- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
A second member of the top 10 in ESPN average live drafts has hit the disabled list, as Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw has company in Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. However, while Beltre was placed on the DL Sunday, it’s likely he could return before Kershaw, who hasn’t played in three weeks. In the case of Kershaw, the best pitcher in the game, his ailing back will be given plenty of time to heal. With Beltre, now the best third baseman since Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera moved to first base, his strained quad is not viewed as a serious problem, and an April return seems likely.
In other words, there are injuries fantasy owners might want to panic about, but Beltre’s doesn’t seem to be one of them. He was injured Tuesday in a game in which he singled, doubled and knocked in two runs, and he was deemed day-to-day after that. Beltre, who missed a total of seven games the past two seasons combined, sat out the entire weekend series with the Houston Astros, making his DL stint retroactive to April 9. I think one reason the Rangers feel comfortable without him for the short term is because they really seem to like replacement Kevin Kouzmanoff. It’s been only a few days, but Kouzmanoff, a 32-year-old journeyman whose last big league at-bat came in 2011, impressed in spring training (1.035 OPS) and has hit for modest power in the past. It might seem like he’s getting only a fortnight to prove himself, but who knows for sure? He could stick around if he hits. It’s not like David Ortiz is handling the team’s designated hitting duties, after all.
Remember, much of Kouzmanoff’s prior work came with the San Diego Padres. It’s quite a bit easier to hit in Arlington. Kouzmanoff is clearly no Beltre at the plate or in the field, but the team felt compelled to slot him instantly in the No. 5 lineup role after the struggling Prince Fielder, with Alex Rios moved to third, and he has five hits in his first 12 at-bats. This week, the Rangers are scheduled to play seven home games, and among them the opposition is scheduled to start several left-handers. Is the right-handed-hitting Kouzmanoff really so much worse an option than the names listed next? Well, he’s probably not. And remember, those owning Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman also need a replacement, since he broke a thumb and is out at least a month.
There are several third base-eligible options available in more than half of ESPN’s standard leagues and among the top-100 performers on the Player Rater. They include the Minnesota Twins’ Trevor Plouffe, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Mark Reynolds, the Chicago White Sox's Marcus Semien and Conor Gillaspie and the New York Yankees’ Yangervis Solarte. Of that group, Plouffe and Gillaspie seem reasonable short-term options, but they don’t figure to hit for a high batting average for long. Others not off to particularly good starts but still proven to various degrees include the Los Angeles Angels’ David Freese, Dodgers’ Juan Uribe, Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas and Houston Astros’ Matt Dominguez. So yeah, adding Kouzmanoff isn’t so wild.
NL report: Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon stole four bases Sunday, and his 1-for-3 performance actually dropped his batting average to .400. How many Billy Hamilton owners are jealous? Gordon remains an average (at best) hitter off to a great start, but he really could keep the second base job and steal a ton of bases. Add him if you need steals. … Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto was moved to second in the lineup, interesting considering his affinity for taking walks. Votto also homered Sunday. While Votto’s RBI totals certainly wouldn’t be helped if he keeps hitting second, you didn’t draft him for that anyway. … Perhaps outfielder Jay Bruce has been paying attention to Votto’s patience; Bruce walked and scored four times Sunday. … Nationals center fielder Denard Span hit the 7-day DL with a concussion, which would have made Nate McLouth an interesting addition for the week, except he has knee soreness. Bryce Harper, now hitting .310 incidentally -- yeah, some slow start! -- handled center field Sunday. Basically, don’t add McLouth and Span isn’t worth owning in standard formats, either. And as for the Zimmerman problem, as we noted last week, Anthony Rendon handles third base and the underrated Danny Espinosa is again a factor at second. … While nobody was looking, perpetually underrated Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Kyle Lohse fanned nine Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday and just missed a complete game. Lohse has 21 strikeouts in three starts and yes, as always, remains readily available. … Shocking news! Brett Anderson is hurt again! His broken finger will keep him out at least a month. It’s a shame because he’s got skills, but you can’t invest in the lefty.
AL report: Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb hasn’t allowed a run in his past two outings, but the injury conga line stops for no one, performing like an ace or not. Cobb strained an oblique and is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks. It’s a tough loss for an emerging pitcher, but try to keep him in your DL slot. He was worth it last year, too. … Minnesota Twins catcher Josmil Pinto homered Friday and Sunday, and he’s seeing at-bats at designated hitter as well. For those in multi-catcher formats, he’s become an attractive own already. … Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist homered from each side of the plate Sunday, and nobody’s talking about his slow start anymore. He’s hitting .277. … I would never have drafted Baltimore Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to start with, and after Sunday’s five-run, 10-hit pounding, he’s 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA. He’s not worth the upside. … Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus homered off Jimenez, and also homered Saturday. Rasmus is one of the most-dropped players in ESPN leagues, but he’s the same guy that hit more than 20 home runs three of four seasons. He should do so again. … Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle won again Sunday, allowing one run in seven innings. His ERA is 0.86. Buehrle is durable and he gets wins without killing your ERA, but you must sell high. … The short-handed Yankees were forced to use outfielder Carlos Beltran at first base Sunday night. While it’s unlikely he gets nine more games there to add new eligibility in ESPN formats, stranger things have happened.
Closer report: Texas Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando saved Sunday’s win over the Houston Astros, but the team maintains that Joakim Soria is still the closer. Soria was not available after pitching Friday and losing Saturday. … Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara left the team for exams on a stiff shoulder, with right-hander Edward Mujica filling in as closer. Uehara, it should be noted, is 39 and has yet to deliver consecutive seasons of 50 or more innings in this country. Mujica is a wise addition in all formats just in case. … Chicago Cubs right-hander Jose Veras lost the closer role but Pedro Strop was not named immediate replacement. It’s a committee and several names are likely involved, but add Strop first. Veras doesn’t need to be owned any longer. … New York Mets closer Jose Valverde served up a Raul Ibanez game-tying homer Saturday. Hey, own Valverde at your own risk. He could lose the role at any time. … Brewers lefty Will Smith earned a one-out save Sunday because Francisco Rodriguez had pitched three consecutive days. Had a right-handed batter been at the plate and not the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez, perhaps Jim Henderson would have closed. I still think Henderson and his 0.00 ERA will get his chance again. … I wouldn’t trade for Cleveland Indians closer John Axford after Sunday’s blown save and loss. Then again, I wouldn’t have drafted him. Get Cody Allen soon. … And finally, in Oakland, many are dropping the established, struggling Jim Johnson, but I still think he gets the closer role back. Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle picked up weekend saves and they’re good, but likely sharing the role.