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Weekly Planner: Ailing third basemen pose a challenge for owners

Photo: Mike Zarrill/Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman's broken thumb will keep him out of the Washington lineup for 4-6 weeks.

Photo: Mike Zarrill/Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman's broken thumb will keep him out of the Washington lineup for 4-6 weeks.

The injury fairy came calling last week and has left fantasy owners in a rough spot at the hot corner. First, Adrian Beltre had to be lifted from a mid-week game -- one in which he was placed at designated hitter to rest his legs, no less -- with a left quad strain. The Rangers had initially hoped he would be able to avoid a disabled list stint for an ailment that has plagued him since spring training, but on Sunday Beltre landed on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 9. While the injury does not appear to be too serious, Texas can be expected to take a cautious approach with its slugging third baseman.

In the nation's capital, however, Ryan Zimmerman is dealing with a much more troubling injury situation. On Saturday, he fractured his thumb diving back into second base, getting picked off by Alex Wood in the process. I'm all for setting yourself up to get a nice, healthy secondary lead, but it's hard to fathom exactly where Zimmerman was going and why he strayed so far from the bag. No matter the answer to that, the Nationals and Zimmerman's fantasy owners could be without him until late May or early June.

Zimmerman has been raking this year, slashing .364/.405/.636 with a pair of homers and six RBIs. His chronic shoulder issues have forced him to miss a few games, but he has hit absolutely everything in sight when he has been in the lineup. Danny Espinosa will replace him in the lineup, and Anthony Rendon will slide across the diamond to take his place at third base. That creates an opportunity for those of you looking for some help at second base. Espinosa struggled mightily last year, but he just barely missed 20/20 seasons in both 2011 and 2012. It couldn't hurt to kick the tires over the next month.

As for fantasy replacements at third base, the pickings, unfortunately, are slim. Limiting ourselves to players owned in fewer than 60 percent of leagues, the top choices are Todd Frazier and Kelly Johnson. After that, you're looking at players like Nick Castellanos and David Freese, two players I would acquire only in truly desperate situations. I give Johnson a slight edge over Frazier, though both can provide decent power for as long as you'll need them. Another intriguing name to consider is Yangervis Solarte. The 26-year-old has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, hitting .359/.405/.513 in 42 plate appearances this year. It's unlikely this will last, as he slashed .282/.331/.404 with 23 homers in two full seasons at Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas organization, but he's worth riding while he is swinging the bat well.

 

Roster trends

Most added

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies -- Blackmon continued his strong 2014 start, going 6-for-9 with two RBIs and three runs scored in a three-game stretch late in the week. He also swiped his third bag of the season. He has the leadoff spot in the potent Colorado lineup locked up.

Kelly Johnson, Yankees -- Johnson has been a jack-of-all-trades early in the season for the Yankees and could soon become eligible at first base if Mark Teixeira's DL stint drags on. That would make Johnson among the most versatile players in fantasy baseball. He has three homers and seven RBIs on the season.

Garrett Richards, Angels -- Richards has made two great starts this year, most recently twirling seven shutout innings in a 2-0 win over the Mariners last week. He has been primarily relying on his overpowering fastball, which sits in the mid-90s and has averaged 96 mph this year, and has struck out just more than a batter per inning thus far.

Most dropped

Justin Smoak, Mariners -- The predictable Smoak crash has already begun, as he really floundered in a weekend series with the A's. We've all seen this movie before, just not this early in the season.

Jose Veras, Cubs -- No surprises here. Rick Renteria announced Veras would no longer be closing for the Cubs, sending fantasy owners scurrying to make a transaction. Expect Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon, or perhaps the two of them by committee, to handle the ninth inning.

Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins -- Unless you're in a very shallow league, dropping Eovaldi is a mistake. He may have gotten touched up a bit by the Phillies on Saturday, but he has huge upside, as we saw in his first two starts this season. He has a ton of potential in mixed leagues.

Two-start pitchers

(* Indicates stream recommendation)

1. Stephen Strasburg
2. Anibal Sanchez
3. Jordan Zimmermann
4. Cliff Lee
5. Masahiro Tanaka
6. Gerrit Cole
7. Chris Archer
8. Homer Bailey
9. Yordano Ventura
10. Matt Garza
11. Marco Estrada
12. Shelby Miller
13. Jake Peavy
14. Lance Lynn
15. Ervin Santana
16. Zack Wheeler
17. Tim Lincecum
18. Hector Santiago*
19. Brandon Morrow*
20. David Hale*
21. Colby Lewis*
22. Jake Odorizzi*
23. Bronson Arroyo*
24. Josh Beckett*
25. Phil Hughes
26. Eric Stults
27. Zach McAllister
28. Robbie Ross
29. Wandy Rodriguez
30. Wei-Yin Chen
31. Robbie Erlin
32. Roberto Hernandez
33. Juan Nicasio
34. Jesse Chavez
35. Lucas Harrell
36. Michael Gonzalez
37. Roenis Elias
38. Jordan Lyles
39. Josh Collmenter
40. Erik Johnson
41. Brad Hand

Teams playing seven games

Braves
Rockies
Brewers
Phillies
Pirates
Padres
Mariners
Cardinals
Rays
Rangers
Nationals

Teams playing five games

Cubs

Weekday day games

(all times Eastern)

Wednesday

Rays at Orioles, 12:35
Pirates at Reds, 12:35
Cardinals at Brewers, 1:10
Mets at Diamondbacks, 3:40

Thursday

Braves at Phillies, 1:05
Indians at Tigers, 1:08
Blue Jays at Twins, 1:10
Mariners at Rangers, 2:05
Dodgers at Giants, 3:45

Friday

Reds at Cubs, 2:20

Favorable matchups

Red Sox (at Chicago White Sox, vs. Baltimore) -- The Red Sox kick off the week in the hitter's paradise on the South Side of Chicago and get to face Erik Johnson and John Danks before tangling with Chris Sale. They should be relatively comfortable at home against Bud Norris, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wei-Yin Chen.

White Sox (vs. Boston, at Texas) -- The White Sox do have to face Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, but they play the entire week in great hitter's parks and will not see Yu Darvish down in Texas.

Royals (at Houston, vs. Minnesota) -- After a day off Monday, the Royals hit the road to take on the Astros in Houston, where they'll go up against Lucas Harrell, Dallas Keuchel and Scott Feldman. They return home to host the Twins and face their unrelenting attack of No. 4 starters, featuring Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Correia and Phil Hughes. That's an easy week at the plate.

Blue Jays (at Minnesota, at Cleveland) -- The only pitcher the Blue Jays face this week that is likely owned in a majority of fantasy leagues is Corey Kluber. They, too, get the benefit of the Twins' never-ending supply of back-end rotation starters, and they avoid Danny Salazar and Justin Masterson during their visit to Cleveland.

Rangers (vs. Seattle, vs. Chicago White Sox) -- The Rangers get to stay home all week, which is always a boon for their hitters. They will see Felix Hernandez on Wednesday and the underrated Jose Quintana on Saturday. The rest of Seattle's rotation, however, is underwhelming, with James Paxton joining Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma on the shelf. They will not face Chris Sale when the White Sox come to town, either.

Unfavorable matchups

Orioles (vs. Tampa Bay, at Boston) -- The Orioles draw Chris Archer, David Price, John Lackey and Jake Peavy this week. Not exactly an easy week, even if they are one of the better offenses in the league.

Cubs (at New York Yankees, vs. Cincinnati) -- Not only do the Cubs play just five games this week, they'll face Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Tony Cingrani and Homer Bailey in four of those five contests.

Pirates (at Cincinnati, vs. Milwaukee) -- The Pirates spend the entire week in their division, visiting the Reds and hosting the Brewers. They face nearly all of the best both teams have to offer, with Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto both taking the ball for the Reds, followed by the Brewers' red-hot triumvirate of Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza and Marco Estrada.

Nationals (at Miami, vs. St. Louis) -- Washington's week begins easily enough, with matchups against Brad Hand and Tom Koehler of the Marlins, but then it takes a nasty turn that lasts all the way through the weekend. The Nationals get Jose Fernandez on their last day in Miami, then go up against Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller in their four-game set with the Cardinals.

Reds (vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago Cubs) -- It's not the worst draw for the Reds this week, but they do have to deal with Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija, three pitchers that can take advantage of their swing-and-miss ways.

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