Hurry back, Jose (USAT)
Toronto executive Alex Anthopoulos is considered by many to be the brightest young general manager in the game. As Jeff Spicoli would be the first to attest, Anthopoulos is working with an ultimate set of tools.
Unfortunately, there's no reset button to be found in Toronto's headquarters. The Blue Jays don't have the option of nixing the first two weeks of the season and starting over.
The big YYZ concern into Friday's play was a collection of slumping stars, but the stuff really hit the fan in the middle of the series opener at Kansas City. Franchise shortstop Jose Reyes sprained his left ankle while stealing a base in the top of the sixth inning, and he'll be lost for an extended period of time. The initial timetable guess is 1-3 months (and it certainly could be longer); we'll see what MRI results tell us in a day or two.
No team is well-equipped to handle this sort of injury, of course. The Jays could use rock-pulling Emilio Bonifacio at short, and journeyman Maicer Izturis is another option. Surely Anthopoulos will examine the trade market, see if anything makes sense. But this is the type of loss that leaves a scar on any ball club, be it real life or imaginary.
Get out the legal pad and round up the usual suspects; it's time to go shopping for a new fantasy middle infielder (we'll look at second basemen, too). As per usual, we'll try to hit different ownership levels, provide something for everyone.
-- Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (50 percent owned in Yahoo!) has been a frozen-rope machine, off to a zesty .368-10-2-10 start. He only hit six home runs in 571 at-bats last year but maybe his pop is growing up; he's already collected five doubles and a triple this year, slugging .711. The Mets have him parked in the second spot in the order, and career years often come in an Age-28 season. Yahoo! colleague and Mets authority Mike Salfino is a Murphy believer, if you wanted to know.
-- There's not a hidden profile with Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart (26 percent); what you see is what you get. He's knocked 19 balls over the wall through 158 MLB games, but it's come attached to a paltry .243 average and a modest four steals. Cozart is off to a measly 4-for-35 start to the new year, though two of the hits were homers. Cozart doesn't turn 28 until August, so this might not be the cap of his ability.
-- It's not easy for me to say something nice about the Drew family, you might have noted that over the years. But the Red Sox insist Stephen Drew (16 percent) is healthy, and obviously hitting in Fenway Park is a bonus for just about anyone. Drew was considered a rising star back in 2007-10 before his body started to fail him; nonetheless, he's still just 30. Anyone want to play the post-hype game?
-- Bonifacio (45 percent) has been surprisingly silent on the bases this month after running wild all spring (and in past seasons). And his fielding has been downright dreadful through the opening two weeks, no getting around that. Alas, the Jays are probably forced to use Bonifacio in a significant role for the time being, and eventually the bags should come (he's always stolen liberally in the past). Rabbit, run.
-- Jean Segura (40 percent) is another steal-capable player who's not running right now, despite plenty of opportunities (he's batting .429). We can't even blame the Milwaukee lineup construction on this one, as Segura hasn't been completely tied to the eighth spot in the order (a legitimate concern a month ago). Segura swiped seven bases in eight attempts over his 44 games last year, a pace he should get back to eventually.
Maybe those names do something for you, maybe they don't. Here are some other candidates to look at and scout, depending on your options and context:
-- Shallow: Andrelton Simmons, Everth Cabrera.
-- Medium: Dustin Ackley (he can't be this bad, can he?), Jhonny Peralta, Jeff Keppinger.
-- Deep: Omar Infante, Jordany Valdespin, Billy Hamilton (nothing imminent, it's a dare-to-dream pick), Chris Nelson, Marvin Gonzalez, Brandon Crawford.
Obviously there are other names of interest out there, and maybe I've overlooked your favorite pick-up prospect. Help the room in the comments; we'll be eternally grateful.
Master of his domain (USAT)
• Justin Masterson has been more teaser than pleaser through his five meaty pro seasons, with only the 2011 campaign (12-10, 3.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) returning a profit. If you put any faith into Masterson last year you paid a dear price; a 4.93 ERA and 1.45 WHIP torched your ratios.
At the risk of sounding like Charlie Brown during football season, maybe 2013 is different. Perhaps Masterson is finally ready to turn the corner and become a bankable fantasy arm for good.
The Cleveland righty has been just about letter perfect through three starts, working 22 innings and allowing one piddly run. He's collected 20 strikeouts against a modest eight walks, with the latest outing a completely-game bagel parade against the White Sox (here's some scouting tape). The Tribe needed Masterson to be on point, as Cleveland didn't push across the game's only run until the bottom of the ninth. Bang the drum, the Indians win. (Look how happy it makes Jennifer Keaton.)
To be fair, it was a cold and raw evening in Cleveland, a crummy night to be a hitter in a baseball game. And the White Sox don't have a roster deep with left-handed batters, which are the proven kryptonite to Masterson's game. He's allowed a .289/.363/.428 slash against the platoon split for his career. Most opponents note this split (and Masterson's low arm slot) and line up as many lefties as it can.
Masterson's dominated both sides of the plate through his three turns of 2013, though, and he's starting his Age-28 campaign. We at least have to consider that maybe he's figuring some stuff out. He'll get an interesting challenge against the Red Sox next week; are you in or are you out? You can still add Masterson in 31 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• I'll openly admit I'm rooting for Kyuji Fujikawa to solidify the closing job for the Cubs. I don't look forward to a reemergence of the Marmol Maladies, for obvious reasons. Alas, there's no way we can ignore what went down on the North Side on Friday afternoon.
Fujikawa was asked to secure a 2-0 lead in the ninth and quickly melted down, allowing three runs before the side was retired. The Giants collected three hits (two of them absolute rockets) and also benefited from a wild pitch and a hit batsman. Fujikawa's control and command were all over the place from the word go.
To be fair, Fujikawa almost escaped with a handshake - if the Cubs were an eyelash quicker on Hunter Pence's routine ground ball to shortstop, a double play would have ended the game. And at least the Cubs flipped the result in the bottom of the ninth, scoring two runs off Sergio Romo. Fujikawa now understands the most American of rallying cries: just win, baby.
Fujikawa probably needs a day off after throwing 30 pitches, but I don't think manager Dale Sveum wants to make a hasty and permanent switch in the ninth. Although Fujikawa has been ineffective in two of his five appearances, he's probably still the man to own in this bullpen. Carlos Marmol's issues aren't going to fix themselves overnight, and James Russell doesn't have much of a career profile against right-handed batters. Stay the course, gamers.
Emerald gem (USAT)Speed Round: The Athletics outlasted the Tigers in extra innings, but it came at a cost: Coco Crisp (groin) and Yoenis Cespedes (hand) both left with injuries. It's a downright shame to see Crisp get dinged up, as he's been the AL's top offensive force through two weeks. Billy Beane apparently knew what he was doing when he assembled a ridiculous amount of outfield depth during the winter . . . Carlos Quentin was slapped with an eight-game suspension for his role in Thursday's mound dustup with the Dodgers. He's going to appeal, which means we'll probably see him on the field when the Padres play at Chavez Ravine on Monday. Must-see TV, wouldn't you say? . . . Hats off to Seattle righty Hisashi Iwakuma, perhaps the most underrated pitcher in the AL right now. He outpitched comrade Yu Darvish on Friday, allowing one run over 6.2 crisp innings of work. Iwakuma has a 2.18 ERA and 0.48 WHIP through three starts, with one walk against 16 strikeouts. He'll face Detroit next week, another Safeco-endorsed turn . . . Heaven help the Miami lineup if Giancarlo Stanton misses any serious time. Stanton has a sore left shoulder and is headed for an MRI . . . CC Sabathia's velocity remains an issue, but with the results he's shown over his last two starts, maybe it doesn't matter. Sabathia cruised past the Orioles on Friday, allowing just two runs (one earned) over eight superb innings. He struck out nine . . . Tommy Hanson was knocked around (five runs) by the plucky Astros, who seem to resent the "stream anyone" approach suggested at them. Joe Saunders handled Houston earlier in the week, but Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer were batting practice . . . Dexter Fowler homered twice, in Petco Park of all places, as the Rockies got past San Diego. Fowler is just 1-for-2 on the bases through two weeks, but the way he's raking, no one cares . . . Shelby Miller's first start was so-so but he turned up the juice in turn No. 2, toying with the Brewers over seven dominant innings (1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K). Here's your mandatory highlight package. If you're headed to Shelbyville for Week 3, you'll appreciate seeing the Pirates on the schedule (it's a PNC Park match, set for Wednesday).