The hits just keep comin’ for major league baseball players and their fantasy owners.
We’re just a month into the season, and it’s unlikely there are many owners out there who have not been dealt a significant injury to at least one of their players. Oh, you’re raising your hand? Here are two recommendations: 1) stop playing in 8-team leagues, 2) there are healthier forms of self-indulgence than a four-leaf clover enema.
In 2014, we’ve seen more pains, pricks, breaks, strains, pulls and tears in baseball than the amount of times Drake has changed his NCAA/NBA team allegiances.
Being in the know when it comes to a player’s health will always keep you one step ahead of your competition. Here are some ailing hitters (and their possible replacements) to pay attention to in the coming weeks:
Jason Kipnis, Indians: Kipnis is dealing with an oblique injury, and those are never quick to heal. He’s saying a Memorial Day (May 26) return could be in the cards, but that’s not something I’d be going “all-in” on. It’s not easy to replace last year’s No. 2 fantasy second baseman, but you’re gonna have to try. Mike Aviles is the Tribe’s in-house option with the most upside. During his six-year MLB career, Aviles has shown the ability to hit for power (13 HR in ’12) and steal bases (14 SB each year from ’10-12). His 3B/SS and soon-to-be 2B eligibility makes him appealing for Kipnis owners and for those in deeper leagues.
Wilson Ramos, Nationals: Ramos has become a mainstay in this column, but it’s almost time to bid him adieu. The Nats’ backstop played all of one game before undergoing surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand. He was given a 4-to-5 week timetable and if he returns this week (as he is expected to), it will put him right on schedule. He has been participating in some extended spring training games, and playing well, hitting two homers in Friday’s affair. He seems healthy enough to be activated and play vs. the Dodgers on Monday, but it’s more likely that he’ll return for the Nats’ three-game set in Oakland this Friday, which would give Matt Williams the option to DH him. Ramos is owned in just 37.2 percent of ESPN leagues and has 20-homer potential if given everyday at bats. Once Ramos is activated, Jose Lobaton is droppable in everything but two-catcher and NL-only leagues.
Adam Eaton, White Sox: The speedy young outfielder — not to be confused with the former pitcher who was the centerpiece of the Padres/Rangers Adrian Gonzalez swap — was placed on the DL after straining his right hamstring in Friday’s game vs. the Indians. Eaton’s lower half is clearly an issue these days, as the 25-year-old missed five games last week after gimpifying (sic) his left hamstring. Eaton is literally “hamstrung”. He should be out at least two weeks, if not more, and owners would be wise to grab Alejandro De Aza (36.2 percent owned) from their league’s waiver wire. After hitting two home runs on Opening Day, De Aza has cooled off in a major way (.194/.257/.350 with just 2 HR since), but his nice blend of pop and speed makes him almost an automatic add in leagues where he’s still available, although I wouldn’t be dropping anyone substantial for him. Jordan Danks — of the long bloodline of Chicago Danks — and the newly-signed Moises Sierra will also share time, but are AL-only material, if that.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays: Lower back tightness has sidelined Lind for the past two-and-a-half weeks, but the Blue Jays’ DH is nearing a return to the field (or batter’s box) in the next couple of days. The former Silver Slugger Award winner has drilled at least 23 home runs in four of the last five seasons and was off to a nice start (1 HR, 6 RBI, .965 OPS) in 2014 before getting hurt. Rarely do you see this kind of power sitting on waiver wires, yet he is still available in 43 percent of ESPN leagues. Grab him if you need help at the CI spot. Juan Francisco has been playing very well in his place, but he will either return to a spot starting role or possibly get sent back down to the minors once Lind returns. Could we see Brett Lawrie play more second base so they can squeeze Francisco’s bat into the lineup a couple times a week? It’s an interesting situation to monitor.
Ryan Braun, Brewers: Whether Braun is getting himself hurt or he’s inflicting pain upon someone else, the Brewers’ right fielder seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons lately — something he’s grown quite accustomed to. Like Kipnis, he too has an oblique injury and could be out a few weeks. The Crew backdated his injury to April 27, which would make him eligible to return this weekend, but there’d have to be some significant healing to make that happen. Don’t forget, Braun has also dealt with a nerve issue in his hand, so the first-place Brewers would be smart to hold him out as long as possible in order to let him recuperate from both injuries. In the meantime, Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl will split time in the outfield, but neither is much of an option outside of NL-only leagues. If you’re deciding between one of those two, Schafer is the better bet.
David Freese, Angels: Sometimes an injury explains why a player has been performing so poorly, but not in Freese’s case. The Angels’ third baseman has gotten off to a disastrous start, hitting .202/.266/.286 with just 3 XBH in 84 AB, and he’ll now have some downtime to mull over his mechanics. Freese will be out at least two weeks after suffering a non-displaced fracture of his middle finger, which came at the hands of a Colby Lewis floating fastball. In a corresponding move, the Halos have called up one of their biggest minor league bats — 24-year-old C.J. Cron. The 6-foot-4, 240 pound behemoth smacked 60 dongs in 1,300 at bats down on the farm (most notably 27 HR in 2012) and could be a sneaky source of power in deeper leagues. While Freese is a must-drop player, Cron isn’t exactly a must-add either. Not to be cliche, but there will be more Angels in the outfield come June (in the form of Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun — not Danny Glover and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), which would limit Cron’s upside. He’s definitely worth a flier, but don’t put down your pink slip for him.
Other Injury Notes:
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Rangers: One of April’s feel-good stories has been put to bed. Kouzmanoff underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disc and is expected to be out 8-to-12 weeks. He was excellent at the plate in the early going, batting .362 with 2 HR and 10 RBI, but there may not be a place for him on the team when he returns. He’s not even worth stashing.
Devin Mesoraco, Reds: I was all set for Mesoraco to be my date to prom, when he cheated on me! Well, he injured his hamstring — but he may as well have cheated on me!!! The 25-year-old catcher had posted an absurd 1.297 OPS and hit safely in 12 of 13 games, so he’s definitely worth keeping stashed if you can afford to. If you have another reliable catcher or need the bench space, it may be a tough pill to swallow, but Mesoraco is probably cut bait. Catcher is the one position you can’t afford to let dictate your roster flexibility. At any rate, expect the Reds’ backstop to return somewhere between May 11 (his first day eligible) and the beginning of June. Brayan Pena (3 HR in his last five games) has been playing well enough for the Reds to make sure Mesoraco is 100 percent healthy before letting him return.
Carlos Quentin, Padres: Carlos Quentin is being featured in an injury article?!? Does water cover 71 percent of the Earth? Color me shocked. The Padres’ slugger has yet to appear in a game this season, but has upped his rehabilitation process, playing with High-A Lake Elsinore this past weekend. Depending on how many games the club feels he needs, we could see the former Stanford standout in Southern California by mid-week. His power potential makes him an intriguing add, but only do so if you have an empty DL spot, as he is likely to get hurt again just the same.
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