10 Injured MLB Players Whose Returns Will Determine 2013's Playoff Teams

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIApril 27, 2013

10 Injured MLB Players Whose Returns Will Determine 2013's Playoff Teams

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    Every year, MLB teams with playoff aspirations have some sort of injury that gets fans worried.

    Whether it's an injury to the team's ace or big hitter, something always happens to playoff contenders.

    This year is no different, as there are many players on the disabled list who are key to their franchise's playoff aspirations.

    Here's a look at 10 injured MLB players whose returns will determine whether or not their team makes the playoffs.

Brian McCann

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    The Atlanta Braves have gotten off to a pretty good start to the season, but leadership is the one thing that is missing in the lineup.

    Coming off shoulder surgery, McCann is currently making rehab starts for Class-A Rome.

    After completing five games with Rome, McCann will likely play five more for Triple-A Gwinnett before coming off the disabled list.

    While Evan Gattis has done a lot in the middle of the lineup for the Braves, the one thing they haven't had is leadership in the order.

    Guys like Justin Upton and Chris Johnson may be veterans, but they're by no means leaders on the team.

    That leadership role belongs to McCann and is something the Braves could have used in Friday night's embarrassing defeat to Detroit, where they struck out 18 times.

    The Braves will likely make the playoffs no matter what. However, McCann's leadership is what will allow them to get over the top.

Jose Reyes

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    The Toronto Blue Jays didn't start out the season too well, and it got worse when Jose Reyes went down with an ankle injury.

    Despite the horrible start, the Blue Jays still have the pieces to make a run in the AL East. The only question is can they hang around long enough until Reyes returns in July?

    If they can be within 10 games of the division lead after the All-Star break, the Jays could make a run late in the season with Reyes back in the lineup.

    He's the kind of player who can change the game at the top of the order.

Ryan Ludwick

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    The Cincinnati Reds have been missing something since Ryan Ludwick injured his shoulder early in the season.

    However, most expect the team to still be in the race by the time he returns after the All-Star break.

    The only problem is that the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates may also be there. Throw in the Braves, Nationals, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Giants into the wild-card mix and you have a real conundrum on your hands.

    Like we saw last year, the best thing to do is win the division and avoid the one-game playoff.

    Once Ludwick returns, the Reds are going to need him to be hitting on all cylinders. If he's not, they could find themselves on the outside looking in.

Adam Eaton

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks have surprised many with their start to the regular season.

    And to think they've done it all without Justin Upton, who they traded to the Braves during the offseason.

    One player on the roster they've also done it without is rookie Adam Eaton, who was supposed to start the beginning of the season as the leadoff hitter.

    The Diamondbacks have gotten good production out of that spot (.303 average), but they're not getting the speed on the basepaths that Eaton brings.

    When Eaton returns in early May, he'll start in center field and at the leadoff spot.

    If he can produce like the Diamondbacks think he can, they will be in the playoff hunt come September.

Colby Lewis

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    The Texas Rangers have four solid starters in the rotation.

    However, having Colby Lewis fill that fifth spot would put fans much more at ease.

    Lewis doesn't have a great career record (44-44) or career ERA (4.76), but the one thing he does is eat innings.

    Prior to his injury last year, Lewis threw 105 innings in 16 starts. Couple that with the 200-plus innings he threw in the two years prior and you have someone who is much-needed in your rotation.

    While Lewis doesn't affect the other starters, what he does is allow the bullpen to not have to work as hard in his starts.

    In the end, that is better for the team.

Jered Weaver

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    The Los Angeles Angels have all the hitting in the world.

    The one thing they don't have is the pitching, especially with Jered Weaver on the disabled list.

    Los Angeles has struggled out of the gate, finding itself next to Houston in the division standings. Part of that has to do with a struggling pitching staff.

    Outside of Garrett Richards' 3.65 ERA, the Angels' staff doesn't have an ERA below 4.13. In fact, Joe Blanton's is at 7.84.

    Weaver is the ace of the pitching staff, and the team really needs him back. He's expected to return in mid-May, but that can't come soon enough.

    If the Angels are going to make a run in the AL West, they'll need Weaver to do so. Luckily, they still have a lot of games with the Astros left.

Joel Hanrahan

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    Things seem to be looking better for the Boston Red Sox.

    However, the one issue that lingers is the bullpen. The problem became bigger when Joel Hanrahan went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

    Andrew Bailey has been holding down the fort in Hanrahan's absence, but Boston needs both to be pitching on all cylinders.

    Whether it's as the closer or in a setup role, Hanrahan's performance will go a long way in determining if the Red Sox make the playoffs or not.

Yoenis Cespedes

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    The Oakland Athletics came out of nowhere last year and won the AL West.

    This year, the A's won't be surprising anyone, but they know they still have the tools to win a second-straight division crown.

    Yoenis Cespedes is currently on the disabled list with an injured hand but is expected to return to the lineup Sunday.

    The A's need his bat in the middle of the lineup. He struggled out of the gate this year, but that could be due to his hand.

    How he returns from his injury could go a long way in determining the A's chances of winning the division.

Aramis Ramirez

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    I'll be the first to admit, I didn't expect much out of the Milwaukee Brewers this year.

    After all, they don't look too good on paper.

    If you consider the injuries they're currently dealing with, they really don't look good. But yet, they continue to win.

    Aramis Ramirez is one of those injured players. However, once he returns from the disabled list, he'll be expected to take some of the load off Ryan Braun.

    If Ramirez can put up his normal production, the Brewers have a shot at contending in the NL Central.

Derek Jeter

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    Most people look at Derek Jeter's stats and ask what he really brings to the lineup.

    For New York Yankees fans, the answer is easy—leadership.

    There's a reason the Yankees have only missed the playoffs once since 1995. That reason is Jeter.

    His lowest total of games played in a season was 119 (2003), and he had only one other season with less than 148 games played.

    Jeter is a staple at the top of the lineup and one who is always hovering at or above the .300 mark.

    The Yankees are dealing with their fair share of injuries right now. But if they're going to make the playoffs, it's going to depend on Jeter producing at the top of the lineup once he returns from the DL.