Which Returning MLB Star Will Have Most Impact on Team for September Stretch Run
The MLB regular season is rapidly coming to an end as we enter the final month of the regular season.
There are several stars who will be coming off the DL to return to their respective teams in the month of September, and they will try to help their clubs clinch playoff berths and division titles.
However, the question is: which star's return will mean the most in the regular season?
Obviously the biggest returns will feature the brightest stars coming into the closest races. The guys on this list have been ranked based on how much their return will mean to their team because of how they can impact the playoff race in September.
With that, let's find out whose return will mean the most down the stretch.
7. Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
Josh Reddick has become a bit of a non-factor for the Oakland Athletics as of late, and hitting the DL late in the year doesn't help.
Couple that with the fact that Reddick's .213 batting average and 10 home runs are not exactly overwhelming numbers, and you can see why his return could be for nothing.
The Athletics are fighting to stay in contention for the AL West crown right now, as the team is three games behind the Texas Rangers. The team needs help right now, and by the time Reddick comes back the race could be just about over.
Reddick's return means very little in the grand scheme of things, and if he does return this year he probably won't have a great impact on the Athletics.
6. Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles
Jason Hammel is on his way back to the big leagues, as he threw 2.2 scoreless innings on Thursday night in a rehab outing.
Hammel has been working to come back from an arm injury that has sidelined him for just over one month, and it looks like he could be back in the first week or two of September.
The Baltimore Orioles will certainly be glad to see their starting pitcher return, but it remains unclear how much of an impact he can have on the team.
Hammel was struggling this year before he went down. He was 7-8 with a 5.20 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP, and was getting shelled by AL opponents.
Coming back from an injury is never easy, and Hammel wasn't exactly dazzling before he got hurt. It also doesn't help that the Orioles have such a difficult month of September, as the team only plays 10 games against teams with a losing record.
Hammel isn't going to be the guy who helps the Orioles come back to clinch a playoff berth, and his impact will very likely be minimal.
5. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
It's never a good sign when a former MVP candidate feels the need to justify the fact that he's an everyday player.
Matt Kemp felt that he had to do just that, however, as he let the public know that he wants to start in center field upon returning, which could be as soon as next week.
Kemp has been having arguably the worst season of his career, batting .263 with just five home runs in 62 games. He has been riddled with injuries all year long, and his production has fallen off a cliff.
However, when Kemp returns, the Los Angeles Dodgers hope that he will be at 100 percent from the start.
The Dodgers have just about wrapped up the NL West, but the team still wants to see what its center fielder can do.
Seeing whether Kemp really is an everyday player or if he should be platooning with Andre Ethier will be key for the team down the road, and Dodgers fans should be keeping their eyes on the center field position in the coming weeks.
4. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
Neftali Feliz hasn't pitched since May 18, 2012. However, according to D.J. Short of NBC Sports, Feliz is on schedule to return to the Texas Rangers on Monday.
Feliz is obviously excited at the prospect of pitching again, and he let the world know, via Twitter.
Feliz was a productive pitcher before he went down, posting a career ERA of 2.67. He has the potential to come back to the Rangers and pitch out of the bullpen or in the starting rotation.
We know that the Rangers will try to see what they can get from Feliz, but the team has begun to pull away from the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.
Up by three games, the Rangers have not only leapfrogged the Athletics, but have found a way to open up a healthy lead. Thanks to acquiring Matt Garza and Alex Rios, the team has been on fire as of late, and adding Feliz will be the team's next step.
Texas hasn't quite wrapped up a playoff spot just yet, which makes Feliz's return all that much more important. However, the team also isn't struggling to win games or make a comeback, and Feliz will not be asked to do too much after missing so much time.
3. Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
Clay Buchholz has been on the DL since he last pitched on June 8 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The ace of the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation has missed a few months, but he is expected to return on September 5.
Buchholz's shoulder injury that sidelined him has not been an easy one for Boston to deal with. Sure, the team still has the best record in the AL, but its starting rotation has been without an ace for much of the season.
Buchholz was on fire before he was shut down, going 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71 and a WHIP of 1.02. He was clearly the best pitcher the team had, and without him the best option is John Lackey, whose 8-11 record and 3.19 ERA puts him well behind Buchholz.
The Red Sox need starting pitchers to back the best offense in baseball, and Buchholz could definitely help with that. However, it remains unclear whether or not he'll be 100 percent when he does return, and if he's not he could do more damage than good.
With Buchholz potentially being unable to help the team and the Red Sox having a comfortable lead in the AL East, Buchholz's return is not very important for the rest of the regular season. However, his performance in the postseason will be key, as the Red Sox can't win it all without him.
2. Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
After being placed on the DL five days ago, Starling Marte's 2013 season is in jeopardy.
Marte will not undergo surgery, but that doesn't mean that his recovery will be swift.
Starling Marte is not a candidate for surgery. But he did strain ligament that connects right ring finger to hand— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) August 25, 2013
Marte strained a ligament in his right hand, which required him to hit the DL. However, with just about a month left in the season, he may not have time to make a comeback.
Marte was having a nice season for the Bucs in left field, batting .282 with 11 dingers. He has been hitting for both average and power, and has been a nice complement alongside Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.
The Pirates are in a heated battle in the NL Central right now, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by half a game and leading the Cincinnati Reds by just three. The final month of the season will determine which team wins the division and gets a bye, and which two are forced to play in the wild card game.
Every game matters for the Pirates right now, and that's what makes Marte's return (or lack thereof) so important.
1. Matt Moore, Tampa Bays Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have missed Matt Moore over this last month, but they should finally be reunited with their starting pitcher on Tuesday.
Moore had been having another good year before he went down with an elbow injury. He was 14-3 with an ERA of 3.41, and had won six straight starts before his start against the New York Yankees on July 28.
That was the last time we saw Moore pitch, and since then the Rays' starting rotation has seemed to be missing something.
The Rays have gotten help from David Price, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and even Alex Colome this year. However, missing Moore really hurt a team that is fighting for a wild card spot and is just 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the AL East crown and the best record in the AL.
Moore's importance cannot be overstated, as the team desperately needs him in the rotation if it is going to make a run at the Red Sox in September.
With so much on the line and the need for Moore mounting, you can see why his return will have the most impact on MLB playoff races this year.