Clearing The Bases
As Fantasy owners we have been complaining all season about one of three things. Players who are off to slow starts (Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista), injuries (Jacoby Ellsbury, Chris Carpenter, Carl Crawford), and the weekly merry-go-round that has been the closer situation throughout baseball (half the league). This week however, we are starting to get some of our better players back in action. So this week’s Top 9 list will be about players who either returned earlier this week or will be doing so in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully the return will put a smile on your face. Of course there is always the other side of the coin, a player that you claimed who took over for an injured player and that has performed well for you, could now lose playing time or be sent back down to AAA.
- Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals: Zimmerman returned to the Nationals on Tuesday and it wasn’t a day to soon. The Nats have a pitching staff that should keep them in contention all year long but there offense has been pretty abysmal. First they lose Michael Morse (more on him later), than Zimmerman, and now Jayson Werth is gone for most of the season after breaking his list last Sunday. Theoretically Zimmerman will replace the offense lost by Werth. Problem is that really doesn’t help the offense as a whole. Still think the Nats need to make a deal for another hitter at some point before the deadline. Even with Morse returning (possibly in early June), does anyone really think that Zimmerman will stay healthy the remainder of the season, not to mention Adam Laroche.
- Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies: Lee’s return to the rotation Wednesday didn’t cure the Phil’s ills (couldn’t resist). Lee pitched well, 6IP, 5ER, 1BB, and 6K so you’re certainly throwing him back into you’re starting rotation as soon as possible, but wins may be hard to come by until the offense figures things out.
- Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals: Berkman is already returning a week later than originally thought from his calf injury. He is expected to return to the lineup Friday, not that the Cards have missed a beat without him. It was thought that a return to first base would reduce the chance of injury to Lance but that didn’t quite work out as planned. Once again you want Berkman back in your lineup, but the Cardinals may decide to be very cautious with him. Resting him frequently to make sure he stays fresh as the season rolls along. Like Zimmerman however, I have a hard time believing Berkman won’t be making a return trip to the DL at some point this season.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: Ellsbury seems to be the king of fluky injuries. Two years ago he was barrel rolled by his own 3B (Adrian Beltre), and this season Rays shortstop Reid Brignac fell on his after a DP grounder, dislocating his shoulder. At one point it looked like Ellsbury could miss the entire season or even be out until after the All-Star break. Well we are receiving good news this week as he is regaining strength in the shoulder and range of motion. If all continues to go well, a return in early to mid-June looks good.
- Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: As mentioned in the Cliff Lee post, the Phillies offense has been pretty dreadful so far this season, and that really shouldn’t have come as all that big a shock. You take away the 3rd and 4th hitters on just about any team and their offense is going to suffer. The good news is that Utley has been taking batting practice, the bad is that he has yet to take any grounders at second. Playing 2B is where you need to make explosive move and put pressure on the knee. Still his return to the lineup looks in the weeks range, not the months range. As for Howard he started to take batting practice Monday and is basically beginning from scratch. If all goes well and he doesn’t suffer any setbacks he is yet another player who could return in early June.
- Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks: This looked like a breakout season for Young who was hitting .410 with 5HR, 13RBI, 2SB, and slugging almost .900 before injuring his shoulder. Young seemed to get the message that manager Kirk Gibson was trying to get across in spring training. Either produce or you will sit. With the addition of Jason Kubel via free agency that Dbacks did seem to have more OFs than they needed. Well Young’s hot start put an end to any thoughts of a platoon with Kubel. Question is, will he pick up where he left off? Well in an extended spring training game Wednesday, Young went 1-3 with a double, two BBs, and a SB. Looks like he is still hot.
- Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres: Remember him, yeah, he was traded to the Padres in the off-season. He has to be on this list as he should return to the lineup as soon as this weekend. Problem is, he is playing in what is essentially a AAA lineup with the exception of a couple of players (Yonder Alonso, Cameron Maybin, Chase Headley) and we all know about the ballpark he will play the majority of his games in. You probably have to activate him as outfield was shallow before all the injuries, but he won’t be the savior for your fantasy team.
- Brett Gardner, New York Yankees: Well, all those owners who were hoping to activate Gardner as soon as Friday can keep on hoping. Gardner re-aggravated the muscle near his right elbow and now the best case scenario is that he could return in late May but a better bet is sometime in June. Gardner may not be a huge offensive force, but those 40+ SB that he could get are something quite a few fantasy owners are going to miss.
- Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox: This is the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park along with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The Red Sox look like another ship that is about to sink and manager Bobby Valentine may be the iceberg. Youkilis has reported improvement in his back injury and could be ready to return from the DL as soon as Monday. Normally this would be good news, but his replacement, Will Middlebrooks, has been tearing it up since being recalled. Youkilis has gotten off to a slow start and taken flack from both Valentine, the media, and the fans. He’s going to get his job back, but if Boston continues to flounder, and Youkilis is not hitting, it may not be long until all three are calling for Middlebrooks to return to third.
Remember, you can ask me any fantasy questions you like on Twitter, @GeorgeKurtz