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Injury Watch: Boom Or Bust

Today, in our Injury Watch column, we're going to look at a few risky injury-related moves you could make in order to maximize the end of your fantasy season. We'll look at two strong starters coming off lots of injury-related rest, as well as a superstar outfielder who's played like anything but a superstar.

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals and Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays

On Sunday, Jaime Garcia had an excellent return to the mound, coming off of shoulder and elbow issues in his left arm. Garcia threw eight shutout innings and logged double-digit strikeouts against Pittsburgh, giving the Cardinals a much-needed boost. Meanwhile, Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays looks to come off the disabled list and give his team a shot in the arm on Saturday. Both pitchers are solid #3 options (or better) for fantasy teams, but with each pitcher having question marks, are they good fits for your fantasy squad?

Garcia's big question mark is that, if he's not healthy enough, will he go back to being the not-so-good pitcher he was for parts of the middle of this season. Before he hit the DL, had a rough outing in June in a tough May in which his peripherals were ok, but he gave up more than a few runs. But Jaime's been awfully consistent since coming into the league, and there's a non-zero chance he's the second-best pitcher on the Cardinals through the rest of the season.

As for Morrow, he's a strikeout machine. His 2012 K/9 numbers have been down from his previous two seasons in Toronto, but he's actually been more effective in terms of walks (2.78 BB/9) and ERA (3.01) this season. While the Rogers Centre remains a dangerous place for pitchers, due to it's ability to summon HR, Morrow remains a solid option at the middle of a rotation.

Near the end of the season, there's only so much you can do to win your roto league. But if you play head-to-head, either of these guys can be a great weapon, provided you use them correctly. For Garcia, that means start him at home. For Morrow, that means start him against weaker offenses at home, and on the road. Both pitchers can rack up strikeouts in bunches, but are a little worrisome coming off of long injury breaks.

As it stands right now, Garcia's owned in a little more than half of all ESPN leagues, and Morrow's got something closer to 65% ownership. Pounce on these guys now, especially if you've got borderline guys in your rotation. These are the types of players that can really help your team down the stretch, especially if you can afford to pick-and-choose their starts.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

I'm a pretty conservative guy when it comes to fantasy players. If a player has an excellent track record of performance, I stick with the guy through long, painful slumps. I don't drop players willy-nilly just for the sake of "shaking up" a lineup. But with the slumping Justin Upton now dealing with a hamstring injury, should we be ready to take the leap and drop the younger Upton brother? It probably depends.

First, it would be reductive and a little simplistic to say that Justin Upton has had a "disappointing" season to this point. Coming off a near-MVP season in 2011, the young D-Backs right fielder seemed poise to make a leap into real superstardom, and anchor many a fantasy squad with his potent bat. Instead, Upton's power has completely disappeared, going from 31 HR in 2011 to just 9 so far in 2012. His wRC+ is actually below league-average (98), due to his playing in the friendly confines of Chase Field. Granted, he's still an above-average fielder and baserunner, but that hardly helps fantasy types.

Now, we don't know the absolute severity of Upton's hamstring injury, one he sustained while running the bases on Tuesday night. But if Upton's mobility is down, that will probably restrict his SB production, and that's just about the only thing (well, other than runs scored) that players in 5x5 leagues are getting out of the young star.

So, with all this data behind us, I say that it may be ok, believe it or not, to cut bait on Upton. I can't stress this next point enough, though. Don't drop him if you're still rostering guys like Alejandro De Aza or Brett Jackson. But say, Angel Pagan, Drew Stubbs, Ben Revere, or Coco Crisp are on your wire? They're not as sexy of a name as Upton, and may provide less power in some cases, but they're all better bets for steals. Or if Wil Myers gets a September callup, he could be a viable bat through the end of the season.

The big takeaway here is that the season is almost over, and Justin Upton is now injured, in addition to not-really-improving. I'd be comfortable drafting him in 2013, but if you have a (legitimately) better option on your waiver wire, you may feel free to drop the guy.

Quick Hits: Josh Tomlin of the Indians is set for Tommy John surgery. This could help explain why Tomlin has been so bad thus far in 2012 (5.09 FIP), but probably not. ... Carl Crawford will undergo Tommy John surgery as well on Thursday. He may be ready for Opening Day 2013, but Boston may have forgotten all about him by then (or not). ...  Impressive Pirates rookie Starling Marte strained his right oblique this week, and has hit the DL. He should be back sometime in September. ... Mets reliever Tim Byrdak, well, his whole body seemed to explode. He'll need surgery both on his left shoulder and his right knee. We won't see Byrdak, or his Hulk Hogan-mustache until the second half of 2013, at the soonest. ... New Phillie Nate Schierholtz broke his big toe, and instead of finally getting to play every day, will spend time on the 15-day DL. Tough break (pun intended). ... Jose Bautista update! Bautista has progressed in his rehab, and may be back to save your fantasy team this weekend. ... Alejandro De Aza has hit the 15-day DL with bruised ribs on the left side. No word yet on whether or not he will take this opportunity to turn back into a pumpkin.

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