Closing Time: Replacing Robinson Cano

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/7497/" data-ylk="slk:Robinson Cano">Robinson Cano</a> was suspended Tuesday, and is not playoff-eligible for 2018 (AP)
Robinson Cano was suspended Tuesday, and is not playoff-eligible for 2018 (AP)

Things move fast in the baseball world, probably faster than they ever have. I published the Middle Infield Shuffle Up over the weekend. Since it hit the interwebs, we’ve seen a bunch of player movement, most of it tied to injury.

Robinson Cano, of course, is the big story. First he busted his right hand over the weekend, then he was suspended for 80 games on Tuesday (a move that had surely been in motion for a while; there’s a process here). I have no extensive moral position on Cano, but you can’t be a baseball writer and not say something. Indulge me one paragraph, and then we’ll get back to what we do here.

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Baseball has a reasonable banned-substance program but it could be better; perhaps Cano was not intentionally taking a masking agent, but I don’t know him personally and it would be silly to speculate. The players who are adamantly against taking enhancing substances deserve a game where they don’t feel they must, simply to keep up. All I know is Cano is off our boards for three months. Seattle’s playoff chances take a hit, though the worth of any individual baseball player is often overstated. But I think most of us agree, baseball without guys like Robinson Cano is less fun.

To underscore how mad the player movement is in 2018, let’s note the middle-infield transaction wire since Shuffle Up was published.

• Yoan Monacada came off the DL

Logan Forsythe came off the DL

• Robinson Cano went on the DL, and later was suspended

• D.J. LeMahieu went back on the DL

Josh Harrison and Dustin Pedroia started rehab assignments

• Allen Hanson went on the DL

That’s two days of news!

You might need a new infielder with Cano sidelined. Let’s spotlight some stuff that’s out there.

Marcus Semien probably shouldn’t be in this discussion, since he’s over the 50 percent ownership tag. But I guess someone will inevitably say “how about Semien?” and I’ll give the thumbs up. He generally bats first in an Oakland lineup that’s been a little better than average, and he’ll probably get to double-digits in home runs and steals again. Although a .322 OBP doesn’t call out for leadoff privileges, he’s on pace to score 116 runs. He should be owned in any league with 10 owners or more.

Starlin Castro is right at the equator, 50 percent owned. Hey, we know he’s going to play. It feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s still just 28. He’ll give you plus batting average, probably double-digit pop, not much speed. The lineup is definitely a negative, though he’s usually in front of Justin Bour. I never go out of my way to watch any Miami games; that’s something I’m dug in on. Their owners are screwing over their city and whatever fans they have left. So it goes. (If you don’t have any Marlins bias, Miguel Rojas is available as a cheaper rental.)

• The Diamondbacks are finding things for Daniel Descalso to do; he qualifies at first, second, third and the outfield. He’s also batted in the Top 4 of the lineup for seven straight games; that will likely continue with A.J. Pollock hurt again. This is the first time the journeyman Descalso has approached tangible mixed-league value, making the most of his growing walk rate and a notable spike in his hard-hit rate. Perhaps he’ll turn into the poor man’s Scooter Gennett. (Remember all the cheap shots at Gennett last year? He got the last laugh. He’d look great in Seattle, by the way.)

Brandon Crawford’s pop has been absent, so he’s tumbled down to 20 percent owned. But he’s giving us a plus average, his glove will keep him in the game, and he’ll usually product runs (77, 84, 84 RBIs the last three years). Of course, RBIs are not a good stat to evaluate how good a player is — they tell us something contextual about a player and team — but they’re a stat we use for 5×5 grading purposes. I expect Crawford to bat for a fantasy-neutral average, hit double-digit home runs, and quickly knock in 70-plus again, even if he’s not on that pace now. A boring player at this stage of his career, but still a useful one.

• I’m going to keep pushing for Niko Goodrum, resume to the side, because we all need more good rum in our lives. He homered Sunday, hit two more on Monday, then had a solid 3-1-1-0 line Tuesday, with a key walk against an obviously-rusty Andrew Miller. The Tigers have pushed Goodrum from seventh to fifth to fourth in the order, and he qualifies at three positions (first, second, outfield). Four homers, four steals, a Detroit lineup that’s been better than advertised, maybe this can be a fun story for a while. Goodrum’s ownership is on the rise, but it’s still at a modest 12 percent.

• The White Sox are going to be something when they grow up. Yolmer Sanchez is almost an elder statesman at age 25. The .295 average hasn’t come with much pop, though he’s stolen three bases. He’s been in the two-slot for three straight games.

• Over the weekend, I wailed about Jonathan Villar having just three runs to his name, all season. His response was a monster game Monday: homer and steal, three hits, three runs (I guess that makes six). Even though he’s still striking out way too much (32 percent) given his low power (.352 slugging), and that .272 average won’t last with a .397 BABIP supporting it, there’s something to be said for seven steals in a world where most teams don’t run much. I’m not going to prioritize Villar and the Brewers feel the same — they usually slot him low in the order, and he’s not an automatic starter ever day — but it’s my job to tell you he’s owned in 41 percent of Yahoo leagues. Some of you need to consider him.

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