Impact Analysis: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
by Steven Kraser
on May 2, 2008 @ 13:27:17
The placement of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (quadriceps) on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, April 29, is just the latest setback to the team this young season. Rodriguez initially suffered the injury April 20 and missed three games. He returned to the lineup for a series against the Cleveland Indians in cold weather and aggravated the injury. General manager Brian Cashman said that surgery was not an option for Rodriguez.
The reigning MVP has not been able to find any traction so far this season (.286 batting average, four home runs and 11 RBIs), and it may take awhile for him to start producing at the lofty fantasy level many projected for him. The team is hoping that Rodriguez's Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps is not serious enough to keep him on the DL for an extended period, although he is expected to miss two to four weeks. The Yankees have already staggered through April with a record of 14-16 and can ill afford for Rodriguez to be absent from a lineup that is hitting just .255 as of May 2.
The game plan
The offseason acquisition of third baseman Morgan Ensberg now looms large as he is expected to serve as the everyday third baseman. Reserve infielder Wilson Betemit (eye) remains on the disabled list and is currently on a minor league rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. This leaves the Yankees thin at the position until Betemit or Rodriguez returns. In an emergency situation, reserve shortstop Alberto Gonzalez could slide over to third base, with shortstop Derek Jeter also a possibility.
The Yankees hope they never have to go to such drastic measures and that Ensberg (.234 batting average, one home run and three RBIs) will hold down the fort. Of course, Ensberg will not match Rodriguez's production from the plate and will likely be a galaxy away from the enormous numbers Rodriguez put up over the past three seasons.
Table: Rodriguez's Stats (2005-07)
Rodriguez has been durable throughout his career. The last time he was on the DL before this season was in 2000. Yankees manager Joe Girardi could use a rotation of players among outfielders Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu and first baseman Jason Giambi to fill Rodriguez's cleanup spot in the lineup. In three games since Rodriguez was placed on the DL, Matsui hit cleanup in two games, while utility player Shelley Duncan hit cleanup in the other. The additional pressure put on the New York batters by an underwhelming Yankees pitching staff further magnifies Rodriguez's absence and may have a trickle down affect throughout the lineup. The end result could be a reduction in the overall fantasy production of the entire lineup.
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Aubrey Huff is likely to be available in mixed leagues. Huff is hitting .257 with five home runs and 19 RBIs while filling the fifth spot in the Orioles lineup. His value receives an extra boost considering he is eligible to play first base in fantasy lineups.
Florida Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu is another viable option. He is hitting .284 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Cantu has struggled of late, picking up two hits in his last 16 at-bats. However, Cantu has the staring job at third and Florida's overall offensive production should improve with the impending return of first baseman Mike Jacobs (finger).
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen has made his presence felt in his six games since returning from the DL. He is batting .304 with one home run and five RBIs. Rolen has had issues with his health during past seasons, but when he is healthy, he has the ability to hit 20 home runs with an average hovering around .280.
There is no substantial and effective plan to replace a three-time MVP. Being that this is the second time this injury has flared up this season, Rodriguez could be out for longer than originally planned. Fantasy owners counting on his phenomenal 2007 production can only hope Rodriguez returns to the lineup completely healthy, and realize that reaching his '07 numbers now is probably unrealistic.
A mid-May return and remaining in the lineup for the rest of the season could translate into mere mortal numbers of 35-40 home runs, 90-95 runs, 90-100 RBIs and a batting average around .300. Rodriguez's injury is not considered serious, so fantasy owners should not consider dropping him in any fantasy format. A backup third baseman should be obtained if there is not one already on your roster and should be kept around even when Rodriguez returns as insurance if he suffers a setback.
About Steven Kraser
Steven Kraser is a management consultant for the sports management and entertainment business. He has consulted for professional and college franchises, leagues and news agencies in the areas of strategy, finance, and business operations. He has been a KFFL Contributor since 2003.
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