- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman/outfielder Martin Prado is already owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues, but his value rises a bit now that starting second baseman Aaron Hill has been placed on the disabled list for perhaps four to six weeks with a broken left hand. The transaction occurred Tuesday night, and Prado played his third game of the season at second base later against the New York Yankees, meaning by some point next week, Prado could possibly add more eligibility and help owners who have lost middle infielders Hill and Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Hill injury is a real bummer, because the 72nd player chosen in ESPN average live drafts finished as the 12th-best hitter on the ESPN Player Rater last season. I thought his ADP was a bit harsh considering he was coming off an outstanding season with 26 home runs, 14 stolen bases and a .302 batting average, combined with the position he plays. Only 21 players who qualified for the batting title hit .302 or better last season, and the only three with more home runs and stolen bases than Hill were fantasy first-rounders Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen, all outfielders. That's it. And Hill has hit 26 or more home runs three of the past four seasons, proving that that wasn't a fluke, and he stole 21 bases in 2011.
Hill was originally hit by a James McDonald pitch a full week ago, missed a few games, batted twice over the weekend and then apparently realized he couldn't play through the malady. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues hate when an injured player hits the DL on a Tuesday, a day after the deadline, but trust me, it's worse when someone plays through an injury and goes into a 2-for-20 slump. Hill has had batting average issues in the past, too. Ultimately, I had him ranked a good two rounds earlier than where he was going, in part because I don't want to be stuck at middle infield. Now many of his owners are indeed stuck at middle infield, and Prado won't be eligible there for next Monday's deadline (nor will Toronto's Brett Lawrie, if that happens at all), so the search for help won't be pretty.
When Reyes was injured over the weekend, I listed Jedd Gyorko, Stephen Drew, Dustin Ackley, Jeff Keppinger and Mark Ellis as the better middle infield options available, and honestly, little has changed in three days. The Diamondbacks have several parts to play with -- some who can hit, some who cannot -- in the aftermath of their No. 3 hitter in the lineup going down, but fantasy owners might not be as lucky. Still, as I wrote and said recently about Reyes, Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver, you can't drop Hill in any league, as he's an asset from June moving forward.
Prado can play just anywhere on the field; for those in one-game eligibility formats, he is eligible at shortstop as well. Eric Chavez started at third base against right-hander Ivan Nova (who didn't get pounded, but certainly did not look good), but won't start against lefties. Prado is an underrated hitter as well, a batting average helper who hits double-digit home runs each year, and in 2012 stole a surprising 17 bases (after swiping four the season prior). I do think, however, that Prado's ultimate destination depends on how others fair, and it's not just Chavez.
There will be considerable buzz in the coming days about young shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was promoted to the majors Tuesday. His right elbow strain has healed, and he was hitting .387 with two home runs, two doubles, two walks and only one strikeout in 33 plate appearances at Triple-A Reno. OK, so it's Reno and everyone hits there, but Gregorius brings a reputation for fielding excellence and little else. The general consensus is that the Diamondbacks risked looking silly for the offseason three-way trade that brought Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds and cost former first-round pick Trevor Bauer, now with the Cleveland Indians. Here is what colleague Keith Law said about the December trade at the time, and it doesn't spell much fantasy value for Gregorius.
Gregorius didn't play Tuesday, and he probably will not be even as valuable from a fantasy sense as relative afterthought Cliff Pennington, who has been handling the shortstop duties. Pennington hasn't attempted a stolen base, which is basically the lone reason to own him in deep fantasy formats. Expect Gregorius to push Pennington aside and remind people of Andrelton Simmons defensively, but not at the plate. Gregorius saw 20 at-bats for the Reds last season, hitting six singles, and in the minor leagues he did not hit for average or power or take walks, and he was a terrible percentage base stealer. Other than that, I guess, he's awesome, though he'll be fun to watch in the field, which fantasy owners forget does matter to the Diamondbacks.
With Gerardo Parra doing nice work in center field -- at the plate and in the field -- and Prado mainly an infielder for the foreseeable future, I'm at least curious to see if A.J. Pollock can keep up his recent fine play before recovering players push him aside. Pollock started in left field against the Yankees on Tuesday, hitting a pair of doubles in four at-bats. Now 25, he isn't one of the team's noteworthy prospects, but he hit .318 at Reno last season with 21 stolen bases. He brings speed, on-base skills and can handle center field, and with Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton on the disabled list, he should play this month, along with power prospect Alfredo Marte. Ultimately, though, the Arizona outfield figures to be Kubel, Eaton and Cody Ross in right field, which is why Parra owners should consider selling high while they can.
Eric Karabell discusses the Aaron Hill injury, the difficulty replacing him in fantasy, and what this could mean for Martin Prado's eligibility.