Gone are the days when only Rich Harden, Kerry Wood, and Milton Bradley got injured. Now the disabled list is filling up quicker than the seats at a Dave Matthews concert, and we are only a week-plus into the season.
Which major fantasy players have landed on the DL, how long are they out for, and which of their teammates will step in and see their fantasy values step up? Here is a look:
Alex Gordon, Royals: What is it with third basemen injuring their hips? It’s starting to get worse than goaltenders pulling their groins or running backs tearing their ACLs. Gordon joins Boston’s Mike Lowell and New York’s Alex Rodriguez in the hip-hurting, hot-corner fraternity.
Gordon required hip surgery after a bad slide and could be lost for 2-3 months. This was supposed to be the season he was going to break out. Instead, he just broke.
Look for Kansas City’s favorite can-play-everywhere-but-can’t-hit-anywhere infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen to get some time back at his natural position, unless the Royals rather he play right field for their other injured slugger, Jose Guillen. Then, K.C. would likely opt to have reserve infielder Willie Bloomquist fill the hole at third. Do not get too excited about that prospect.
Xavier Nady, Yankees: The "X-Man" seems to have more elbow problems than the entire United States Tennis Association. He has already had one Tommy John procedure done during his career, and word is that No. 2 could be in his immediate future. Right now he has been listed as "out indefinitely," the dreaded label that fantasy owners hate almost as much as the phrase "scoring change."
At best, Nady will miss several weeks. At worst, he could be shelved for the season. Nick Swisher, who looks like he might be the new Tony Phillips of fantasy baseball and qualify at every position before May 1, is the one who benefits the most from Nady’s misfortune. Swisher is now assured an everyday job and should have no trouble hitting 25 homers and driving in 90 runs if Nady is indeed out for the remainder of the campaign.
What Swisher needs is healthy bats around him in the lineup. It is not like A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Hideki Matsui are injury-free these days, so Swisher’s run-producing opportunities will not be as plentiful as they could be for the next month until everyone is 100 percent.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox: Who has suffered more injuries recently: UFC fighters, WWE wrestlers, or WBC baseball players? The World Baseball Classic has reared its ugly head again as Dice-K has been shut down due to a tired arm. Well, how tired can his arm be? He has only worked 6.1 innings this season!
But obviously, the strain of pitching important, stress-filled innings for Japan in March has taken a toll on his normally rubber arm. It sounds like this should sideline him for just a couple weeks, though no one knows for sure.
Justin Masterson has an electric arm, pinpoint control, and has proven he can both start and relieve in the majors. He will take Dice’s turn in the Red Sox rotation until Matsuzaka is able to return. Considering Masterson has loads of talent and should get loads of run support, look for the youngster to win a couple games in this spot-starter role and solidify his bid to become a full-time starter down the road.
Masterson’s first fill-in outing went perfectly – 5.1 innings, one earned run and a victory in a 12-1 Red Sox romp.
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: Carpenter does not fool around with minor injuries that make him miss a start or hamper him for a few days. No, his injuries are monumental. They sink seasons. They stab his fantasy value and kill his fantasy owners.
Carpenter has done it again this year, ruining his chances for a Comeback Player of the Year award by tearing an oblique muscle while swinging the bat. He is slated to miss the next 1-2 months.
St. Louis pitching coach/guru/genius/messiah Dave Duncan will be counted on to turn a Joe Blow into Cy Young like he has on several occasions, most recently with Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro. Rookie P.J. Walters gets the first crack at Carpenter’s slot in the starting staff.
The kid had a weird opening outing against the Chicago Cubs, allowing three runs in four innings but yet striking out seven, and his 2008 season in Triple-A was along the same lines—122 strikeouts in 122 innings, but a 4.87 ERA and 1.52 WHIP.
The jury is out on whether Walters will last in the Cards rotation, although if Duncan can turn a mediocre pitcher like Lohse into a fantasy stalwart, why can’t he do the same with Walters?