We knew yesterday that Ben Zobrist had dislocated his thumb and that the Rays were assessing their options with him. Now the Rays have officially placed him on the disabled list, adding Cole Figueroa to the 25- and 40-man rosters to take his place.
Zobrist, 33, was off to a decent start to the season but was not quite hitting to his standards. He had a .260/.352/.364 mark (103 OPS+) in 180 plate appearances, walking 23 times against 21 strikeouts but not showing much power. Zobrist ascended to the top of the lineup, batting leadoff or second in 28 of the Rays’ last 31 games, and he did a nice job seeing pitches and getting on base. Bizarrely, Zobrist has been excellent against left-handed pitching, who he struggled against last year, but right-handed pitchers have given him trouble. He has a .314/.419/.514 line against lefties in 44 plate appearances, but that slips to .244/.331/.319 against right-handers in 136 plate appearances, although he still showed a strong 18-16 strikeout to walk ratio. In any event, Zobrist will be missed for both his bat and his strong defense at second base, and it will be interesting to see how the Rays replace him.
One of the players who will see time in Zobrist’s absence is Figueroa, who will be making his major league debut. The 27 year old is capable of playing third base, second base, shortstop, and the corner outfield spots, and he was off to a strong start at Triple-A, hitting to a .299/.397/.462 line in 145 plate appearances. Figueroa is hitting for more power this season than in years past–his career line at Triple-A is .288/.360/.386 in 1025 plate appearances–but otherwise he has been the same player for three years now and was just waiting for a big league opportunity. Now he finally has it. Figueroa is interesting as a left-handed hitter with a neutral platoon split who also plays excellent defense at several spots. His results in a limited sample size in 2014 notwithstanding, he has not shown the ability to hit the ball with enough authority to be a starting player, but he could be quite valuable off the bench. With Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe both stronger against left-handed pitching, it should be interesting to see how often the Rays start Figueroa when they face a righty.
Ben Zobrist is out, but the Rays have a trio of options in Rodriguez, Forsythe, and Figueroa as they hope to fill in for him at second base. Hopefully Zobrist can come back strongly after two weeks and get on a roll when he returns.