By Thomas McFeeley and Scott Engel
Over the last few days, the hot corner has been the location for breaking news. Unfortunately for the Padres and Mets, it has not been good news.
Chase Headley, whose breakout season in 2012 has driven him up Fantasy draft lists this spring, fractured the tip of his thumb trying to break up a double play this past weekend. Initially the injury was labeled the old “day-to-day” but it quickly became more concerning to the Padres, as Headley is out four to six weeks and it looks likely he could miss all of April. Headley saw a thumb specialist and endured the usual battery of tests and x-rays, which revealed the fractured thumb tip. Padres GM Josh Byrnes told the San Diego Union-Tribune that four weeks could actually be an optimistic outlook.
Headley led the National League last year with 116 RBI to go with a .286/.376/.498 slash line. He even added 17 stolen bases to his season. Now the Padres will have to scramble to cover third base. Currently Logan Forsythe (foot) and James Darnell (oblique), who can both man the hot corner, are recovering from their own injuries. Forsythe could be back as soon as this weekend, according to published reports. If he gets to play extensively in Headley’s place, he could fill in adequately at a middle or corner infield spot for you for a spell, with some decent pop and a bit of speed. You may have to actually go with Forsythe as the option to fill in for Headley.
Fantasy owners who already drafted Headley now wish they had their league selection processes later in the preseason. It is certainly not easy to replace Headley with anyone remotely close in appeal on the free agent list at this point. For those who have not yet drafted, it is advisable to now move Headley out of your Top 10 at the position when you are setting up your draft lists. Headley had an Average Draft Position of 41 in the National Fantasy Baseball Championships, but you have to figure he gets bumped down considerably now, maybe even to double figure rounds in some drafts.
If Forsythe does suffer any setbacks, top prospect Jedd Gyorko could switch back to his natural position of third base until Headley or Forsythe returns. Gyorko has already beaten out Forsythe for the second base job and is considered a top Fantasy rookie with a lot of promise as a middle or corner infielder, depending on where he will qualify. He would be especially more appealing at the thin position of 2B if he can display the all-around hitting prowess he flashed in the minors. Gyorko is a fine late-round flier no matter where he will play.
David Wright, the Mets’ third baseman, is doubtful for Opening Day. He was diagnosed with a moderate strain of his intercostal muscle during the World Baseball Classic. Wright must rest and hope he heals in time to open the season with the club, but a DL stint is possible
The Mets, like the Padres, would have an infield shuffle. Utility man Justin Turner is expected to get the majority of playing time at third until Wright returns. Second baseman Daniel Murphy, himself recovering from an intercostal strain, is easing himself back to action in Florida. He is expected to be at full strength for opening day.
If given a longer-term stint at third, Turner does not provide serious Fantasy consideration, except perhaps in NL-only leagues.