Okay, so here's the thing. I'm pretty stream-of-consciousness in these intros, as you might have noticed. You know, birds are cool. Saw a vulture eating a dead deer today. It was sad. I had driven by that spot earlier today, though, and hadn't noticed the deer. Had the deer just died? That might be sadder. Or are my observational skills wanting? Which would make me sad in a different way.
That sort of thing. So when I decided to write Wednesday's piece about hurt AL players and their fantasy viability, my mind immediately decided to do the NL for Friday. I mean, I don't think that makes me particularly special. It was a pretty obvious choice.
Only problem, and it's one I didn't even realize until I started making this list: For this little exercise, the American League is way more interesting than the National League. In my American League piece, I got to wonder about Kole Calhoun, Derek Holland, Matt Lindstrom. Guys who had clear jobs and clear lines to fantasy relevance. There is some of that in the National League, sure. But by and large, the hurt guys of the National League just don't have the cachet that their AL counterparts do.
(Stream of consciousness again: I had to look up whether I meant "cache" or "cachet" there, because it is one of those things that I really do know, but I always have to look up. It is just a reality of me. Another one of those was on display in my Chicago Bears column on SB Nation Fantasy from Thursday. See, I have been a newspaper editor and a writer and all sorts of wordy guy for a long time, and yet when I'm moving fast I almost always write "through" instead of whatever conjugation of "throw" I mean. I don't know why. I know the difference. But still. Sigh.)
Anyway, the takeaway from this intro is that Wednesday's piece was more than 2,000 words long as I wondered whether Colby Rasmus' on-base deficiencies were balanced out by his power, how much to expect out of James Paxton on his return, that sort of thing. This piece? Well, it'll probably be shorter. Sorry, NL. You're dull.
(1 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues) - Billingsley hasn't pitched since April 15 of last year, ending up with (of course) Tommy John surgery right after that. He's working back from that now, and has been throwing some light bullpen sessions. There will be some more steps in the process - remember, dude hasn't pitched in more than a year, plus he had a setback in April - but all indications are that Billingsley will be back before too awful long. It's easy to forget, but this is a dude with a career 3.65 ERA (110 ERA+, 3.67 FIP) and a return to a pitchers' park with a good lineup. If he can return at full health and full talent, well, stupid Dodgers get stupid richer.
How's that ownership? I guess it's because he's been gone for so long, but I'm kind of surprised he's so lightly owned. This is a guy whose worst season, pre-injury, featured a 4.21 ERA and a 3.83 FIP, with 7.9 K/9. He's not a superstar starter, and he likely never will be again, but he's just now 29 and still gets to pitch for the Dodgers. On the other hand, he doesn't have an obvious rotation slot, with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-Jin Ryu right now in the team's rotation. Still, if he is a good, healthy pitcher, opportunities will arise. Time to start looking at him.
(4 percent) - Hey, remember when he was the theoretical key piece of a thousand different trades, then the real key piece of the trade for the reigning Cy Young winner? d'Arnaud is now 62 games and 226 plate appearances into his big-league career. That's hardly conclusive, but he's sitting at a .199/.280/.289 career line with four home runs, and his biggest reputation is his minor-league inability to stay healthy for any great length of time. For now, he's on the league's seven-day concussion DL, though he's fast approaching his return. (Apropos of nothing: Do you alphabetize his name as a "Da-" name? Because I've seen it some places where they just put him at the end, and I have no idea.)
How's that ownership? I mean, guys gotta be owned, I guess. As was noted in the comments to Wednesday's piece, someone like Tanner Scheppers is still owned in 3 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and most of that has to be guys who have just forgotten about everything. But short of "Oh yeah, I forgot I had a fantasy team," I don't see much reason for owning d'Arnaud in anything short of a deep NL-only.
(31 percent) - Gee was off to a hot start to his season before hitting the DL May 11 with a lat strain. He went 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in eight starts. Of course, he did that with only 33 strikeouts in 52.2 innings and a 4.26 FIP, but in fantasy, results are results. He is expected to only miss three turns through the rotation, but we're through one or two of them already. He'll be back soon.
How's that ownership? Fine. Gee doesn't get you strikeouts (6.5 K/9 for his career, 5.6 this season), and he's not exactly on a team that will get you many wins. He does have a 3.78 career ERA, though, so he'll be fine, if not spectacular. In the league I had him, I've kept him, but in the leagues he's available, I'm not really bothering.
(33 percent) - So he was the Brewers' closer for like five minutes. But the team went away from him even before he hit the DL with shoulder inflammation, after Henderson struggled to a 7.15 ERA in 14 games (11.1 innings). Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez, who has taken over the closer role, has a 1.50 ERA and 17 saves already. Henderson is set to start a rehab assignment Friday, meaning he's due back soon enough.
How's that ownership? No idea how it is this high. Dude is still owned in a third of leagues when it's pretty clear he won't be getting that closer role back, and when Tyler Thornburg has been pitching circles around him to begin with. That ownership percentage is crazy.
(50 percent) - LaRoche was off to a tremendous start to the season (.319/.421/.504, five home runs in 133 plate appearances), and it was one that he needed, because there were all sorts of whispers of sending him elsewhere because of Ryan Zimmerman, because of Anthony Rendon, because of Danny Espinosa. It was going so well, and then he strained his quadriceps. He headed out on a rehab assignment Thursday, and his return is imminent.
How's that ownership? Well, Tyler Moore has been playing first base, and dude has a .294 career on-base percentage. Sure, LaRoche isn't likely to have become a .300/.400/.500 guy at 34 years old, but his track record indicates his awful 2013 is more the aberration than his productive 2012. LaRoche should start at least at corner infield in just about any league, and if he's your first baseman, you aren't too bad off.
(2 percent each) - Both guys are closer-ish relievers on teams that don't exactly have rock-solid closers. Putz, the Diamondback, is likely to return within the next couple weeks from right forearm tightness, while Strop, the Cub, shouldn't be much behind him, recovering from a groin strain. Neither has been exactly stellar this season (5.40 ERA for Putz, 4.97 for Strop), but Putz has the struggling Addison Reed in front of him, and who knows how long the team sticks with him, while Strop was 1-for-1 on save chances before his injury. It might be different paths for them, but it isn't hard to envision scenarios where either guy could close later this season.
How's that ownership? Honestly, it probably ought to be a little higher. In a 10-, 12-team league, okay, ignore them. But if you're in one of those deeper leagues, with setup guys and handcuffs and the like, Strop and Putz are some slightly under-the-radar save-getting possibilities.