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Week Three Fantasy Preview Featuring Ryan Zimmerman’s Injury and Red-Hot Middle Infielders

Ryan Zimmerman thumb

The injury du jour of baseball’s young seasons has been been of the thumb variety. Ryan Braun‘s numb thumb hasn’t been much of a problem,  Josh Hamilton‘s ligament torn digit will keep out up to two months, and Yasiel Puig‘s ligament strained thumb had him miss a few games last week. Hamiliton and Puig both dinged themselves diving headfirst into first base while trying to beat out a infield single. That’s a bad idea, according to physics, and an even worse idea when you hurt yourself doing something that’s actually slowing you down.

Now we get word that Nationals third sacker Ryan Zimmerman will be be out up to six weeks after also slamming his thumb into a base. At least he has a good excuse; he broke his thumb sliding back into second while trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid being picked off by  Atlanta’s Alex Wood. Zimmerman had been on fire at the plate, putting up a slash line of .364/.405/.636 in 37 plate appearances. His fielding, however, had been another story, with an arthritic shoulder affecting his ability to throw.

There had been talk of playing Zimmerman more at first base, which would cost Adam LaRoche — who’s also been hot — either his job or a bunch of at-bats. This puts and end to that discussion for at least for a month and a half.  LaRoche’s owners can breath a sigh of relief.

It is expected the Nats will replace Zimmerman with second baseman Danny Espinosa, shifting current second sacker Anthony Rendon to his original position of third. Espinosa flirted with 20/20 in 2011 and 2012.  But he usually hits for a low average and managed to get himself sent down to the minors in 2013, where he was pretty awful, too. He’s only 26 and so far in 2013 he’s hitting .318.  (Albeit in 24 plate appearances.) Certainly worth monitoring, because the second base position is pretty thin.

Chase Utley and Alexi Ramirez are on fire
Legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died five years ago Sunday. His nickname for the teams’ second baseman Chase Utley was simply “the man.” And why shouldn’t it have been? At the time Utley was probably the second best player in baseball after Albert Pujols. Injuries have limited Utley over the last few season.  He appears to be fully healthy now and he is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball, slashing .500/.565/.875, all tops in the league. Utley only has two strikeouts in 46 plate appearances, so this much more than just some BABIP-fueled luck.

Just about as hot is White Sox short stop Alexei Ramirez, who’s hitting .420 and leading the AL with his .680 slugging percentage. He also has three steals. The Cuban Missile had a good bit of power earlier in his career, and has provided value stealing bases over the last couple years. He’s just never had a season in which he was hitting homers and stealing bases. It looks like this is the year he will combine these two fantasy skills, making him a top five shortstop.

Utley was probably never available on your league’s waiver wire and if Ramirez hasn’t been snatched up by now you need to find a new league. But we’re thinking both middle infielders are for real, and should be targeted in trades when their numbers calm down a little bit.

chase utley

Closer Carousel
Jim Johnson is thankfully out in Oakland. However manager Bob Melvin wasn’t kidding about going with the dreaded closer by committee: Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle each picked up a save in back-to-back games. Jose Veras also got the mercy kill in Chicago. Expect the Cubs to go with Hector Rondon or Pedro Strop in the ninth.

Koji Uehara is obviously in no jeopardy of losing his ninth inning role in Boston. But his tired arm had Edward Mujica posting a save for the Sox last week. Grab him if Boston decides to put Uehara on the 15-day DL.

Keep your eyes on the White Sox‘s closer situation. Matt Lindstrom coughed up another lead on Sunday. Nate Jones still has no timetable for return.

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