Impact Analysis: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

by Tim Heaney on June 4, 2008 @ 12:55:28 PDT


Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (wrist) was on his way to redeeming himself for his slow start at the plate before he was diagnosed with a partially torn extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendon sheath in his left wrist. Big Papi has landed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to miss the next month of action.

Ortiz felt a pop in his wrist when fouling off a pitch Saturday, May 31, and exited the ballgame during his at-bat. He is expected to wear a cast on his wrist for two to three weeks at which point they will check to see if he is still experiencing pain. General manager Theo Epstein said the ECU tendon is still in one piece despite the tear. However, if Ortiz still feels pain after the cast is removed, he might need to undergo season-ending surgery.

This marks a big blow to his fantasy owners; Ortiz likely was a late first- or early second-round pick in most drafts this season, and like the Red Sox, fantasy owners may have a hard time replacing the reliable slugger.

Comeback halted

Ortiz was likely the talk of fantasy owners who were experiencing early-season frustration after he hit just .198 in 96 April at-bats. He managed to hit five home runs and post 21 RBIs despite experiencing soreness in his right knee late in the month. He hit better during the second half of April, raising his average from .070 (April 12) to .184 by the end of the month.

When the calendar flipped to May, Ortiz started to really click. He had a .318-8-22 line in May with a 1.026 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), bringing his average to .252 at the time of his injury. Ortiz had 11 multi-hit games in May.

Lineup shuffling

With Ortiz on the sidelines, the Red Sox will likely keep outfielder Manny Ramirez (.296-12-39 this year) in the designated hitter role while employing outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury in left field and Coco Crisp in center. First baseman Kevin Youkilis and third baseman Mike Lowell should stay in the heart of the order with Ortiz out.

To take Ortiz's spot, the team called up outfielder Chris X. Carter, who was hitting .310-10-35 in 57 contests at Triple-A Pawtucket. The team likely would have brought up outfielder Brandon Moss, but he recently had an appendectomy; the team wanted him to see some more time at Triple-A.

The Red Sox adjusted while Ortiz's performance was lacking, but now they don't have the luxury of having him as an ace in the hole.

Fantasy baseball outlook

Ortiz is one of the elite hitters in the game and must be stashed on all rosters - whether in a disabled list spot or on the bench. This is an unfortunate case of "wait and see" in which fantasy owners will have to sit on Ortiz until the cast is taken off and he can be evaluated. Even though a wrist problem could linger throughout the season regardless of the degree of pain, Ortiz is simply too good to release. In the interim, it's a hard task to replace a top contributor in four offensive categories.

AL-only managers can find internal replacements for the short term. Crisp is likely owned, but Carter could be intriguing if he receives some at-bats. If Ortiz misses a significant amount of time, the Red Sox could sign or work out a trade for another big bat who could enter the AL-only player universe.

Some possible fantasy replacements likely are sitting on the waiver wire, depending on the positional eligibility in your league. In some leagues where Ortiz has eligibility at first base, you can find a suitable corner infielder. Florida Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu (.266-8-28) is hitting in the heart of the order, and Cincinnati Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (.234-9-24) is a streaky hitter and has some power.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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