pring training is barely underway and already a marquee name will be sidelined for the start of the season. Curtis Granderson faced J.A. Happ of the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays in his first at bat of the spring and suffered an injury which will keep him from stepping into the batter’s box again until mid-May.
Happ hit Granderson with the second pitch of the at-bat on the right forearm and the Grandy-man left with what appeared to be a bruise. However, X-rays revealed a fractured right forearm which will keep him sidelined for the next 10 weeks.
Granderson leaves a huge hole in the Yankees outfield and will be missed in fantasy baseball, but does still have some serious value if you can afford to scrape your way through without his bat the first month of the season. Granderson his 43 long balls last years with 106 RBI, so even with a month off, his bat makes him worth drafting and he could tumble to the point where he’s a great value.
The Yankees don’t have a ready-made replacement, but here’s some of the players whose playing time and value will be affected by his absence.
The Yankees were already toying with the idea of moving Gardner to CF before the injury, so expect him to be locked in as an everyday player even more securely. Gardner’s value is closely tied to how and where the Yankees use him in the lineup.
If Joe Girardi bats him at the top of the lineup, he has huge run potential and would be able to use his on-base skills to wreak havoc on the basepaths in front of the Yankees remaining big bats. If Gardner bats at the bottom of the lineup, he may not score as many runs, but the Yankees may rely on his speed to generate runs more now that the middle of their lineup is missing some key power-hitters.
I like Gardner this year and think he can easily be a top-30 outfielder if he can stay healthy which was his main problem last year. While Gardner is the answer in center field at least for now, the bigger question is who gets the playing time in left field. Which brings us too…
A free agent who the Yankees added this offseason on a minor league contract, Rivera’s option was declined by the Dodgers after hitting just .224 with nine home runs in 109 games with LA last season.
Rivera is the most likely replacement in left-field on the Yankees roster right now, but doesn’t inspire much confidence except as a late-round flier in fantasy baseball. He could regain a bit of his home run stroke after leaving spacious Dodger Stadium for the much more home-run friendly Yankee Stadium. He did have double-digit homers in seven of his last eight seasons before last year including three 20-home run campaigns in 2009-2011 with the two MLB teams based in LA.
If you draft Granderson, Rivera is a decent last-round pickup to play until Granderson returns. See how he does in spring training, and if he makes the roster make sure to keep an eye on him early in the season.
Diaz is also in Yankees camp on a minor league contract after signing from Atlanta this offseason. He’s made a career mashing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .324/.364/.498 triple-slash. He’s coming off thumb surgery which limited him to just 51 games last season but he could be half the answer if Rivera can play against righties.
Of all the options, Diaz is the one with the most lasting value since he could earn his way into a larger role with a good start as a replacement in right field for Ichiro as well. Diaz is a decent end of the draft flier in deeper formats.
Almonte made a splash in Saturday’s spring training game with a home run and an outfield assist against Atlanta. The Dominican outfielder who was a September call-up last year hit .277 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI in AA. I expect the Yankees to give Almonte a long look this spring.
If Almonte is ready, he could be the main bat in left with Diaz backing up both him and Ichiro. If Almote can earn the spot, I think he’s the best fantasy option of the bunch as he’s shown the power stats to fill in for Granderson in the middle of the lineup. The hesitation with Almonte is he hasn’t played a full, or eve partial, season at AAA meaning he may need more seasoning before making it to the Bronx.
Ronnier Mustelier was the immediate replacement for Granderson yesterday after the injury. Mustelier is coming off a solid .303 year in AAA last year with 10 home runs and 49 RBI. He’s late-blooming prospect who defected from Cuba and was originally a second-baseman. Before the injury to Granderson, Mustelier was expected to possibly be ready to figure into the New York outfield next season. Mustelier does offer positional flexibility since he plays all over the place, but probably wouldn’t be much of a fantasy option at this point.
Neal is yet another minor-league signee in camp with the Yankees. He’s younger than the above options and has the best outfield glove of the bunch. Like Mustelier, Neal hasn’t had much MLB experience although he did play a few games for Cleveland at the end of last year. He’ll need a big spring to earn the role, but keep an eye on him.
Johnny Damon/Bobby Abreu
Could the Yankees bring either of these free agents back? The early indications are that they’ll look at internal options rather than adding another veteran free agent, but both these players could replace him as a left-handed half of a platoon with Almonte or even Diaz. It doesn’t seem likely that either one has much if anything left in the tank, so I’d stay away from either one in fantasy baseball. It looks like a long shot that the Yankees will add either of these players before the season starts.
So how about it Yankees fans? Sound off in the conversation at the bottom of the page on who you’d like to see in left field and let me know how big of a deal this loss really is…