Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, which obviously stinks for many a fantasy baseball owner, considering he ranks third on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater behind only Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp. Cruz was off to a terrific start with 7 home runs, 17 RBIs and, let's not forget, 5 steals in as many opportunities. He also was hitting .323. Cruz has been the best player in the American League so far, at least statistically.
Cruz aggravated a strained right hamstring in Monday's game, an injury that hadn't appeared to hamper him much during the past week. In fact, Cruz and the Rangers had believed the injury was mere cramping because it happened in a game in which he stole three bases against the Boston Red Sox. Cruz didn't play poorly in the past week, leading many to believe all was well. Now he gets a few weeks off.
The Rangers are being cautious with Cruz, as they should; it's April, and I wouldn't expect him to miss any more than the 15 days a DL stint requires. If you have Cruz in a fantasy league, this isn't a big deal. Cruz has produced more than a month's worth of statistics in just three weeks anyway, as he's on pace for 60 home runs, 145 RBIs and 43 stolen bases.
Of course, there is good news for the Rangers' lineup, as second baseman Ian Kinsler likely will replace Cruz in the No. 5 spot in the batting order any day now. Kinsler has missed more than a month with a sprained ankle, but his return should assuage any worries about lineup protection for Josh Hamilton or Vladimir Guerrero.
I'm not much of a believer in lineup protection anyway. Guerrero, for one, swings at anything, near the plate or otherwise. It doesn't matter much who bats after him. I would assume that when Cruz returns in two weeks he'll hit sixth, which is quite a spot for an MVP contender. Then again, on this team, with injury risks Kinsler, Hamilton and, well, let's just say there are many, maybe Cruz will again hit fifth, or even higher, where he should be.
The Rangers start a home series with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, and it's a shame Cruz will miss facing off against that homer-prone rotation, but after that it's really not an awful time for him to miss games. The Rangers head to Seattle and Oakland, teams with strong pitching staffs in pitchers' parks. Cruz can hit anywhere, but at least he's not missing all home games.
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David Murphy, a surprisingly productive player the past two seasons, certainly hasn't been very good this season, but he's had limited playing time, so don't overrate his performance. That's about to change. Murphy is competent and not a bad fill-in choice for those in AL-only leagues or deep mixed formats, and he should see daily playing time. Murphy averaged 16 home runs and 65 RBIs in 2008 and 2009, and he doesn't hurt anyone in batting average. Then again, as noted, he's probably not going to do a whole lot in Seattle and Oakland.
For those in ESPN.com 10-team standard mixed leagues, the most added list of outfielders still available in more than 50 percent of leagues include Marlon Byrd, Cameron Maybin and Austin Jackson, while a few of the outfielders on the most dropped side that I would grab include Nick Swisher, Chris Coghlan and, yes, J.D. Drew.