The loss of Magglio Ordonez hurts. After all, there are just a handful of American League outfielders with TAv’s north of .300 this year – Ordonez has a .304 TAv. Couple that with the loss of Carlos Guillen, on the DL for the second time this season (.271 TAv in 246 plate appearances) and last week’s injury to Brandon Inge and there are a batch of new players angling for time in Detroit that are new to the fantasy radar.
To fill the holes created by the injuries, the Tigers recalled middle infielder Will Rhymes and first baseman/designated hitter Jeff Larish from Triple-A Toledo. With so many injuries, they’ll certainly get their opportunities… However, the one player who stands to gain the most was already on the Tigers roster.
First, a quick note on the call-ups…
Rhymes wasn’t on any prospect lists entering the season, but has put together a fine Triple-A season for the Mud Hens, making contact (33 walks and 31 strikeouts in almost 400 plate appearances) and stealing bases at an 83% success rate (20 out of 24).
Rhymes will get most of his reps at second base, with Scott Sizemore and Don Kelly continuing to fill the void created by Brendon Inge’s injury at third. It would seem natural to shift Sizemore back to second, but Jim Leyland insists his young player will continue to man the hot corner. As for Rhymes, he hit in the second position in his debut on Sunday where his ability to make contact is an asset. You may be tempted to grab him and hope for a decent average and a handful of steals, but the Tigers just don’t run that much. Austin Jackson is the only hitter with more than nine stolen base attempts. Plus, as you'll see in a moment, he won't be in line for much action.
Meanwhile, Larish was hitting .275/.373/.497 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI for the Mud Hens. It looks as though he’s not in the outfield mix and will be used mainly as a designated hitter and left-handed bat off the bench. The Tigers will likely feature a combination of Johnny Damon, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn in the corners with a small helping of Kelly in the mix as well. And with Damon receiving most of his at bats as the designated hitter, Larish will initially have a difficult time staking a regular place in the lineup. Larish has struck out in 30% of his career plate appearances and has hit just six home runs in 184 at bats. His value remains limited.
The Tiger with the most to gain from this, would be the aforementioned Ryan Raburn. The timing is right given that after a rocky start, Raburn seems to have found his groove in limited duty. Over the last month or so, he’s picked up 66 plate appearances and hit .271 with a pair of home runs and 14 RBI. This is conjecture on my part, but it seemed to me Raburn was pressing until recently due to a slow start and his lack of regular playing time. Never the most patient of hitters, he was offering at more pitches outside the zone (for the season he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone 29% of the time – well ahead of his career mark of 26%) which has hurt his contact rate (he’s striking out 22.8% of the time) while decreasing his walk rate (5.6%). His .228 TAv illustrates a player trying to find his way while not receiving the endorsement of management. A quick trip to the minors where he hit .444 in a week’s worth of action in mid-May may have helped him find his confidence, but it was squandered when he still couldn’t regularly break into the Detroit lineup. He’s finally hitting and picked up some spot starts at second and in the outfield, so with the Tigers down Guillen and Ordonez, it would seem he will finally get his shot at regular playing time – rotating between the positions.
However, look at his 2009 numbers (.291 BA, 16 HR, 45 RBI in 291 plate appearances – and a .292 TAv) but realize that is an extreme snapshot of potential. He piled up those numbers in large part to a September where he laid siege to AL pitching, hitting .355 with six home runs in last season’s final month. Still, he is a guy who should be able to hit around .260 with a handful of home runs when given the chance to play.
Raburn is the reluctant beneficiary of these injuries, but none of these new Tigers is really worth much of a look in fantasy. Fortunately, it would seem the calf strain suffered by Guillen is minor and he expects to resume baseball activities within the week. Once he is fit and returns to the lineup, Rhymes will return to the farm and Raburn will continue to float between second and the outfield, with an emphasis on the latter position.