For a few years now, I've judged Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman a bit harsher than most, wondering if injuries would eventually be his downfall and his destiny was to be known as this decade's version of Scott Rolen -- and not for positive reasons. Zimmerman has power and can hit for average, but all the missed games are a problem for fantasy owners. Alas, he's now on the disabled list.
However, after seeing the news that Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria will miss the next four to eight weeks -- that's quite a wide range, isn't it? -- after partially tearing his left hamstring in a failed stolen base attempt in Monday's game, he's looking like a better, albeit similarly flawed, version of Zimmerman. A season ago, Longoria played in only 133 games. He missed 26 games early in the season because of an oblique injury, and it might have contributed to him struggling at the plate (he hit a career-low .244).
Longoria is a wonderfully balanced player, injuries aside. He made my top 10 for fantasy in 2012 and was my real-life AL MVP favorite. This is his fifth season, and he already has reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs twice, won a rookie of the year award and a pair of Gold Gloves. He seemed well on his way to his top fantasy season, but now he might be lost for the next two months, as it's possible he'll need surgery to fix the hamstring. Even if Longoria has another monster second half like last season, when he slugged 20 home runs and knocked in 57 over 72 games, these missed games add up. Zimmerman fell to my fourth round this year. Perhaps Longoria won't slip that far for 2013 drafts, but it's tough to imagine him being a top-25 player with these durability woes.
If you own Longoria, you shouldn't cut him or deal him for 50 cents on the dollar. It's possible that Longoria will return in a month and put up another terrific final few months. After all, Longoria did enter Tuesday 14th overall on the ESPN Player Rater, behind only Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Aviles among third basemen. Let's just say of that threesome, Longoria had the best chance to maintain the strong performance, as he is hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs and an OPS more than 100 points higher than any of his previous seasons. At this point, just hope he'll be back in June and he can recreate the power from last year.
As for the Rays, they are a deep team, but not at third base. Elliot Johnson and Jeff Keppinger seem to be the fill-ins for now, and neither is enticing. Johnson is a career .189 hitter who stole bases in the minors, but last year he was 6-for-13 in big league steal attempts. Keppinger is a utility guy who hits left-handed pitching but offers little power or speed. Outfielder Matt Joyce replaced Longoria in the No. 3 lineup slot against Seattle Mariners right-hander Hector Noesi on Tuesday, and is due for an upgrade if this continues. He already is 100 percent owned in ESPN leagues, though. Infielder Will Rhymes was called up from Triple-A Durham, where he was hitting .231 with one home run. He's not worth a look in any type of league.
A note of interest that might fly under the radar: To make room for Rhymes, the Rays transferred relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth from the 15- to the 60-day DL. This is significant. It was originally thought that Farnsworth, last year's closer with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA, would return from his strained elbow in early May. Now it will be at least early June. I never thought I'd write this, but the way right-hander Fernando Rodney has been pitching, including Tuesday's save (his eighth already) in which he struck out the side and lowered his ERA to 0.79, he likely will keep the job. It's time to cut Farnsworth in standard leagues.
As for non-Rays options readily available in ESPN leagues who could replace Longoria, there are a few power options out there, but they could hurt your batting average. Baltimore's Chris Davis is hitting .476 with four home runs in the past week, but he's also a career .256 hitter who strikes out a lot. Pedro Alvarez has four home runs and four multihit games in the past week, and is hitting .222. Say what you will about Ty Wigginton, but he had a 13-game hitting streak until Sunday, and is hitting .317 with 10 RBIs. Chipper Jones, Mat Gamel, Jed Lowrie and Alex Liddi are also worth a look.