Fantasy Baseball: 10 Rehab Comebacks to Monitor Closely

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IMay 1, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Rehab Comebacks to Monitor Closely

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    Lance Berkman, Cliff Lee and Brett Gardner lead the list of fantasy baseball options that are only a rehab assignment away from making it back into your lineup.

    There are plenty of injured players out there; this list is going to focus on players that would be a logical near-term add or trade target in fantasy leagues.

    That means Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Chris Carpenter don't make the cut. All of those players are in the midst of rehab, but the outlook isn't particularly bright for any of them.

    When speculating on injured players in fantasy, the most important element of any acquisition strategy is a complete and well-rounded understanding of each player's rehabilitation process.

    Look no further.

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals 1B/OF

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    Having Lance Berkman on your fantasy team is like getting a straight razor shave. The end result is going to be great, but you should expect a few nicks and cuts along the way.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Berkman's scheduled run on Sunday afternoon was postponed because the team wasn't happy with the healing progress of his injured calf.

    This setback is frustrating for fantasy owners, but Berkman has stated that he no longer feels discomfort in his leg, so even with the skipped run this week, I'd expect him back soon.

    If he's sitting on your DL, now's a good time to look for a 2-for-1 trade to clear a roster spot for his return.

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals 3B

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    In a broad sense, Ryan Zimmerman's injury was a good thing for baseball. It kick-started Bryce Harper's major league career and sent fantasy owners scrambling to the waiver wire.

    Unfortunately, that's not much of a silver lining for owners who lost their starting third baseman.

    For those people, I have this from the Washington Post.

    Zimmerman doesn't expect his DL stint to be any longer than 15 days, and it's fair to say that a two-week break now might help to prevent injuries later in the season.

    Don't spend too much time or effort looking for a replacement. He'll be good as new in no time.

Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies SP

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    Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee has joked that Cliff Lee might be back this week in a pinch hitting role. Unless you want to slot Lee in at UTIL in your fantasy lineup, you can go ahead and ignore that part of Mr. Dubee's remarks.

    In actually useful news, the Times Herald reports that Lee had an encouraging long-toss session on Sunday, but has yet to step back up on the mound. There was talk of him returning to the rotation this coming Friday, but that has since been ruled out.

    The Phillies will take a patient approach with their ace, but that approach may not require a minor league rehab assignment. If Lee feels good after throwing a bullpen session, he may jump directly back into the Phillies rotation.

    Keep him on your DL for now, but be prepared to drop a player and move him quickly into your lineup, probably sometime next week.

Brett Gardner, New York Yankees OF

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    Brett Gardner's speed has made him very popular among fantasy owners, but a bum elbow has kept him off the basepaths for nearly two weeks.

    ESPN New York reports that Gardner is scheduled to take live batting practice on Tuesday, which would put him on pace to return very soon after he's eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.

    He may have to play a couple of minor league games before returning to the big club, but you shouldn't have to wait much past the weekend to get him back.

    The Yankees aren't making long term arrangements for Gardner's absence (infielder Eduardo Nunez is started in the outfield on Monday) and neither should you.

Daniel Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks SP

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    Not much information has come out about the early stages of Hudson's rehab, but AZ Central reports that as far as his manager is concerned, there's not much to worry about.

    No matter how well Wade Miley pitches in his absence, Hudson will have a rotation spot to call his own when he gets back. However, continued excellence from Miley could lead the Diamondbacks to be more cautious with Hudson's rehab. Even if Miley falters, top prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs are in position to help out if needed.

    With that kind of depth behind him, Arizona won't rush Hudson. If there is any kind of a hiccup in his recovery, don't be surprised if 15 days quickly turns into 20 or 30.

Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks OF

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    When a player gets off to an uncharacteristically sizzling start, fantasy analysts will often say that they expect that player to "hit a wall". In Chris Young's case, that statement was literally and tragically correct.

    There's still no official timetable for Young's return, but the prevailing expectation is that he'll make it back in less than a month.

    This is one to monitor very closely. A nagging shoulder injury could sap the power that makes Young so valuable. If the pace of his rehab doesn't pick up in the next week or two, it's time to look for a long-term replacement.

Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers SP

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    Doug Fister was a polarizing figure entering the season. Some fantasy analysts thought he'd be excellent, others thought his strong stretch run was merely a mirage.

    Fister sure showed them, disappointing both sides by hitting the DL midway through his first appearance.

    The Detroit Free Press reports that Fister threw 50 pitches in a Sunday bullpen session and stated afterward that he felt no pain in his injured side. He's not ready for a rehab assignment quite yet, but he should be off to AAA Toledo within the week. Assuming that all goes well with the Mudhens, he should be back in the rotation for the Tigers next week.

    Fister looked fantastic at the end of last season and just as impressive in the early innings of his first start this year. The Tigers have been patient with him, and he'll be ready to perform at his best as soon as he returns.

Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins SP

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    When healthy, Josh Johnson is among the best pitchers in baseball, but alas, he's hurt yet again.

    What? He's still healthy? Really?

    Huh, that's surprising.

    I'll move on.

Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox SP

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    Much like Josh Johnson, Jake Peavy has often tantalized fantasy owners with elite production, only to have an untimely injury steal that production away. It barely took one month of the 2012 season for it to happen again.

    Seriously? He's not hurt either?

    Man, I really thought those two would give me some reliable material.

    Oh well.

Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks SS

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    Only the sneakiest of fantasy owners had the guile to stash Stephen Drew on their DL immediately after the draft.

    If you fall into that category, your guile is about to be rewarded.

    SB Nation reports that Drew has already participated in three simulated games, and a minor league rehab assignment is not far off. If all goes well, he should be back with the big club in less than two weeks.

    Drew has never been regarded as a reliable source of speed, but even the 5-10 stolen bases he's tallied over the last few seasons is going to be a bit optimistic for 2012. After that gruesome ankle injury ended his 2011 season, I expect that Drew will be more tentative than usual in situations where he'll have to slide.

Drew Storen, Washington National RP

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    I don't know what's more of a mess, the Washington Nationals bullpen, or Drew Storen's elbow!

    Heyo! Try the veal and tip your waitress, I'll be here all week.

    But seriously folks, with Brad Lidge joining Storen on the DL, and Henry Rodriguez struggling to adjust to the closer's role, there's an increased sense of urgency around Storen's rehab. There's no firm timetable surrounding his recovery, but the Washington Times reports he is expected to begin throwing again in the next few days.

    Storen's return is still at least a month or two away, but with the struggles of the Nationals bullpen holding back a team whose starters have pitched as well as any in baseball, the organization might be inclined to rush him back a bit.

    Keep tabs on his rehab as it progresses. A positive outlook for Storen could make him a great buy-low in a few weeks.

Andy Pettite, New York Yankees SP

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    You may not think that Andy Pettitte and Bryce Harper have much in common, but from the perspective of a fantasy baseball owner, they might as well be the same player.

    Both are fantastic stories for Major League Baseball and important additions to their respective teams, but neither Pettitte, nor Harper deserves the primary attention of fantasy owners

    Pettitte was held out of his start on Monday, due to bad weather. His rehab has gone well otherwise, but I can't be optimistic about the future prospects of a pitcher who is apparently completely useless when the temperature drops below 60.

    If you're in an deep mixed or AL-only league, Pettitte's comeback is worth watching. Otherwise, I can guarantee your waiver wire is home to plenty of more useful options already starting in the major leagues.