Okay, I'll lead off with the injury/call-up news everyone is talking about. The Rangers placed Ian Kinsler on the DL yesterday with a right intercostal strain, and called up wunderkind Jurickson Profar to replace him. And yes, if he debuts strongly, every single headline writer in the world will use "Profar, so good" the next day.
Anyway, Profar needs to be added in most leagues, even if his arrival turns out to only be temporary. Heck, Ron Washington has never been keen on playing youngsters, so who knows, maybe Leury Garcia gets more starts than expected. But Profar is still the #1 prospect in the game, so there's no sense in letting that sit on the sidelines. And if Kinsler misses more time than expected, we might see the birth of a new double-play combination. I expect any Profar adds to be temporary, but he still has to be owned.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled injury talk. I was going to start this with a song parody of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," but then I realized I would hate myself and you would hate me as a result, so...let's just forget I ever mentioned it, okay?
The point of my shameful potential endeavor was that it appears that a very strong fantasy team could be formed entirely from players who either returned in the past week or are back really soon. Actually, I want to play that game. Let's try:
Your catcher would be A.J. Pierzynski, on rehab for the Rangers. He'll be back this week sometime, and, though Geovany Soto has been an improved hitter in his absence, Pierzynski is still going to get the lion's share of time. He's a fine lower-tier starter, but nothing you want to have to rely on.
At first base, you'll have Logan Morrison. The Marlins are sending him on rehab this week, eying an end-of-the-month return. Lord knows they need any offense they can get. LoMo has yet to realize the potential he was said to have on his way up, but if you're desperate, once he's back he's a virtual lock to at least get at bats.
Your second-base platoon would be Neil Walker and Gordon Beckham. Okay, sue me, it would be Walker. He was activated from his DL stint last Monday. He's struggled since his return (5-for-24, no extra-base-hits), but you know what you're getting with Walker. Beckham, meanwhile, is rehabbing now, with a possible return this week. Unfortunately, you probably know what you're getting with him as well, but still. We all love Gordon Beckham. Or just me. Probably just me.
Your third baseman and shortstop will be Willie Bloomquist. Sorry, my little exercise doesn't really have a left side of the infield. Anyway, Bloomquist is about to go off on his own rehab stint soon, though the way Didi Gregorius and Eric Chavez have been playing for the Diamondbacks, maybe Bloomquist doesn't exactly get full-time play upon his return.
But ohhhh, your fake-hypothetical-little-game-I'm-playing outfield. Jason Heyward and Curtis Granderson, both activated in the past week, would be your anchors of course, and you'll play them every day. (If any Heyward owner got fed up with waiting after his slow start and made him available, go do that thing.) To go with them, you'll add Coco Crisp and Chris Young, both also activated recently. I said before that I don't expect Crisp to continue his early season hot streak, so if you get good value for him now, I'd be all over it. Rajai Davis, Adam Eaton, Cameron Maybin, and Michael Cuddyer - all either on rehab assignments or set to go out soon - would round out your outfield. If you recall, everyone loved Eaton in the preseason, so if he comes back up to the Diamondbacks when he's healthy, he's definitely worth a flyer. Davis, Maybin, and Cuddyer are probably just guys. Nice fill-ins if you lose someone else, but not guys you want to rely on.
The pitching staff would be headlined by Zack Greinke - who returned from his broken collarbone Wednesday and looked fine, if pitch-count-limited - and Johnny Cueto - due to make his return start today. Both guys should be must-starts in every format. Jered Weaver is coming back soon as well, and, while he's not the super-stud he's been made out to be, I still expect a plenty usable starting pitcher upon his return.
Behind those guys, the pitcher I would most advise adding is Brandon Beachy. Beachy, out since last June after undergoing Tommy John surgery, went on a rehab assignment yesterday. He's likely back within a month or less, and if you recall, was a heck of a pitcher in the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012, leading the league in ERA when he went down. He's 26, and while the Braves might well ease him back into a workload, he's a pitcher worth owning.
Also nearing (in fact, even closer to) his season debut is the Cubs' Matt Garza. He finished his rehab outings Thursday, and is set to start tomorrow against the Pirates. I'd like to see how Garza looks upon his return to make any concrete decisions, but you could definitely do worse than running him out there.
I mean, that's not all, either. Your imaginary team could also, in the next week-plus, get back Josh Johnson, Ted Lilly, Clayton Richard, and John Danks from their respective rehab assignments. And in the bullpen, you might get Andrew Bailey and Ryan Madson back soon, to join the already-returned Vinnie Pestano. I expect Bailey to slide back into the Red Sox closer role, so there are saves to be had if he got dropped. Madson is ostensibly a closer, though I honestly don't know how the Angels will use him and Ernesto Frieri when they have both. Meanwhile, Pestano is setting up for Chris Perez, who recently blew his second save of the year and has been battling shoulder soreness. If either of Perez's problems get worse, Pestano could easily slide into that role, and I don't think he ever gives it up if he does.
That about does it for the returns-or-close this week and, while that roster might not win every fantasy league (dangit, Willie Bloomquist), it won't be the Astros, either. Your DL slots, so bogged-down a few weeks ago, are about to lose a lot of weight.
Or, if you prefer the glass-half-empty interpretation, you're merely sweeping the floor to make room for more dirt. Because those newly healthy guys are being replaced in a hurry.
In Atlanta, that vaunted bullpen is decidedly less vaunted now, after Tommy John surgery for Jonny Venters, likely the same for Eric O'Flaherty, and a right-shoulder-induced DL stint for Jordan Walden. Craig Kimbrel is still Craig Kimbrel, so unless you're in a holds league, this probably doesn't change your bullpen strategy, but a weaker relief corps could cost you wins if you own Braves starters.
Also staring down the barrel of the James Andrews gun is Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, who will visit baseball's Grim Reaper this week. On the other hand, Garcia's bugaboo is his shoulder, not his elbow, and there are no indications of a long-term absence, so stay tuned.
Josh Beckett went on the DL with a strained groin, yet another in the Dodgers' never-ending string of pitcher ouchies. He's been awful this year, which should come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention. I'm comfortable dropping him in just about any format.
Another pitcher I'm comfortable dropping, if your DL is full, is Alexi Ogando, who continues the Rangers' own ouchie-string. Ogando doesn't strike out enough guys or go deep enough into games to have supreme value. You can equal his contributions off the waiver wire.
The Tigers put Austin Jackson on the DL last Monday with a pulled hamstring, meaning he might only miss another week or so. He's someone you pretty much have to hold on to while he's out, so sit tight. Doesn't sound like a long absence.
Finally, Jarrod Dyson, you hurt me good. Literally hours after I wrote that he was worth a speculative add as his playing time increased, Dyson sprained his ankle leaping against the outfield wall and hit the DL. It doesn't sound like a long-term injury, either, but still-you couldn't have done that a day earlier and not made me look dumb? Geez, Jarrod. Geez.
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