As if the unfair criticism of Kevin Youkilis' cold start to the season wasn't enough from baseball analysts, manager Bobby Valentine felt inclined to jump on the pile: "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason."
When things go downhill, they seem to go down in a hurry.
Well, reports of Youk's demise have been greatly exaggerated, making him the fantasy baseball's Mark Twain.
Sure, Youk is 33 (past the 26-32 baseball prime), a daily injury risk (he sat Monday morning with a sore groin, not a Bobby V benching) and coming off a 2011 second half that saw him limited to 37 games and a measly .199 batting average.
This guy is not done. If anyone is jumping ship and/or selling in fantasy, you should be buying.
It took nearly two weeks for the
"I go out every day and play as hard as I can -- take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last," Youkilis said Monday morning. "I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself. I still get mad. That's just not how I go about the game of baseball."
Well, he sure has to be mad now. He is overdue and plenty motivated to have a long, good run for fantasy owners this season. Heck, all of the Red Sox have been undervalued on draft day, save for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury, who is now out for two months.
Youk, ostensibly, is in a contract year, playing for a team-held $13 million option for 2013 with just a $1 million buyout. It won't take much for the Red Sox to decide to turn to top third base prospect Will Middlebrooks, who is hitting .364 with three homers and 11 RBI in 11 Triple-A games.
Youk is plenty motivated to hold off Middlebrooks and extend his career. This Bobby V stroke of ignorance -- genius? -- just might be the best thing to happen to Youk's fantasy owners.
The Red Sox got a save out of battered closer Alfredo Aceves and will be giving Daniel Bard more starts, so perhaps they won't need to turn to a starter like Aaron Cook (2-0, 1.50). But they do need someone to step forward in the lineup after Ellsbury's loss.
Journeyman Jason Repko scorched in four Triple-A games (7-for-13, .538) and is a good pick-up in AL-only formats, but it is the prospects that are truly exciting. Middlebrooks is an elite prospect that can really help, but it is 1B Lars Anderson who is getting at-bats in left field in Triple-A. But Anderson is hitting just .235 through 10 games.
If you lost Ellsbury, your best bets to fill the holes are:
The annual awful start for closers continues with the loss of the Giants' Brian Wilson for the season to elbow reconstruction. The Giants are going with a closer-by-committee approach with Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and perhaps Javier Lopez or Jeremy Affeldt. Here is how it will shake out:
1. Casilla -- He will get the bulk of the initial save chances like he did a year ago when Wilson was down.
2. Romo -- He will wind up the better reliever down the road, assuming his balky elbow doesn't put him in the same boat as Wilson's did. He has made just two appearances thus far. If rest works, he'll wind up being the go-to man.
3. Lopez -- He is a lefty best-suited for the situational roles, so he might only get a few situational saves.
4. Affeldt -- He is more of a longer lefty than Lopez, so he's clearly a fourth-best option on this list for save chances.
Outside of the status of Romo's health, we come to these conclusions by looking at manager Bruce Bochy's usage of them last year. Here are their holds from 2011:
1. Romo 23
Casilla hasn't been used in as many save/hold situations as the others, yet was the closer of choice when Wilson was out last season. That might be because Bochy didn't want to disrupt multiple roles with Wilson out a short period. With a drastic season-ending injury such as this, Bochy will be more inclined to slide all of their roles up.
That means, once (if?) Romo's elbow is 100 percent, he will be the closer to have in mixed formats, even if Casilla gets the calls now. Respond accordingly in fantasy.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice