This spring, were you one of the many who drafted a top flight pitcher like Adam Wainwright or Zack Greinke, only to have him hit the DL before the season even began? Like always, there are a bunch of high quality players who are out of commission at the moment, and because injuries always happen, most fantasy baseball owners at this point should be looking for injury updates and upgrades. Do you have an injured star on your roster? Want to find out the scoop on him? Or, are you still in search of a guy who can plug a hole created by injuries? Check out the list below, and you’ll see my top picks.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
- Injury: Abdominal Strain (Zimmerman), strained oblique (Longoria)
- Timeline: Out at least three weeks (Zimmerman), Out until mid-late April (Longoria)
- Analysis: Zimmerman was the only guy providing some offense (.357, 1 HR, 4 RBI) on a team with a collective .217 batting average and .649 OPS over nine games. Three weeks has actually been called an optimistic projection, so I’d expect the Nationals star to miss closer to a month. Longoria began the season on at a 0-for-5 clip at the plate before landing on the DL. His absence was a problem at first, but a trip to Boston was just what the doctor ordered for Tampa.
- Replacement: David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals- This injury kills any slim chances the Nats had of playoff contention, but it doesn’t have to spell the end for your fantasy team. Freese is hitting really well (.324, 4 XBH, 2 home runs, 6 RBI) and is owned in just 39% of leagues. If you need contact hitting and speed more than run production (though not likely if you’ve just lost Zimmerman), check out Macier Izturis of the Angels, who is currently owned in 39% of leagues as well. He’s hitting at a .304 clip and has a couple of steals to go with his second base, third base, and shortstop eligibility.
Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
- Injury: Fractured rib
- Timeline: Should return by end of April
- Analysis: Greinke is currently in the process of throwing simulated games, which have been impressive to manager Ron Roenicke. The Brew Crew expects to have their new top-of-the-rotation arm back by the end of April but he has yet to embark on a rehab assignment. Milwaukee’s rotation has been pretty solid without him, and if all his rotationmates keep up the good work upon his return this could be one of the better pitching staffs of the National League. Obviously the Giants and Phillies have the top two, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.
- Need a fill-in? Try out Milwaukee’s fourth starter, Chris Narveson. Narveson, 1-0 on the season, is boasting an impressive 14-4 K-BB ratio in 13 innings and has yet to give up a run. He’s pitched really well and guaranteed that he won’t be the one bumped out of the rotation upon Greinke’s return. Instead, that should be Marco Estrada, who struggled in his only start. Narveson is owned in 34% of leagues, and given the way he manhandled the Cubs in his last start it looks like he’ll dominate weaker offensive teams this year. Guess who his next outing comes against? The Washington Nationals, on Friday. Consider him an immediate boost to your pitching categories at a bargain price.
Andrew Bailey, Closer, Oakland A’s
- Injury: Forearm Strain
- Timeline: on 15-day DL, currently throwing bullpen sessions
- Analysis:It always stings when you lose a top-flight relief pitcher, because closer is one area in which fantasy owners routinely overpay for in the draft. The notion of scarcity is the biggest contributing factor to that, but it’s beside the point. Bailey is currently throwing bullpen sessions, which means a rehab assignment should come soon. Bailey’s owners won’t have to wait too long for him to come back, but that doesn’t make finding a temporary replacement any easier.
- Replacement: Brian Fuentes, RP, Oakland A’s- Fuentes is going to become a set up man, maybe even a lefty specialist once Bailey is ready to go. However, until Bailey is healthy, Fuentes is standing in as the closer and is doing fine. Owned in just 43% of leagues, Fuentes has a 2.70 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 5 saves. His good performance may even allow the A’s to ease Bailey back into his role, which means the potential to squeeze even more value out of Fuentes.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Injury: Broken Thumb
- Timeline: Out 4-6 weeks
- Analysis: Thankfully for the Dodgers, their starting shortstop won’t need surgery. Unfortunately, they’ll still be without the 11 year pro Rafael Furcal for the next month and a half, maybe two months. Despite Furcal’s very slow start (.192 average, 1 steal, 2 RBI), they’d much rather go with him than Ivan DeJesus. At the latest, Furcal should be out until June, and yet another injury has left the shortstop frustrated and even contemplating retirement. It also practically guarantees the Dodgers will not pick up Furcal’s contract option for next year because he’s been such a health liability.
- Replacement: Angel Sanchez, SS, Houston Astros- Sanchez has been tearing it up under the radar in Houston. Despite being owned in only 22% of leagues, the 27 year old leads all shortstops in runs scored (11) while also posting a .912 OPS, .383 average, 8 RBI, 1 home run, and 1 steal.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
- Injury: Broken Arm
- Timeline: Out 6-8 weeks
- Analysis: The Rangers will really miss Hamilton (.333 avg, 7 RBI), but the all-around beast has yet to hit a home run this year. This is not to suggest that he is easily replaceable, but rather to say that his start hasn’t been so torrid that the potent Rangers lineup will be lost without him. Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, and Adrian Beltre still provide plenty of firepower so the Rangers should be fine.
- Replacement: Jonny Gomes, Cincinnati Reds- There are a lot of little-owned guys off to pretty good starts, like Michael Brantley and Josh Willingham, for example, who are more intriguing than Gomes, but since Hamilton is a significant contributor I’m providing the guy with the gaudiest stats to this point. Gomes, owned in 33% of leagues, is fifth among outfielders with his 10 RBI, and his 1.085 OPS, 3 home runs, and .273 average are all pretty helpful as well. He’s added 2 steals but isn’t considered a very well rounded guy in terms of speed so don’t add him thinking he’s got great wheels. Still, he’s produced like a top-5 outfielder to this point, pretty good for a guy owned in only a third of all leagues.
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