We are midway through June, and the landscape of injuries continues to add up. Understanding when to hold a player in order to wait for their return is key to success. Finding an adequate replacement in the meantime allows any fantasy owner the opportunity to tread that water until their team is back at full health. Here are some of the key injuries that are happening right now, as well as the plans in place by the teams scrambling to keep themselves afloat.
Ozzie Albies entered the season as one of the league’s best second basemen because of his power and his speed potential. After last season’s breakthrough, fantasy owners everywhere expected at least the same output and spent a lot of draft capital to make it happen. Unfortunately, the return on investment wasn’t as productive as the potential, and Albies’ season has been underwhelming. And while he will be out of action for the next little while, the Braves have now turned their attention to an almost forgotten post-hype prospect that they hope can hold the position down until Albies returns later this season. That man’s name is Orlando Arcia.
Signed as an international free agent over a decade ago, Arcia had some early success with the Brewers before falling out of favor and moving onto the Braves. He has some power and speed potential and will be given a chance to maintain the playing time he’s been afforded in Albies’ absence. So far this season, he’s surpassed last season’s totals in home runs, extra-base hits, and walks, and done so in far fewer games. Additionally, he’s barreled the ball more often already, and his exit velocity has seen a considerable uptick. Overall, he’s made the most of this opportunity.
Conclusion: While Arcia has always shown an ability in spurts at the plate, he has never been able to maintain the ground he makes through consistent success. With Albies out for a significant period of time, Arcia has the chance to finally prove the doubters wrong and hold down the second base position for the Braves. He is off to a great start, showing great improvements at the plate, but there is no guarantee that this continues. Fantasy owners should enjoy the ride while it’s here, but be prepared to cut loose if he ultimately falters, thus moving on. In the end, if Arcia isn’t able to keep this job with much success, the Braves may make a trade for an upgrade. If that happens, that player should have the same opportunities to flourish.
When Anthony Rendon joined the Los Angeles Angels, it was envisioned that he would take the next step in his progression and become one of the game’s best offensive players. What has happened instead is that through various injuries and ailments, he has played less than a full season’s worth of games and produced mediocre results in the process. After it was announced recently that he would miss the remainder of the 2022 season due to necessary wrist surgery, the Angels turned to veteran Matt Duffy for answers, but is he really the solution to their problem?
At the age of 31, Matt Duffy has seven seasons under his belt of semi-consistent playing time. He also offers a somewhat opposite approach to what Rendon can do, which makes the fit here quite tricky. While both show nice plate discipline, it’s Duffy who relies on the soft contact he makes to get on base by spreading the ball across the field. The question then becomes, is this something that could work long-term? When he’s been healthy and given the chance to play, he’s been able to get on base and provide a healthy batting average.
Conclusion: Make no mistake about it, losing a bat with Rendon’s potential and replacing it with Duffy’s is a detriment. That being said, Duffy could be someone to help sustain the batting average portion of fantasy owners’ lineups, while also offering some speed (he had eight stolen bases last season). Nonetheless, anyone who drafted Rendon was probably relying on his power potential and will need to look towards a different direction outside of the Angels’ organization for that. Additionally, with David Fletcher returning soon, both he and Duffy will struggle to hit for any power while playing. Still, Duffy has produced when given the time and could be an under-the-radar addition in the deepest of leagues.
Last season, Jorge Polanco broke through the glass to superstardom with a career-best year while being a low-end five-category target for fantasy in 2022. Unfortunately, this year his numbers haven’t been up to where speculation would have led, though he’s still been relatively useful thus far. When it was revealed that he would miss some time on the Injured List due to lower back tightness, the Twins had to do some domino-effect positional reshuffling in order to fit the pieces into their lineup. At the end of their roster movement, Minnesota called up Alex Kirilloff to rejoin the club, and fantasy owners everywhere should take notice.
Alex Kirilloff came to the Twins with a ton of promise. When he was finally called up last year, he showed incredible poise at the plate while hitting eight home runs in a limited timeframe. His expected stats looked good, but he never did quite fulfill his potential due to a wrist injury that cost him the rest of the season. While the surgery was expected to fix the problem, he came into 2022 with similar problems, and the doubt settled in.
He was finally able to get rehabbed and into better shape with his wrist, and he joined the Twins’ Triple-A Minor League affiliate in St. Paul Minnesota. It was here where he tweaked his mechanics, worked on his patience (he had 22 walks over 157 plate appearances), and was able to utilize his ailing wrist in a positive. Essentially, he dominated Minor League pitching and earned his call-up back to the Twins.
Our newest @exploreminn call up should come as no surprise. It was a fun month. @AKirilloff19 hit .359 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 35 games. An OBP of .465, slugged .641 for an OPS of 1.106. His fWAR was close to a million, or so it seemed. Congrats to Alex. Well deserved. pic.twitter.com/HCYYWLsrfV
— St. Paul Saints (@StPaulSaints) June 17, 2022
Conclusion: While he did do quite well for himself during his Minor League rehab, Kirilloff still has a lot to prove in the Major Leagues. After all, potential and expected stats are nice, but they can only go so far, making Kirilloff’s time here essential. That said, he has the prospect pedigree to succeed, he should be given everyday at-bats, and he has a place in the lineup to showcase his talents. He is a must-add in all formats to see if he can finally put all of the pieces together.
If there’s one thing that’s a constant, year after year, it’s that the Reds’ bullpen always seems to be a mess. Taking the term “Next Man Up” literally with a misinterpretation of why it’s actually said, Cincinnati has failed to solidify this position of importance with failure after failure. This year, despite an abysmal start to the season, the Reds have found a way to collect thirteen saves as a team, but, with nobody pulling away with the job of closer, it’s still anyone’s game. Recently, Tony Santillan went to the Injured List with lower back tightness, meaning he is out of the picture. That means the path to cemented success just got a little clearer for Alexis Díaz.
Primarily using a two-pitch arsenal, Díaz has found success using them to procure a well above league average swinging strike rate as well as a solid CSW. While posied in the role of closer when called upon, he has been used in high-leverage situations all season, putting batters away with a strikeout rate close to 30% on the season. He looks to be the best option for the Reds and actually posts respectable numbers while pitching at home, which isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Conclusion: Any fantasy owners looking for holds and/or saves should consider Alexis Díaz. He has a great strikeout rate, he pitches in high leverage situations, and he is arguably the best option available right now. Manager David Bell is gaining confidence in him, and if he can limit the walks, he could eventually take over the role of sole closer and be someone rostered in leagues everywhere.
Eduardo Escobar was brought in to solidify the hot corner but has struggled to begin the season. Questions were asked as to why, but perhaps the answer was looking at us straight in the eyes the entire time. Recently, it was revealed that he has been suffering from some sort of vision issues, which could explain why he’s having one of the worst seasons of his career. While unofficially injured, we’ve seen what vision issues can do to players (Eddie Rosario), and if these problems linger, it could take a while for Escobar to be back at full strength. Recently in his place has been a resurgence of a player who had been struggling for at-bats before this year, but is now proving himself to be quite worthwhile in J.D. Davis.
After injuring his hand last season, Davis struggled to find his groove, resulting in an underwhelming season from the perspective of power. Still, he worked hard to get onto the field and keep himself feeling positive. He’s changed his mindset in that he understands more it’s about the quality of the contact with the bat and let the results happen as they may. In turn, he’s seeing his walk rate improve and his strikeout rate decline, all resulting in his xWOBA being one of baseball’s best. Additionally, in the month of June, he has been on a tear. Through games played on June 17, 2022, Davis has been able to get on base with consistency.
Conclusion: Despite playing most of his games at DH this year, he does come with third base eligibility and may eventually possess the same at first base. While his mechanic changes at the plate haven’t transformed into power numbers, he does have a season with nineteen home runs under his belt and does have the potential to do it again. All he’s needed was the time and opportunity to prove himself, and so far, he’s done just that.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)