A miserable season for the Toronto Blue Jays got a bit worse Tuesday when slugging outfielder Jose Bautista left the afternoon portion of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium with left hip soreness. It didn’t seem like much at the time, perhaps a needed break for a tired player, but then it became significant when Bautista was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise. The team expects to give Bautista a few weeks of rest before evaluating, but as every fantasy owner knows, when the player’s team is floundering in last place this late in the season, it can often mean the player is hardly rushed back to the lineup, if not shut down for the winter.
Bautista enters Wednesday the No. 12 outfielder on the ESPN Player Rater, with 28 home runs and 73 RBIs, and his .259 batting average isn’t helpful, but it’s an improvement on last season. This type of power isn’t readily available in fantasy leagues, but it’s worth asking whether Bautista is a bit overrated; after all, since hitting 97 home runs in 2010-11, he’s battled injuries and presented a batting average problem. Sure, the 55 home runs over 210 games the past two seasons are nice, but is this really a top-20 player, which is where he was selected in ESPN live drafts?
At 32, Bautista isn’t too old to contribute to a winning Blue Jays or fantasy squad, but expectations should be kept in check, too. His walk and fly ball rates dropped this season, and each was paramount in creating the monster who hit 54 home runs a few seasons back. Pitchers don’t fear the guy as much as they used to. He still makes contact, and obviously there’s nothing wrong with 28 home runs, a figure currently topped by only six players, but fantasy owners likely target Bautista hoping for a return to MVP numbers. As of now he’s looking like a fourth-rounder to me for 2014 drafts, and we can only hope he provides something the rest of this season.
As for Toronto’s outfield, it’s a lot of speed and little else, with Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar handling things. If you need power to replace Bautista, stay in the United States and see if the following are available in your league: Nate Schierholtz, Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Chris Carter, Darin Ruf, Nick Swisher.
Box score bits (AL): The Boston Red Sox unveiled top prospect Xander Bogaerts on Tuesday, and he was hitless in three at-bats. Red Sox fans -- and fantasy owners -- seem to think he is a regular player now, and we hope he hits enough to make it true, but that seems unlikely with shortstop Stephen Drew hitting right-handed pitching well enough and Will Middlebrooks handling third base well of late. … I caught some of the Alex Cobb performance in Baltimore on Tuesday, and it’s hard to imagine anyone is throwing a better curveball right now. Cobb allowed one earned run over six innings, though he seemed to tire in the seventh. He’s a top-50 starting pitcher and should be owned everywhere. … Watching Rick Porcello get tuned up Tuesday, one has to wonder whether lefty Drew Smyly wouldn’t be a significant upgrade. Should Smyly move into the rotation -- and there’s no sign of it happening -- I’d become interested in many leagues. Porcello is just so hittable. … Houston Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart certainly hasn’t seemed overwhelmed in the big leagues. He was leading the Texas Rangers on Tuesday before Adrian Beltre reached out and hit an opposite-field home run the sixth inning. Cosart suffered his first loss in seven outings, and while having 21 strikeouts versus 21 walks is troubling, good offenses are not hitting him. … I’d certainly rather own Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray, though. Gray permitted two hits in seven dominant innings Tuesday. He’s not losing his rotation spot for anyone. … Perhaps Los Angeles Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos should have stayed on the DL: With Tuesday’s 0-for-6 performance, he’s hitless in 18 at-bats since being activated. Yikes.
Box score bits (NL): Cincinnati Reds lefty Tony Cingrani left his Tuesday outing early with a lower back strain, and it’s tough to see him making his next start. Right-hander Johnny Cueto isn’t ready to come off the DL himself. Perhaps right-hander Daniel Corcino is summoned from Triple-A Louisville, but with his walk rate, I wouldn’t go near him even in an NL-only format. … And there it is, a career-high 21 home runs for New York Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd. I remain amazed. … Fantasy owners need to run away from Miami Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner. He allowed 10 hits and five walks to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. In his previous outing he walked six Kansas City Royals. His last strikeout came Aug. 9. That’s right, 11 walks and nary a whiff in consecutive starts. Something’s wrong. … With David DeJesus having been traded to the Washington Nationals, where his fantasy value dips to nothing, Junior Lake will handle center field. I understand relying on Lake because he’s shortstop-eligible, but this is not a great fantasy option. He doubled and stole his second base Tuesday, but when the .383 BABIP falls, watch out. … Brandon Belt singled, doubled and tripled Tuesday, and now is hitting .276 for the season, .315 over the past month and is likely to reach 20 home runs. Yes, this is why we’ve been discussing this guy for years. … San Diego Padres right-hander Tyson Ross allowed five runs (four earned) to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, but really wasn’t that bad. He was probably left in the game a few batters too long. Ross had permitted five runs in his past five outings, with major strikeout totals. If you’re relying on him in a deep league, keep doing so.