While one of the best shortstops in baseball was still out of the lineup nursing a shoulder injury Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, another top shortstop made his first start of the season. Ultimately, it was no big deal that Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki missed another game; in fact, he could return Wednesday. But it was great news to see Los Angeles Dodgers star Hanley Ramirez not only back so soon in the starting lineup, but hitting a home run in his first at-bat and later adding a double.
Ramirez is an underrated fantasy option, but give him credit for returning to active duty quicker than originally expected, especially with many questioning his motivation and drive the past few seasons. Fantasy owners certainly appreciate it. Remember, Ramirez famously tore a thumb ligament during the World Baseball Classic in mid-March; surgery was needed and he was expected to miss up to 10 weeks. Ramirez had surgery March 22, but he returned before end of April. Hopefully you had him active Tuesday.
Before suffering the injury, Ramirez was in my top 20 overall, but he slipped past the 10th round in many leagues afterward, a combination of the threat of missing up to two months -- one-third of the season -- and declining skills being analyzed a bit too far. After all, Ramirez hit only .257 for the Dodgers and Miami Marlins last season, a year after hitting .243 and dealing with injury, and his strikeout rate was a career worst in 2012. Ah, but there's a caveat: Only 10 players hit 20 or more home runs and stole 20 or more bases last season, and he was one of only three middle infielders to achieve this (along with Jimmy Rollins and Ian Desmond).
It should go without saying that Ramirez should be trusted in all leagues, and not sold high after his successful Tuesday. He came off the DL Monday and struck out as a pinch hitter, so he might not be active in all weekly formats, but don't sell high. He's legit. Ramirez probably won't hit for a high average this season, with .270 or so being a gift, but the 20-homer/20-steal abilities are still there. I'd still take Tulowitzki over him, but if you ask me who is more likely to play more games the rest of the season, I'd take Ramirez. After Robinson Cano and Tulo, Ramirez is the No. 3 middle infielder in fantasy and yes, he's better than Yuniesky Betancourt, who is currently among the top 10 middle infielders and is ESPN's most-added player. (That's hard to believe.)
Speaking of hard to believe, a year ago, young Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon flamed out and landed back in the minors. Dodgers third basemen are hardly putting on a show this season, ranking last (by a lot!) in OPS with a .444 mark. As a group, these batters are hitting .143. If Gordon proves he can be competent against big league pitching, Ramirez could move back to third base, unless he refuses. Gordon is hitting .302, drawing walks and stealing bases at Triple-A Albuquerque. I bet he's back with the Dodgers within a month, and he's capable of stealing more bases than anyone else if that happens.
Box score bits (NL): Poor Marlins right-hander Kevin Slowey remains winless in six outings, but he boasts a 2.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a good K rate after hurling eight innings of one-run ball (with eight K's) Tuesday. If you add him, expect significant regression and/or injury -- that has often been an issue for him -- and certainly don't look for double-digit wins. ... Delmon Young made his Philadelphia Phillies debut and homered in his first at-bat. Of course he did. Young, who hit fifth as the designated hitter, could hit 20 home runs this season, but he won't take walks or hit .300, and he'll butcher right field so badly it could cost him at-bats. ... Chicago Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena homered again Tuesday, quietly giving him five home runs so far. He's also drawing walks. The former failed Cleveland Indians prospect is distinguishing himself, and Ian Stewart might have trouble recapturing the starting role. ... Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks has been awful, but he homered and knocked in five Tuesday, raising his batting average to .191. He should raise that mark another 50 points, and the power is real.
Box score bits (AL): Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, among the most dropped hitters in ESPN's leagues for weeks, hit his first home run of the season Tuesday. Moustakas has another 25 blasts in him, and his early-season walk rate has been encouraging. Consider getting him back. ... Still think Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion was a fluke in 2012? He homered twice Tuesday, giving him nine for the month, and he knocked in four runs. This is a top-50 player, for sure. ... Still no sign of Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino (back), and the Boston Globe reports Thursday is the day he either plays or hits the DL. Meanwhile, Mike Carp homered in his place Tuesday, and if he keeps playing, he warrants a deep-league look. ... Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow wasn't great Tuesday, but the seven strikeouts in five innings was a nice sign. Morrow had struck out a total of 11 hitters in his previous four starts. Buy low here. ... The Indians' Ryan Raburn has consecutive multihomer games. Entering Monday, he was hitting .214 with nary a home run. The latter is the real thing. ... Oakland's Jarrod Parker wasn't great Tuesday, but it was enough to beat the Angels. Parker doesn't need to be owned in 10-team leagues right now, but there is sufficient upside for when he really does turn things around.