- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
With some teams already having played their 10th game of the young season and everyone else right there, it’s actually an opportune time to take another look at position eligibility for ESPN standard fantasy leagues. After all, the rule here for adding eligibility in-season is 10 games, and there are players affected by this, always in a positive way. The most noteworthy player adding eligibility -- that doesn’t mean he’s the best player, neccesarily -- is Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt. Last season, Vogt saw more action at first base and right field than behind the plate, but he needed 20 games at catcher for 2015 eligibility. He fell short. Vogt should gain this eligibility Friday night in Kansas City and while he’s certainly no Buster Posey, the case can be made for Vogt -- hitting .300 so far with a home run and the potential for 15 or so more -- as a top-10 catcher. Most catchers aren’t doing much so far.
The biggest name set to add eligibility is Boston Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez, but because he played last season as a shortstop, it’s pretty likely most fantasy owners simply will leave him at that position. Ramirez, and all others like him playing a new position, will not lose their eligibility during the season. If Ramirez fails to play 20 games at shortstop this season, however, then he’d lose the eligibility for 2016. Just want to clarify for all those who continue to ask the question in chats and on Twitter. Ramirez is arguably a top-20 player overall, and Saturday he figures to add outfield eligibility. That comes in handy, by the way. If your team loses an outfielder to the DL in June, and the best player available on free agency is a shortstop, then the versatility comes into play.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s Marcus Semien has played 10 games at shortstop, so he can now be used at second base, short and third base. Whether he’s going to hit and run consistently enough to be owned in a shallow league is another story, but he’s clearly going to play. Same goes for Washington Nationals infielder Yunel Escobar, who hit a first-inning home run Thursday. Escobar, a shortstop for years, played his 10th game at third base, and when Anthony Rendon returns to the lineup, Escobar will handle second base and eventually be eligible there as well. The Nationals really should consider using the competent Escobar at shortstop and move error-prone Ian Desmond to second or anywhere else, but they won’t.
The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman played his 10th game at first base Thursday, adding to his eligibility at third base and the outfield, while Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is one game from being a first baseman in ESPN leagues. It’s unlikely he’s more than a corner infielder for your team, though, so it doesn’t alter much.
For those still hanging onto Houston Astros slugger Chris Carter -- and you really shouldn’t give up on a potential home run leader after two weeks -- you’ll be able to move him from your utility slot to first base this weekend. David Ortiz, Carter and Kennys Vargas are pretty much the only three players one would consider for a standard league that are DH-only. Ortiz played a few games at first base in the opening Philadelphia interleague series, but he’s unlikely to get to 10. Vargas has a better shot, but so far he’s at one game there. I’m sticking with Carter. He’s got faults, but only one player hit more home runs last season. You don’t punt on that power so soon.
Finally, we realize not everyone plays at ESPN Fantasy, and some places allow new eligibility with a mere one game played in that season. I recall the joy, many years ago, of being able to use Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame outfielder Kirby Puckett at three infield positions in his final year. Former New York Mets outfielder Roger Cedeno, a top base stealer, once played second base for a third of an inning, triggering eligibility! And I’m sure there are many more.
Anyway, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez was forced to play an inning at second base last week, so check your league rules. I no longer play in a format in which one game triggers eligibility, but it still interests me. And by the way, Gomez is expected to be placed on the disabled list Friday with a small tear in his right hamstring. The injury shouldn’t cause Gomez to miss much more than the rest of April, however, so trade for the first-rounder with confidence. Nor is this injury serious enough that it figures to hamper his ability to steal bases the final five months. Gerardo Parra should handle center field in Gomez’s absence, and he’s a reasonable short-term addition. For those owning Khris Davis, and my hand is raised, this puts more pressure on him because if Parra hits, and we know he’s Gold Glove caliber, Davis could lose playing time when Gomez returns.
AL report: Speaking of speedsters who accumulate the stolen bases, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes left Thursday’s game early with a rib cage injury. This shouldn’t shock anyone, including Reyes owners. He played in 143 games in 2014, but has a long injury history. I’d say this is no big deal, since the team’s initial public statement echoed this, but at the time Gomez and Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Rios were hurt this week, their teams also appeared unconcerned and now they’re both on the DL. Steve Tolleson and Ryan Goins are capable of playing shortstop, but not helping fantasy owners, and if Reyes misses time, Dalton Pompey could lead off, which would be nice. … The Cleveland Indians will call up right-hander Danny Salazar to start Saturday’s contest in Minnesota. You know you’re going to want to use him, despite the fact he’s erratic at best. He had one good start in Triple-A, and many feel the Twins can’t hit (except they can). It’s a trap. … The underrated Vargas of the Twins homered Thursday. Several Twins hitters are nice buy-low options because of how so many blew their tough first week out of proportion. Get Brian Dozier quickly. … Keep ignoring Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. all you want, but he’s got two home runs and three stolen bases in 10 games. It’s all legit.
NL report: Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was dropped to the No. 7 spot in Thursday’s lineup against right-hander Doug Fister. Howard, who can’t catch up to fastballs anymore, singled in three at-bats, but don’t get excited. There’s nothing here. Like, not even 2014 numbers are looking possible. One wonders when the Phillies just give up and use Darin Ruf there all the time. … Cole Hamels will be fine. By far his worst career month is April, so all these home runs he’s allowing, ignore them. Last April his ERA was 6.75. For the season it ended up at 2.46. … There was no Yasmany Tomas in the starting lineup for the Arizona Diamondbacks against San Francisco Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner Thursday, which I think is just a harbinger of more bench time ahead. Tomas grounded out as a pinch hitter in extra innings and played left field for two innings. … Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers is going to be fine. Buy now. … Jean Segura replaced Gomez in the leadoff spot against right-hander John Lackey, which is ill-advised. Sure, Segura is off to a nice start, but Scooter Gennett gets on base better. The Brewers didn’t score, perhaps not-so-coincidentally. … I’m so pleased the people in my leagues didn’t view New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda as a top-100 player, so I could keep getting him. Duda looks great at the plate, and he’s really hanging in against lefties. He’s going to have a bigger year than 2014. … Great to see Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich back in the lineup after missing a game with a bad back. Perhaps it still hurts, but he looked fine stealing second base in the first inning before scoring on the Giancarlo Stanton blast over the right-center field wall.
Have a great weekend!
Eric Karabell discusses players adding key eligibility for ESPN fantasy formats.