- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The No. 2 catcher on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater started at designated hitter for the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, hitting a pair of singles in five at-bats and raising his batting average to an impressive .341. Then again, nobody knows when Matt Wieters will actually be back behind the plate due to a sore throwing elbow and potential UCL tear that will necessitate a trip to see the famed Dr. James Andrews, who seems to be performing a daily Tommy John surgery. In other words, after this pending appointment, Wieters’ future for the Orioles and fantasy owners is certainly fraught with peril because yes, non-pitchers occasionally need the surgery as well.
It would be quite a shame if Wieters saw his season end, because he’s on pace for his best numbers yet, not only with a batting average roughly 90 points above his career norm, but in terms of power as well. Wieters seemed a relative bargain in ESPN live drafts, going in the 16th round and ninth at his position, but remember there’s only one active catcher slot in standard formats. It’s not likely that the Orioles would continue to use him at DH, instead opting to get the elbow fixed. If Wieters needs only a short disabled list stint, the case can be made to wait for his return or to simply move on, drop him and find someone else. After all, Wieters is likely to see major batting average regression to start with, since his BABIP is really elevated and he’s drawing a walk per week. In multi-catcher formats, keep him owned if it’s only a DL stint, but it could be far worse.
For those in single-catcher leagues, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Miami Marlins), Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia Phillies) and A.J. Pierzynski (Boston Red Sox) are readily available and smart pickups. Also, the Washington Nationals figure to welcome back Wilson Ramos from the DL later this week, and Ramos was a top-10 catcher -- right after Wieters -- on draft day. Put simply, for standard formats there’s plenty of depth available. In multi-catcher leagues, it’s worth investing in Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners), Wellington Castillo (Chicago Cubs), Derek Norris (Oakland Athletics) and Yasmani Grandal (San Diego Padres). And for even deeper formats, keep an eye on the catcher the Orioles could potentially use. Steve Clevenger started Tuesday, but Caleb Joseph hit .299 with 22 home runs and 97 RBIs for Double-A Bowie last season, so he could quickly become relevant upon promotion.
AL report: Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion slammed a long home run off Cole Hamels on Tuesday, his third of the season. Maybe there aren’t another 30 long balls pending, but you’re running out of time to buy low here. ... For all the talk about Detroit Tigers corner infielder Miguel Cabrera struggling, his four-hit day Tuesday upped his batting average to .293, and he has 23 RBIs. It could have been so much worse. It could have been Prince Fielder, who couldn’t even do much this week at Coors Field. ... Good news: Adrian Beltre is no longer homerless, after he went deep at Coors Field on Tuesday. Not that anyone should have been worried. ... Tigers lefty Robbie Ray won in his big league debut Tuesday, allowing one run over 5 1/3 innings against the Houston Astros. Ray should start again this weekend against the Minnesota Twins, but the return of Anibal Sanchez likely will result in a return trip to Triple-A. Remember the name when he’s promoted again. ... Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce hit his first home run, but he’s not worth adding. Chris Davis should return in about a week.
NL report: Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw made a triumphant return to the mound with seven innings of shutout baseball at Washington on Tuesday. Kershaw, on the disabled list for five weeks with an ailing back, struck out nine. He should be in all active lineups. ... Atlanta Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd made his organization debut with seven strong innings of one-run ball against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he looks safe for more starts. That means either Aaron Harang or Alex Wood will be bullpen-bound. Since each is nearly universally owned, that’s a big deal. ... Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, back in the cleanup spot, had two hits and his fifth RBI of a disappointing season. Johnson rarely walks and his current BABIP is not due for adjustment, but he’s a career .286 hitter and it’s a good time to buy low on him. ... New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon bounced back from a tough Coors Field outing with seven solid innings of three-run ball in Miami, but right-hander Henderson Alvarez was better, tossing the six-hit shutout. Alvarez looks legit, but Colon needs to be owned as well, even in standard formats. ... Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings hit his first big league home run Tuesday, and as long as he keeps hitting .300 -- and there’s no reason to believe it’s a fluke -- there should be at least 10 more. Owings, the team’s No. 2 hitter, is pretty undervalued as a power/speed option. ... Andrelton Simmons batted ninth Tuesday in a home game with the pitcher hitting eighth. No, it makes no sense at all, and Simmons should be hitting anywhere else -- bad catcher Gerald Laird (.194) hit fifth! -- but don’t make any fantasy decisions due to this bit of manager ridiculousness/incompetence.
Closer report: Cleveland Indians right-hander Bryan Shaw saved Tuesday’s win, as neither Cody Allen nor John Axford was available. Who gets the next save? Probably Axford, the worst of the three pitchers, but Shaw is having a nice season so it shouldn’t be presumed that Allen is solely next. ... Los Angeles Angels right-hander Ernesto Frieri isn’t officially back in the closer role yet, but with Joe Smith dealing with tightness in his right side, it seems inevitable. ... A night after Toronto Blue Jays lefty Aaron Loup pitched in the seventh inning, he got the 10th-inning save chance Tuesday and converted the Marcus Stroman victory, the rookie’s first. Tomorrow, it could be Tom Henke saving the game for all anyone knows, next week it’s likely Casey Janssen. For those wondering about Stroman, the fact he was used in a tie game in the ninth inning is a strong sign that yes, he could wind up in the role should Janssen not make it back or get hurt again. The team really should make him a starter, though.