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June 17, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Teixeira’s Extended Vacation
Mark Teixeira’s homer-free stretch reached 17 games last night, leaving him on pace for a miserly 16 on the season. As mentioned in the Dallas Morning News this week, Teixeira claims to have found a flaw in his swing that reduces homers to doubles. His.280 average and .370 OBP are solid. He’s not hurt and is actually hitting much better in road games than at home. What I can’t fathom is how he’s batting only .230 with no homers and two RBI in 68 first-inning at-bats. He should recover. Be patient.

The Dreaded Job-Sharing Arrangement
Mark Derosa’s hot bat, Jason Botts’ recall from AAA and Ian Kinsler’s activation from the DL have made a mess of the starting lineup. In the 22 games since Kinsler’s return, those three, Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson have started the following number of games:

Derosa – 20 (benched 2)
Kinsler – 19 (benched 3)
Mench – 16 (benched 6)
Wilkerson – 16 (benched 6)
Botts – 8 (benched 14, more on him below)

Why does Derosa top the list? He’s batting .338/.395/.525, making a mockery of his career line of .263/.319/.380 coming into the season. Derosa certainly will cool down but seems to have made genuine progress at the plate, so owners in mixed leagues can play him in the near term without too much fear of multiple zeros on the stat line.

Derosa has, in fact, pushed Mench into a utility role, flipping him among left, right and DH depending on the handedness of the pitcher and Showalter’s mood. Mench had a magnificent two-week stretch from late April into early May but has done little since. He has one homer and nine RBI during the last five weeks and a .200 average during June. In the short term, expect him to continue to play against all lefties and 70% of the time overall.

Likewise, Wilkerson has occupied the dugout with irritating frequency. Though on pace to set career bests in runs, homers and RBI, he isn’t walking much and has a mediocre .331 on-base percentage. Also, even though strikeouts are rarely more harmful than an ordinary batted out, his 82 in just 60 games can’t please the guy who writes the lineup. He should continue to produce, if in unattractive fashion.

As to how this shakes out, I’m sometimes skeptical of Showalter’s lineup construction, but in this case I think the players themselves (primarily Derosa) will make his decisions for him. None among Wilkerson, Mench and Deorsa has enough defensive wizardry to play through an extended slump. The hot bats will play.

Fool Me Once...
Throughout much of 2005 and into this season, Texas declined to promote DH Jason Botts because management wanted him to get regular at-bats. No point in bringing him to Arlington just to sit in a 100-degree dugout while wearing long pants. Much to my chagrin, Texas has done just that, starting him only seven of the last 21 games. Perhaps Texas intended to play him more often, but with Derosa’s hot bat in the lineup every day, a start by Botts forces either Mench or Wilkerson to the bench. Botts has a .258 average, one homer, seven runs and four RBI in nine starts. AL-only owners (except perhaps those in eight-team leagues) should hold him for a while longer. He has the bat to reward your patience. If your league does not allow game-time decisions on starts, understand that Botts has yet to start against a lefty and has started against righties just over 50% of the time.

Fool Me Twice...
When Gerald Laird caught consecutive games June 4th and 6th (with a day off in between) and received approbation from Buck Showalter, he seemingly had achieved a permanent increase in playing time. I should know better. Laird has started three of ten games since then and appears to be trapped in the same once-start-per-series limbo as before. Also, Rod Barajas has warmed up in June (.324, six runs, one homer, five RBI), which confirms the current arrangement.

Texas begins interleague play with six home games, so its lineup won’t suffer the indignity of pitchers attempting to hit until the 23rd. Start or bench your Texas players as you normally would.

Posted by Lucas at June 17, 2006 03:42 PM