Lawrie to the DL
Proving that no position is too deep in Fantasy baseball, Brett Lawrie is the latest third baseman who will start the season on the disabled list. He suffered a strained rib muscle and left intercostal muscle during a World Baseball Classic scrimmage in early March. The Blue Jays announced on Monday he would begin the season on the disabled list.
Fellow third basemen Chase Headley (broken thumb) and David Wright (strained intercostal muscle) also suffered WBC injuries. Hanley Ramirez, who has Fantasy eligibility at both 3B and SS, also suffered a thumb injury in WBC action; he will miss almost two months to start the season. Wright is the only one who appears to be ready for the beginning of the season.
Lawrie had just started to play catch last week and hoped to get into spring training games early this week. His DL stint should not be viewed as a setback, necessarily, but an acknowledgement that he’ll need time to get back into baseball shape. We would not expect a lengthy absence, though an early-season slump when he returns wouldn’t surprise us.
Lawrie has an Average Draft Position of 74 this spring in National Fantasy Baseball Championship leagues, the eighth third baseman off the board. Owners clearly have been hesitant to draft him and we would expect his ADP to fall now, to perhaps around 90. He will be an ideal pick for a Corner Infield spot, giving an owner good depth at the hot corner, with plenty of first baseman to choose from as well.
Last season, the 23-year-old Lawrie hit .273 for Toronto with 11 HRs and 48 RBI in his first full season. Given the Blue Jays’ wholesale changes in the off-season — and this injury — Lawrie should enjoy a low-pressure season with tempered expectations. While we wouldn’t expect a breakout season, we know that if he’s healthy, he brings great potential for value.
While Lawrie is hurt, we would expect the 28-year-old Emilio Bonifacio to inherit at-bats. It’s likely Bonifacio would play 2B while Maicer Izturis slides over to third, where he played 30 games last season. Bonifacio has 50 SB potential if he plays every day. With a formidable OF of Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion plus Jose Bautista at DH, Bonifacio might have to make his living on the IF this season. He played CF in 51 of his 64 games a season ago. Last season he hit .258 with 1 HR, 11 RBI and 30 SBs in 244 ABs.
Bonifacio is the 58th OF being drafted, on average, according to NFBC. His ADP is 217, about where he belongs considering he will not see IF eligibility right away in many leagues. If your league rules qualify him at 2B, or have a low games-played qualifying number, you should move him up your draft sheets, but do not reach or overbid for him. He will provide some roster flexibility for you and should be a nice player to plug in on your starters’ days off.
Yankees Acquire Vernon Wells
The Vernon-Wells-to-the-Yankees trade includes almost everything – a big name, two big cities, millions of dollars, contractual requirements, and lineup changes. It also carries the potential to shake up some Fantasy baseball drafts, particularly in AL-only leagues.
Of course, Wells stands to see significantly more playing time in the short term. He is presumed to compete with the recently-signed Brennan Boesch in left field, joining Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in the Yankees OF.
The Yankees now have a logjam of options at first base and designated hitter. Juan Rivera, once the presumed replacement in the Yankees outfield for Curtis Granderson, is likely to see considerable playing time; newcomer Kevin Youkilis is also an option at 1B while young speedster Eduardo Nunez occupies 3B. Travis Hafner is slated as the Yankees DH, but he is likely to yield ABs to Rivera, Boesch and Nunez at DH as the Yankees try different combinations early in the season.
Wells was part of a crowded outfield mix in Anaheim with Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton and did not figure to be in the lineup every day.
Wells has not been drafted much this spring, with an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 498 in National Fantasy Baseball Championship leagues. As a starting outfielder for the Yankees, Wells would be selected late in most drafts. His playing time last season was limited due to a mid-season thumb injury. Overall, he hit .249 with 14 HR and 38 RBI in 289 at bats for the Angels. At age 34, he in unlikely to improve much, but a full season at full strength might make him Fantasy-relevant again.
Mark Teixeira stands to miss a significant portion of the season with a wrist injury. The club is waiting to determine if Teixeira needs surgery on his wrist, which would put him out for the season.
Nunez has become a popular sleeper pick in drafts; in National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts he is being taken, on average, at number 364. He should be drafted much earlier because the Yankees were eager to find him playing time even before any of their spring injuries occurred.
The Wells trade, however, could have more to do with shortstop than any other position. Club management recently indicated that SS Derek Jeter may have to open the season on the disabled list after off-season surgery for a broken ankle. If the club expects him to miss a decent amount of time, the Wells trade provides more than adequate insurance. If Jeter begins the year on the disabled list Nunez would fill his position while Rivera and Youk play first and third, respectively.
Those who have drafted Jeter, Nunez, Rivera and Boesch need to stay tuned to this story, while Wells might now make a good waiver wire claim or late draft pick.