Carlos Beltran going down with an oblique strain really could not have come at a worse time. Despite his shambling defense in right field, Beltran had seriously gotten hot at the plate. After a disastrous start to the season, Beltran hit .298/.316/.500 in May and an even better .300/.378/.488 in June. Make no mistake, Beltran had become an asset again. The motley platoon of Chris Young and Garrett Jones has not been all that consistent, though. Jones has only slashed .235/.279/.398 against right-handed pitching in limited action, and while part of the issue may surely be his lack of consistent playing time, he's not exactly who you want filling the void. As far as Ramon Flores goes, 33 plate appearances worth of work is far too early to hand out a verdict. Brett Gardner, as wonderful as he may be, cannot shoulder the load by himself. It's time to shore up what was once a strength and make it into something that won't sink the ship. Who can the Bombers patch the hole with?
Ellsbury played seven innings in center field with the Tampa Yankees yesterday, which is a good sign after being scratched twice already on his rehab stint. He should theoretically be back soon, but it's anybody's guess as to how quickly he'll get all the way back up to speed. I expect Ellsbury to finish out the season, but it wouldn't be a shock if the injury gets re-aggravated at some point. So on paper, Ellsbury can put some lightning back into the lineup and shore up the defense, while eliminating the need for two of Young/Flores/Jones to take up space on a daily basis. That's a win all around. But, of course, that's assuming all goes smoothly. Baseball is a fickle thing. (Writer's note: Ellsbury will be activated on Wednesday. Again, one hopes that he'll actually be at 100%.)
Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott
Both of these former top prospects made their debuts to much fanfare and quickly got hurt. Williams jammed his shoulder, while Heathcott has a quad strain. Mason's shoulder injury didn't involve structural damage and the Yankees said they didn't want to rush him back, so I'm guessing he should be healthy sometime soon after the All-Star break. Heathcott, however, came down with the Chris Capuano special and that's a process that takes months. He just can't catch a break. Williams, if he does return before Ellsbury (hopefully not), would possibly take Flores' spot on the 25-man roster. If Ellsbury is healthy first, Flores goes down and Williams may follow him. Heathcott is a lottery ticket at this point.
Ah yes, here's the elephant in the room. The top offensive prospect the Yankees have was recently promoted to Triple-A, and he's starting to hit. He's presently sitting at .269/.365/.365, which isn't exactly what one looks for in a possible promotion. That's also after a whopping 52 at-bats, so he's still adjusting to the level. Whenever Judge ends up getting called up, it will be to serve as a starter in order to give him the regular playing time he needs to develop. Now if Beltran ends up being out a long time and Judge is consistently raking after a few hundred plate appearances, then that's a real conversation to have. For right now, however, no dice. Patience, young Skywalker. His time will come.
Tyler Austin and Taylor Dugas
Of the two outfielders on the 40-man roster at Triple-A, neither are appealing options. Austin has nearly stopped hitting altogether, and Dugas (who rode the bench out in Anaheim before being sent down without touching the field) hasn't hit this year after nearly batting .300 at Double-A last year. Dugas can field and run well, but that's about it. Nothing doing here.
Now we're talking. Zobrist can play pretty much anywhere you stick him. I'm pretty sure he could throw a good spiral if you wanted to stick him at quarterback. He's hitting a healthy .267/.354/.460 out in Oakland, and while that's not prime corner outfield material, it'll certainly play. He can also knock Stephen Drew out of the lineup if/when another feasible outfield option is found, which makes him endlessly more appealing than other deadline rentals such as Yoenis Cespedes, who would create a roster crunch when Beltran gets healthy. Get it done, Cashman. Pretty please.
"Hey Mike, long time listener, first time caller. See I've got a take on the Beltran injury. The guy's been a bum all year and him going on the DL presents a real opportunity, ya see. I think that Cashman has to go out and get Mike Trout, from the Angels. They just changed their GM and I'm hearing they want to trade. So if we trade them Gardner and Didi and Betances, we could put him in center field and that would really give the offense a kick when Ellsbury gets back, and then we get to bring up Judge to take the other outfield spot. The Yanks have just gotta do this, ya know!"
Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankeesand covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found atBeyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.