When Trevor Crowe smacked a one-hopper off the ankle of Twins closer Jon Rauch… Ouch! Those are the kinds of plays that make fantasy owners wince right along with the player who is actually injured. Initial reports have Rauch missing a “few” days, which means those of us who own him can exhale. Not that the Twins have been providing him with a ton of save opportunities – he has three saves in July as the Twins have won just six of 15 games and hasn’t had an opportunity since the Sunday before the All-Star Break. Even though he could return by the end of the week, it’s always good form to be proactive on the closer market and poach saves where available.
One option with Rauch out would be Brian Duensing, who is second among Twins relievers with a 1.682 WXRL. However, it appears Minnesota is thinking of returning him to the starting rotation where they could use the help. Last year, he won five of eight starts en route to a 2.64 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP after entering the rotation in mid-August. Scratch him as a candidate – although he could provide your fantasy team a shot in the arm as a starter as we enter the stretch run. Instead, the Twins will likely turn to Matt Guerrier who has had the advantage of pitching in more high leverage situations. His 1.27 LEV ranks him second on the team behind Rauch. Guerrier is walking a few more batters than last year (2.9 BB/9 after a career best 1.9 BB/9 in 2009), but after coughing up 10 long balls in 76 innings last year, he’s dropped down to just three in 40 innings – a more respectable rate of 0.7 HR/9. His strand rate of 78% is right in line with his career strand rate of 79% and is what we like to see from a potential closer.
I mentioned Guerrier as a closer possibility back in March, when it appeared likely Joe Nathan would miss the season. It looks like he’ll finally get his chance and is worth the short-term roster move if you’re hunting for an extra save or two.
Elsewhere in the AL Central, after blasting 27 home runs and driving in 84 runs last year, Brandon Inge hasn’t hit a home run since May 30. Not good, yet he had been providing owners a line of .307/.399/.409 during that stretch but will now miss six weeks with a broken pinkie. One thing that jumps out about Inge is despite the fact he’s playing every day, he has scored only 10 runs in his last 40 games despite reaching base almost 40% of the time. Ugh. Overall, Inge is crossing the plate just 14% of the time he reaches base. That’s the worst rate in the AL among qualified hitters.
Collectively, AL third basemen are hitting .264/.320/.413 and Inge owns a line of .263/.342/.413, making him darn close to league average. Inge has never been an offensive force, but his current .270 TAv was the best rate of his career. In an AL-only league, losing Inge will hurt. To cover, the Tigers will likely slide Carlos Guillen from second to third and could then recall Scott Sizemore from Triple-A Toledo to handle the duties at second. Normally, I’d get excited by a position move gaining someone new eligibility, but Guillen has more fantasy value at second. Still, flexibility never hurts.
As for Sizemore, he hit just .206 in 110 plate appearances with one home run and no steals prior to getting farmed out in mid-May with a .224 TAv. Kudos to him for tearing up the IL with a .331 average and five home runs while rediscovering the plate discipline that was lacking in his brief time in the bigs. Unfortunately, he’s still not running. After swiping 14 bags for the Mud Hens last summer in 71 games, he’s stolen just one base in three tries this year. He was rated for his ability to get on base and steal – two things he didn't do in his brief, early season audition.
If Sizemore gets recalled, he’s certainly worth re-evaluating in AL-only leagues.