- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Earlier this week, the popular injury for preseason top-five first basemen Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Votto was the quad. On Thursday fantasy owners got a few more jolts of bad news with thumb ligament injuries to St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. Neither was having a season commensurate with last year’s production or this spring’s average draft position, but still, they were worth owning, and it’s not like there’s much out there to replace them, even in the shallow leagues, at catcher or middle infield. Happy weekend! Please try to stay healthy, quads, thumbs and everything!
When it comes to catchers, here’s my current top 10 for the rest of the season, and unfortunately for Molina owners, these guys are owned in all leagues, or darn close to it. In order, I’d go Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana (yes, still), Devin Mesoraco (yes, top five now, by default), Wilin Rosario, Yan Gomes, Evan Gattis (but be careful here), Miguel Montero and Brian McCann. Molina is surely off the list. Just drop him when you can. Joe Mauer is on the DL, with no timetable for return. Derek Norris is my No. 11 catcher, then Mauer, and available options I’d recommend include the platooning Norris, brittle Wilson Ramos, batting-average killer (with pop) Mike Zunino, intriguing yet brittle youngster Travis d’Arnaud and versatile Stephen Vogt. I’m sure Adam Wainwright will love throwing to A.J. Pierzynski. Perhaps John Buck instead.
With Phillips, who has hit seven home runs just like Molina, it’s a similar situation. Move on. Phillips isn’t expected to miss quite as much time, though, so it’s understandable if you decide to wait, but make sure you’re aware of his numbers. They’re not special. Plus, neither Molina nor Phillips was hitting for much power prior and each has stolen only one base. At least Molina was among my top-five catchers still. Phillips has been out of my top-10 second basemen all year. The list, to be thorough, would be: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Anthony Rendon, Jose Altuve, Brian Dozier, Jason Kipnis, Dustin Pedroia, Dee Gordon, Daniel Murphy and Matt Carpenter. Phillips wasn’t 11th, either. He had a long run of success but, the massive and misleading RBI total last year notwithstanding, regression hit him hard.
Face it, injuries are often the great equalizer in any fantasy sport. You’re zooming along in first place, and then your ace (New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka), catcher (Molina, Mauer, Gattis, take your pick) and first baseman leave you. At least we can all count on Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez returning this weekend, right? Think positive!
NL report: More injuries! Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left his Thursday outing prematurely with patella tendon pain in his right knee, but with the All-Star break just about here, this shouldn’t be a big deal. At least it’s not an arm problem! Bailey, for all the whining about him, has been really good for the past month. … Chicago Cubs second base prospect Arismendy Alcantara lashed four hits and knocked in three runs in his second big league game Thursday, which is awesome except the team claims the non-hitting Darwin Barney remains the starter when he returns from paternity leave this weekend. Whatever. Don’t buy it. Add Alcantara anyway in deep leagues in case it changes. … If you were waiting on Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Marco Estrada to turn his season around, or for him to break the record for home runs allowed, forget it. He’s in the bullpen now, as strikeout prospect Jimmy Nelson will start Saturday. The way the St. Louis Cardinals haven’t been hitting -- Edinson Volquez, of all people, tossed a complete game in their house Thursday! -- Nelson is an intriguing play. … Volquez cannot be ignored any longer, after permitting three runs over his past four outings, all wins. And the Pirates are looking like a team to believe in for the second half. He’s allowed one home run over seven starts! … Honestly, I think I’d pay just about whatever the Clayton Kershaw owner desires at this point to acquire him. He’s going to win the Player Rater.
AL report: The update on the Yankees’ Tanaka isn’t so positive, as his partial UCL tear will need at least six weeks to heal, and even then, Tommy John surgery remains an option. Is this why we can’t have nice things? But you can’t drop him, as this is somewhat positive news. … Hope you didn’t add Texas Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis for the Thursday home matchup against the Los Angeles Angels. Lewis, who had permitted two runs in each of his previous two starts, was charged with a painful 13 runs (11 earned) in 2 1/3 innings. It should go without saying that he’s not worth owning. … Myriad Angels enjoyed their evening at the ballpark, including outfielder Kole Calhoun, who had four hits and scored four times. Calhoun is one of the most-added players in ESPN leagues, and for good reason. It’s legit, too. … Angels lefty C.J. Wilson was placed on the DL with a moderate ankle sprain, which had to be the cause for his awful performance of late, right? Wilson is usually reliable, but he’s allowed six runs in three of his past four outings. Buy for August. … More love surely should be shown for Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana. He allowed two hits and three runs over seven innings at Fenway Park Thursday, fanning seven. Quintana’s been outstanding over the past month, but remains available in half of ESPN’s leagues. … The relatively unknown Texas Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski had three hits and three RBIs Thursday, but his minor league stats hardly impress. This is about opportunity, and if you invest, be prepared to move on soon. … Desperate for steals, I added Minnesota Twins outfielder Sam Fuld a few days ago, and it’s gone very well. That could change when Danny Santana is healthy, but Fuld is such an interesting fellow -- and now contributing in fantasy -- this makes me smile.
Have an awesome weekend and look for my coverage of the All-Star game festivities from Minneapolis and comprehensive coverage of the second half of the season from myself and the ESPN Fantasy staff, including rankings and analysis, next week!