Injured players return for fantasy stretch run

Now is the time of the fantasy baseball season where seasons can easily be won and lost on critical roster add/drops. In head-to-head leagues, this is paramount, as weekly playoff rounds can easily be decided by a talented player who is just returning from a lengthy absence. Looking at the talent pool that is likely widely available in 12-plus team leagues, here are some guys to target as well as a breakdown of their respective injuries and the potential impact going forward through the end of the regular season:

Mixed League-Worthy

Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore: When Jones hit the DL due to a fractured foot in early August, he was cast to the waiver wire in a ton of leagues. His foot is now fully healed, he has no pain, and he should not be affected negatively as it pertains to his ability to produce fantasy-wise. If anything, he may experience some normal soreness associated with getting the joints in the foot to move in synchrony once again. The Orioles plan to activate him on Monday (9/1), so the time to add him is now. Those in mixed leagues should take a chance on him—especially owners who have recently been dealt a blow to their outfield depth by the injuries to Carl Crawford or Carlos Lee. It is also important to note that he is keeper league material. Expect a fair share of strikeouts, but he will be also chip in with a few more homers and a handful of steals before the season is done.

Ryan Church, OF, New York Mets: Church is doing well in his return from an extended DL stay and has had no flare-up of post-concussion symptoms. The Mets need to hold off the Phillies in the NL East race, and a healthy Ryan Church is a definite stabilizer to their lineup. While posting a batting average of at least .299 in every month this season except June (and the 1 game in March), Church has been a steady producer while healthy. August has seen him go 6-for-20 (.300) with two doubles and a steal, to go along with a respectable .364 OBP. The power will be the next thing to return.

Alexi Casilla, 2B, Minnesota: He has hit safely in 6 of 8 games since returning from the DL, though that has only resulted in a .176 average in August. It was initially feared that Casilla would require season-ending surgery on his right thumb, but rest and immobilization allowed him to return. It is possible that he is still sore, or perhaps guarding a bit and not letting loose at the plate. He had been a .300 hitter all season long, so once he gets comfortable at the plate, watch the average rise. Don’t expect much else other than some multi-single games and some runs scored. He is more of a replacement player than a true starter in fantasy circles, though he is definitely a starter in AL-only leagues.

Hideki Matsui, OF, New York Yankees: Godzilla is usually a great source of BA, OBP, and hits, but temper your expectations as he is dealing with chronic pain in his left knee. He has managed two home runs in 32 August at-bats, and he will have an opportunity to drive in some runs in a potent lineup as the team’s DH. Just remember that he needs surgery on his knee, so a flare-up of symptoms could easily occur at any time. If New York is eliminated from postseason contention, he will probably shut it down.

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pittsburgh: After a torrid July where he hit .390/.472/.805 with 30 hits, seven HR, and 18 RBI, LaRoche was sent to the DL with a lower back/intercostal (rib) strain. He went on a minor league rehab assignment and promptly cracked a home run in his first rehab assignment game, and has not stopped hitting upon his return in August. Though his average has taken a nose dive to .265 in 49 August at-bats, he has managed three HR and seven RBI. The epitome of a second-half performer (career .298 BA and .901 OPS after the break), he is a must-add in even the shallowest of mixed leagues.

Elijiah Dukes, OF, Washington: Dukes suffered a partial tear to his right meniscus and patellar tendon. He had surgery on July 7, and has made a successful return to the starting lineup. Since his Aug. 27 return, he has gone 3-for-7 with two HR and six RBI. He has the ability to run hot and cold for extended periods, but you might as well ride this out, because he has outstanding talent and power to boot.

Matt Capps, CL, Pittsburgh: The Pirates aren’t winning much lately, so the save opportunities may be limited, but if you are starving for a closer, Capps at least is capable of providing stellar ERA and WHIP. The right shoulder issues are under control and should not hinder him again this season.

NL/AL-only Leagues

None of these guys are going to be worth adding in most leagues, but in AL/NL only leagues they may be of some value, depending on your situation:

Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Texas: Not much power left, he’s always a risk to hit the DL with his plethora of interrelated injuries, but he can get on hot streaks that last for weeks. Hopefully, the position change helps. For fantasy owners, it at least gives them a reason to add him for roster flexibility.

Joe Crede, 3B, Chicago White Sox: For owners in need of power only. He has been dealing with low back pain this season after having offseason back surgery, and there is no guarantee that he will be able to play out the remainder of the season. If you’re trying to catch up in the batting average category, you should ignore him entirely, but if you have a 3B/CI spot open, and need to catch up quickly in the HR/RBI categories, he could be of some help.

Carl Pavano, SP, New York Yankees: Wins—and that’s about it. For AL-only owners, you could probably do worse. The Yankees have to be furious at this ridiculous contract. Is this the year he gets his career W-L record over .500 for his career (currently at 63-64)?

Luis Castillo, 2B, New York Mets: He’s not guaranteed regular playing time against lefties, but when in the lineup, he should emerge as a good source of runs, hits, and some cheap steals. He is normally money in the bank for a .295-.300 average, so you just have to figure he’ll find his groove down the home stretch.

Scott Rolen, 3B, Toronto: If you’re an AL-only owner looking for a player to fill a corner infield position who can nab you some cheap RBI, Rolen is serviceable but not spectacular. My oh my, how the years have flown by. It seems like only yesterday when Rolen was one of the league’s most-feared hitters (i.e. 2004: 34 HR, 124 RBI, .314/.409/.598).

Chris is a currently practicing, licensed sports Physical Therapist who writes injury-based baseball content at his free site, The DL Informer (http://www.disabledlistinformer.com). I can be reached via email at
, and promise to return all e-mails.

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