- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Those who have selected Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes in the past did so knowing that while injury is a risk with all players, with him it's just a bit more of a consideration. Reyes, still one of the league's preeminent base stealers and off to a fantastic start to the 2013 season, won't be helping anyone for a while after badly spraining his left ankle Friday night. It's yet another serious blow to fantasy owners in a week full of them.
While it's reasonable to point out Reyes played in 160 games for the Miami Marlins last season, from 2009 to 2011 he averaged only 98 games played, though he remained productive and one of the coveted middle infielders in fantasy. Through 10 games this season, some on artificial turf, which was a potential concern knowing his oft-injured hamstrings, Reyes is hitting .395, including Friday when he singled, knocked in two runs and stole his fifth base in as many attempts. That's not something easily replaceable in free agency, even in shallow leagues. Reyes, 11th on the Player Rater entering Saturday's games, is No. 25 in ESPN average live drafts.
As of this writing, the range of absence for Reyes stands at one to three months, a pretty big disparity, but even if he returns on the short end of the estimate, there's risk that he will not be able to do the things expected from him -- using his legs to great success. I think that's a bit overrated; Reyes overcame his brittle tag in 2012 and the chronic hamstring woes that plagued him. This is a fluke injury. Sprains to ligaments and tendons can be more serious and take longer to heal than broken bones, so we await word on MRI results. Regardless, you can't cut Reyes in a fantasy league.
Sure, it's been a tough week for long-term injuries, and for some teams, it might not be possible to keep Reyes and injured Los Angeles right-handers Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver all on the bench, but if you have to choose, pick Reyes.
The Blue Jays, already sans seemingly brittle third baseman Brett Lawrie, do have potential options in Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis, though it's expected the financially potent franchise will look elsewhere for help. Ah, where's John McDonald when you really need him? Bonifacio has yet to steal a base and has been horrendous defensively at second base, so it's unlikely he would be asked to handle shortstop regularly. Izturis could handle it, but he isn't much of a hitter. Munenori Kawasaki could be brought up, but that's not very exciting. Bonifacio appears prominently on ESPN's most dropped list, but I believe that's a mistake. He stole 40 bases in 2011 and 30 in only 64 contests last year, so be patient. He's not Reyes, but ESPN Fantasy projected Bonifacio to steal more bases.
Entering Saturday, 35 middle infield-eligible players were owned in 50 percent or more of ESPN standard mixed leagues, including the fast-rising Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers, who I really recommend. Fantasy owners should not necessarily try to replace Reyes with a base stealer, but consider team needs and overall value. Perhaps a 15-homer shortstop awaits and you can add steals somewhere else. If you have pitching depth, see if the Greinke owner needs some of it. Regardless, here are 10 more readily available names that I would consider, in order:
Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox: I blogged about him this week, and while I don't expect the 15-homer, 60-RBI season he used to provide, it certainly is possible. Hopefully he's not a good comparison for Reyes, coming off a severe ankle injury. It took Drew a long time to recover.