Josh HamiltonBob Levey/Getty ImagesJosh Hamilton had four multihit games and four extra-base hits in his first eight games.

Fantasy owners will be tempted to cut Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton now that he’s on the shelf for at least six weeks, and perhaps more than two months, with a thumb injury, but I think that’s a mistake. Sure, I can’t possibly know how many injured players your team is dealing with, and for standard leagues we get only one disabled list spot and three bench options. If you've got Clayton Kershaw, Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman, then yes, it’s going to be tough to keep Hamilton on your roster. But you really should try.


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Much-maligned Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun entered Tuesday with a .150 batting average, nary a home run or a run batted in and a worrisome thumb problem.

He'll enter Wednesday hitting .240 with three home runs, seven RBIs and yep, still that worrisome thumb problem. So I ask you with a relatively straight face, in the big picture, what really changed?

The talented Braun made a few adjustments and overcame mass booing in his personal paradise of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday to smack three no-doubt home runs and drive in a ridiculous seven in an impressive 10-4 victory. In 20 career games in this lovely -- and angry, at least Tuesday -- ballpark, Braun is hitting .405 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs. So yeah, Braun likes to hit in Philly and against pitchers such as Kyle Kendrick. Braun's fantasy owners wish he could play all his games in the Philly bandbox with the wind blowin' out, but he can't. Later this week it's back home to Milwaukee. Oh, and with that worrisome thumb problem.

[+] EnlargeRyan Braun
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesBrewers slugger Ryan Braun had been off to a slow start ... until Tuesday.
Braun proved for one afternoon that he is able to play and occasionally play well through this malady, which is nice, but it still doesn't change his overall fantasy value, unless you let it.

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