Posted: Thursday May 3, 2012 4:50PM ; Updated: Thursday May 3, 2012 4:50PM

With Longoria out, flawed third basemen get calls to star in fantasy

Story Highlights

Chris Johnson is an uninspiring fill-in for Evan Longoria with more Ks than games

In 151 career games, Eric Hosmer has hit 24 homers and stolen 12 bases

High walk rate suggests Mark Reynold may bounce back from bad start at plate

By Ray Flowers, BaseballGuys.com, Special to SI.com

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Pedro Alvarez hhas rebounded from a dreadful start at the plate with five home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 games.
Pedro Alvarez hhas rebounded from a dreadful start at the plate with five home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 games.

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

Evan Longoria replacement with empty slot: stick with my Daniel Murphy or pick up Pedro Alvarez, Chris Johnson or Chipper Jones?
-- @mindmagi

It looks like Longoria will miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks with a hamstring injury, a crushing blow for his owners. Since I've gotten similar questions from so many people the past few days, here are a few thoughts on the potential replacements.

Murphy: A nice support player because he qualifies at first, second and third base, He's a career .291 hitter, but his lack of power right now is brutal (no homers in 99 at-bats and just seven RBI). Murphy will never be anything more than a 15-homer bat, but when you don't steal bases, don't go deep and don't knock runners in, your roster spot is in question in a standard mixed league.

Alvarez: The perpetual underachiever is on fire right now. Over his last 10 games he's doubled his average from .118 to .242 while socking five homers, knocking in 10 runners and scoring eight times. He still has a whopping 24 Ks in 66 at-bats, and just four walks on the season, but at least the hot run of late gives us some hope that he might finally be starting to live up to expectations, even if there are still significant holes in his game.

Johnson: When you get four hits, including two homers, and six RBI in one game people take notice. Hitting .311 with 14 RBI through 23 games for the Astros, Johnson is a pretty blah option. Not only does he have more Ks (24) than games played, he's also walked only three times, leaving him with a career BB/K mark of 0.16, which is so hideous that the appropriately damning adjective simply slips my mind. Johnson, best case scenario, is a .270-20-80 type of effort, but that doesn't mean he will reach any of those three totals this year.

Jones: Always productive -- when he is on the field. Chipper has repeatedly mentioned to the press that his knees are shot, and that it's a struggle to make it out onto the field every night. Chipper has four homers and 14 RBI through 16 games, and that .273 average is sustainable, but you have to set your sights with him on a replication of last year's efforts, nothing more (.275-18-70 in 126 games).

Should I deal Shane Victorino for Eric Hosmer ?
-- @cooperkyle22

I always wonder why Victorino gets such little love in fantasy? Yes, he's never hit 20 homers. He's never knocked in 70 runs. He's never stolen 40 bases. He's never hit .295 in a season. Come to think of it, why do I like him? Oh wait, I know; it's because he is consistently productive across the board. From 2008-11, an "average" Victorino season has led to a fantasy line of .281-15-63-96-29. How many players in baseball met all those marks last season? Three -- Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Kemp. Victorino fell short at .279-17-61-95-19, still a strong effort that only six other men could match (add in Dustin Pedroia, Justin Upton and Melky Cabrera).

Hosmer was talked up to the point this offseason that if he didn't go .300-30-100 he was going to be viewed as a disappointment. When, after 23 games, he's hitting .183 with a .638 OPS, people are having to be dissuaded to not cut him. Let's add some perspective. In 151 career games, Hosmer has hit .276 with 24 homers, 92 RBI, 79 runs and 12 steals. How impressive a season would that be for pretty much any first baseman, let alone one that has appeared in just 151 games in his career? In fact, because of the added element of speed that he brings, would it surprise you to learn that not a single first baseman went .276-24-92-79-12 last season? Despite the struggles this year, Hosmer has upped his walk rate by about 35 percent while cutting down his strikeout rate. He's also upped his HR/F ratio to 19.2 percent (13.5 percent last year). And it's a safe bet that he won't finish the year with a .162 BABIP. He'll recover, as he's simply too talented not to.

I'm a big fan of Hosmer, who was able to adjust from his struggles last year and rebound to perform, but I'm still going to hold on to Shane Victorino, as much for his all-around production as for his history of high-level play.

I hated drafting Mark Reynolds and yet I did it. Should I consider dropping him for Will Middlebrooks?
-- @SFarup

You know what you get when you roster Reynolds. You get a guy who will be fortunate to hit .240, but one who should produce plenty in the counting numbers. It's often missed that over the past three years Reynolds has hit more homers than any other third baseman, posted the second most runs at the position and ranked third among third sackers in RBI. That's Top-3 in all three categories in case you missed that.

Still, we're 20 games into Reynolds' season and he's hitting .136 with no homers, three RBI and four runs. Even I'm scared now. I don't think he's going to pull an Adam Dunn, but that has to be a concern at this point. On the plus side, Reynolds is walking more often than ever before and his BABIP of .257 fits in nicely with his marks of .257 and .266 the past two years. His current line drive rate is also at a three-year high. He should rebound if given the time to do so (playing time is obviously a big concern at this point).

Middlebrooks was called up when Kevin Youkilis hit the DL with a back issue. Thought of as one of the best prospects in the game at the hot corner, Middlebrooks had two hits in his first game. Middlebrooks is solid defensively and on offense he has power to all fields. However, his K-rate has hovered around 25-30 percent in the minors, and that doesn't speak to a guy who is going to be a solid producer in the big leagues. He's also displayed that solid pop without ever being a big-time power threat, and he's also not patient at the plate. Don't get me wrong, the guy has a bright future, but at this point of his development he could benefit from some more time at Triple A, which he figures to get. Why do I say that? When Youkilis is back with the Sox, where does Middlebrooks play? David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez will be the everyday DH and 1B, so what, the Red Sox will put Youkilis on the bench? That's just not a likely scenario.

Short term, you can give Middlebrooks a shot, but I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that if it was my team I'd hold on to Reynolds.

Mariano Rivera and Jesus Montero for Albert Pujols, what do you think?
-- @wbischof

Andruw Jones once fell on his face going from an All-Star to afterthought in one season. Adam Dunn did it last year. Mark Reynolds may be on his way to doing it this year. Albert Pujols will not follow that path. It's possible that Pujols will end the year with the worst numbers of his career (so far he's posted .208-0-5-9). Still, are you really going to throw out 11 years of excellence over one bad month? Does anyone honestly doubt that Pujols could hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI in his remaining 130 games? I'm not saying he will, but I still think it's possible.

Rivera, given the lunacy that has occurred in bullpens across baseball, has to be one of the most valuable players in fantasy baseball. All he does, year after year, is produce. Nothing has changed there at all. Montero has appeared in eight games at catcher (seven starting), so there might still be some leagues where he only qualifies at DH, which limits his value. If he qualifies at catcher how can you complain about a guy who is on pace to hit better than .290 with more than 20 homers? You can't. Still, the guy has 19 Ks in 23 games and he's walked just two times. Eventually, an approach like that is bound to catch up to Montero.

If you're one of those people who is stuck at catcher -- you've been rolling out there with Kurt Suzuki and Geovany Soto -- and if your bullpen was at one point anchored by Andrew Bailey and Drew Storen, then you could hold on to the duo. If that isn't the case I'm all about adding Pujols. The breakout is coming.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

 
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