It’s that time of year where things can fall apart at a moments notice. Troy Tulowitzki is likely out for a couple of days with a hip issue, while teammate Todd Helton continues to battle back woes. Jimmy Rollins is back in action, but he’s going to be worked into the lineup slowly getting more time than usual on the bench (sounds like he could sit two of the next six games). So what do you do? Who can you count on at this point? Let me point out a few guys that might be worth a look.
Willie Bloomquist, D’Backs
With Stephen Drew out, Willie is seeing a lot of playing time. Willie’s batting .350 thew past three weeks with four steals and eight runs scored. He’s little more than a depth play in mixed leagues, but he’s going well right now.
Nick Evans, Mets
He has been a run producing beast the past three weeks with three homers and 15 RBI. He’s also not killing anyone with his .286 batting average.
David Murphy, Rangers
Everyone was nervous when Nelson Cruz was activated from the DL, but now comes word that the Rangers are going to play it safe with their always injured slugger and he’s only going to pinch hit for the next few days. This means Murphy will continue to play everyday for at least another week. Murphy has two 4-hit games in his last six outings and three in his last 10 games. In that time he’s also gone deep four times with 11 RBI and 10 runs scored. There simply aren’t many batters hitting any better right now.
Ramon Santiago, Tigers
I know, you could care less about this guy, but if you’re in need of a batting average boost, there are many, many worse options right now. Ramon is hitting .346 over his last 52 at-bats, and he’s even tossed in two homers and 11 RBI.
Some other batters who are killing it even without daily playing time the past three weeks.
Yonder Alonso has no spot on the field, but he clearly knows what he’s doing with a bat in his hands. Alonso has 14 hits in his last 41 at-bats leading to a .342 average. Funny thing, that’s actually worse than his .386 mark on the year for the Reds.
Mike Aviles has nine hits in his last 20 at-bats (.450). Why he isn’t seeing more playing time over Jed Lowrie (0-for-16 and 1-for-24) is a bit of a mystery.
Bryan LaHair has 11 hits in 24 at-bats leading to a .458 average. After hitting .331 with 38 homers in Triple-A this year the only question right now is why isn’t he playing everyday?
Where do you rank Andre Ethier for next year?
Ethier’s year is over because of a situation with his knee that will require surgery, but he should be 100 percent well before the start of games in 2012. Ethier has had a rocky path dealing with the Dodgers front office and coaching staff, and being that he is arbitration eligible next season, and set to become a free agent in 2013, it’s quite possible that the Dodgers might be inclined to move him. A move out of LA would only help Ethier since he could (a) use a fresh start and (b) enjoy himself more fully in a park that more readily favored offensive production.
Ethier was a disappointment this season in some respects while living up to expectations in others. His batting average of .292 was a point better than his career mark, and his .368 OBP was .004 better than his career mark there (.364). However, after 3-straight years of at least 20 homers he slumped to just 11 this season, while his 3-year run of at least 77 RBI also ended (he had a mere 62). Considering that he has no stolen base speed, he didn’t even swipe one base this year, his effort was nothing more than a middling one for an outfielder, something like a 5th outfielder in a 12 team mixed league.
Can Ethier bounce back in 2012? Certainly. He’s just 29 years old and will presumably be in full health. You’d also have to expect his fly ball ratio to climb back from a career worst 31 percent (career 36.3) and for his HR/F to also inch back upward (it was 9.2 percent this year after three years in a row above 13.5 percent). He still shouldn’t be looked at as a 30 homer bat, and he wont steal any bases, but if his normal power returns in 2012 he could be a top-25 outfielder yet again.
By Ray Flowers