While we often counsel fantasy players to stay patient at this time of year (that means you, Felix Hernandez owners), there are some guys who are on the verge of either losing their job altogether or at least seeing their role diminished. It’s important to anticipate these situations, because even if he is a lesser player, you don’t want to go out and acquire them even as a secondary part of a larger deal. Here are some players that you should be concerned about, and the players who could replace them:
- Phil Nevin, DH, Rangers. How often does a team bench their cleanup hitter for an entire three-game series? Yes, Nevin’s defense has degraded to the point where he can’t play any position particularly well, but it’s hard to imagine that the Rangers couldn’t find one game to get him some at-bats in Houston if his bat were worth carrying, which is sort of the point. He’s now hitting .226/.324/.409, with no homers in May after a hot April. The Rangers are going to call up Jason Botts on Tuesday to at least split time with him at DH. Botts is a switch-hitter, so he’ll at least take away most of the starts against right-handers. Botts isn’t especially young (25), so the time is now for him to start playing. Fortunately, he’s been on fire at Oklahoma, hitting .318/.373/.615 with 10 bombs and even five stolen bases. Don’t look for the stolen bases to continue with the Rangers, but Botts could provide some cheap power.
- Chris Reitsma, Closer, Braves. Reitsma got a 1-2-3 save on Monday night against the Padres, but he had a pretty ugly weekend in Arizona and hasn’t pitched well overall this year. What’s particularly disturbing is the four homers he’s allowed after giving up just three last year. Factor in a low strikeout rate (10 whiffs in 19 2/3 innings) and I don’t think he’s long for the job. Who takes over? Oscar Villarreal has been mentioned as the alternative, but he really hasn’t pitched much better than Reitsma. He has a 13/12 K/BB in 20 2/3 innings and has also given up four homers. There’s a good chance that the next closer for the Braves is someone not currently on their roster. Their best in-house option might be Ken Ray, who ranks highest among Atlanta relievers in Expected Runs and Expected Wins Added. Ray could get a chance to do the job; it’s not as if Bobby Cox will be hung up on getting a “name” reliever to do the job. He’s proven that over and over, having used the likes of Greg McMichael, Kerry Ligtenberg and Alejandro Pena, among others, to close.
- David Weathers, Closer, Reds. Reds manager Jerry Narron will go kicking and screaming on this one. He’d really prefer to continue to have Weathers close, but Weathers is making it awfully difficult for him to stay the course, having blown his last three save chances. The one thing that might keep Weathers closing and Todd Coffey in a set-up capacity is the Reds’ utter lack of viable alternatives to get the game from the seventh inning to the ninth inning. Coffey is third among all relievers by BP’s Reliever Expected Runs rankings, but there is no other Red in the top 100. Kent Mercker at least has a positive ranking, but is on the DL right now. They had hoped to get decent mileage from the likes of Rick White and Chris Hammond, but the only things that these “proven veterans” have proven is that they’re mediocre relievers at best. Help is not on the way, either: Ryan Wagner has a 7.08 ERA at Triple-A Louisville. The Reds have already begun to slide back in the standings, and their bullpen situation is only going to accelerate that fall.
- Bruce Chen, Starting Pitcher, Orioles. Chen keeps getting reprieves from losing his rotation slot, first with the injury to Daniel Cabrera and then seeing Hayden Penn felled by appendicitis before he even had a chance to make his first start, but when Cabrera and Penn are healthy again, he’s probably out. There’s nothing earth-shattering about the analysis on Chen; giving up a homer once every three innings is bound to catch up with you. His saving grace might be that he’s less-suited to relief work than fellow struggling starter Rodrigo Lopez.
- Rondell White, DH, Twins. White had a lukewarm streak earlier this month that kept him in the batting order, but he’s showing every indication that he’s done. He can’t play the field any longer, he isn’t hitting for power (only five extra-base hits, all doubles, in 142 at-bats) and carries an awful 23/3 K/BB. The Twins have already begun the process of giving their younger players more critical roles, such as moving Francisco Liriano into the rotation and calling up Boof Bonser to replace Kyle Lohse. They’ve been a slower to act on the offensive side of the spectrum, but that time is coming soon. Once Shannon Stewart comes off of the DL, you could see Stewart move to DH while Jason Kubel and Lew Ford platoon in left field. Working against this notion is the Twins’ general sloth in addressing their hitting woes, both this year and in the past. Witness that Jason Bartlett is still stuck in Triple-A Rochester, while the Twins go with their three-headed shortstop monster of Juan Castro, Nick Punto and Liu Rodriguez.