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Injury Watch: A Long Look To 2013

Today's Injury Watch is here to give you a little bit of guidance, not just for the end of 2012, but we'll also look at some injuries that may affect player performance all the way to 2013.

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

Just a few months ago, Jose Bautista was the king of Canadian baseball. Possessed of otherworldly power, baseballs screamed in fear as they rocketed off his bat and soared into the stands at the Rogers Centre. This week, baseballs everywhere rejoiced, as word came out that Bautista would miss the rest of the season with surgery on his bothersome left wrist. The surgery to address tendon inflammation in the wrist will take place sometime next week.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, one simply does not replace Jose Bautista's production in fantasy by scouring the waiver wire or shuffling their lineup. Bautista is simply too good, and too important. And heaven help you if you were running him out there at 3B, because the prognosis is not good for replacing him with anything. (Brett Wallace, maybe? Is Chipper Jones on the wire?)

What you should begin to consider, is where Jose Bautista might end up on draft boards for 2013, or under what circumstances you might want to keep him. The short version is, don't go overboard, but you may want to drop him a few spots from where you were going to project him before the injury. And where you should have projected him before the injury is probably a few spots lower than where you drafted him this year.

Last season, Bautista brought something exceptionally valuable to the table: third base eligibility. In 2013, he'll be an outfielder only in most leagues (perhaps a first baseman in leagues with flexible eligibility rules). Bautista is also aging, and his power production has slipped from its heights in 2010-2011 this season. Lastly, wrist and hand injuries do tend to sap power, even after the player is back in the lineup. Now, given that Joey Bats will have the entire offseason to recover, its more than likely that there will be no long, lingering effects. But it's also possible that there will be. And Jose Bautista with diminished power isn't a second-round draft pick in fantasy. He's just another mid-to-upper-tier outfielder. So be cautious when looking to pick him up in the offseason. While you might get a good value if you buy low and Bautista rebounds, you also might be investing in a diminishing product.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Cardinals fans, I don't want to worry you overmuch, so hear me out before you freak out. Yadi was involved in a collision at home plate last night, and left the game with a possible concussion. As of right now, Yadi is day-to-day, but given how concussions and their symptoms affect different people in different ways, there's a non-zero chance that this injury could linger as the season finishes up.

The reason I've shoehorned Yadier into this idea of players who could be affected by their injury in 2013, is that concussions are scary business, and post-concussion symptoms can stick with a player for years. Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, and Brian Roberts are all players who lost considerable time on the field, and dealt with concussion issues during off-seasons. Again, Molina still hasn't shown that he has severe symptoms, or anything of the like, but if he does, there's a chance that these could carry over to another season.

Replacing Molina in your fantasy lineup is kind of a foolish enterprise, because he's pretty amazing. He's posted a 145 wRC+ this season, easily the best of his career, while hitting for improved power, and even stealing double-digit bases. Among regular catchers, only Carlos Ruiz and Buster Posey are hitting better than Yadier, and Ruiz is languishing on the DL. Quite frankly, he's gone from being an ok-starter in fantasy to an elite option, only hurt by his lack of top-end numbers and some average context stats (R and RBI).

As a temporary Yadier fix, I'd look to Erik Kratz. Kratz, who usually sits at third or lower on the Phillies' depth chart at catcher, has been just crushing the ball since getting playing time at Citizens Bank Park. He's already managed 7 HR in just 95 PA, and with Carlos Ruiz still a little while from returning to Philly, he should get plenty of opportunities to beat up on September pitching callups during September. While Kratz is unlikely to stay this hot, and is even more unlikely to hit for a Molina-esque batting average, he'll still plug in pretty well in your fantasy lineup.

Quick Hits: Matt Kemp slammed into an outfield wall during Tuesday's game, injuring his jaw, knee, and chin. He's only likely to sit out a couple of games, but I think most Dodger fans got a good scare out of this collision. ... Fellow Dodger Chad Billingsley has found himself on the DL with right elbow pain, which is definitely not good news as the Dodgers attempt to lock themselves into a playoff spot. ... Mike Napoli is still not feeling 100% in his left quad, so his recovery may take a bit longer than expected. ... Two Mets starters, Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, are both expected to miss the rest of the season. Gee received good news on an angiogram in his right shoulder artery, and Santana has lower back inflammation, but the out-of-contention Mets won't rush either pitcher back. ... Ben Sheets is back to the DL, which may cut his comeback short for the season. Sheets is dealing with right shoulder inflammation, and his 15-day DL start date was August 25. Rays bopper Matt Joyce left the game on Tuesday with a forearm strain, and he's day-to-day for the time being. ... Lance Berkman looks to be ready to return soon from his knee injuries, as he played first base in his fourth Triple-A rehab game yesterday. ... Joey Votto is finally playing in rehab games, as he attempts to return to the Reds following a meniscus tear in his knee. ... Placido Polanco should be ready to play any day now, but Kevin Fransden might've stolen his starting spot at third base. That's gotta be kind of depressing for both Polanco and Phillies fans.


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