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Injury Watch: Don't Go To Toronto

Today's edition of Injury Watch focuses on the snakebitten Toronto Blue Jays and an Astros outfielder who will miss time with a shoulder injury. They may not be the best teams in the majors right now, but both the Jays and Astros have a few useful players for fantasy owners. Well...the Jays do. The Astros have Jose Altuve and, yeah, that's about it. Nevermind! Onward!

Basically All Of The Toronto Blue Jays

Everybody on the Blue Jays is injured.

...Okay, seriously, not everyone on the team is injured, but there's a ton of guys who are. I'm sure you've heard by now, but a truly massive number of Blue Jays pitchers have missed time this season due to injury, most specifically is that many have suffered from a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery. Well, bad news, Jays fans. Drew Hutchinson is the latest Jay to require the zipper, and he'll undergo surgery this week instead of continuing his recovery from injury. For the record, that's Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez, and now Hutchinson who've needed TJ surgery and had their season ended. Then there's Jesse Litsch, Dustin McGowan, and closer Sergio Santos who've all required season-ending shoulder surgery. The only good news is that default staff ace Brandon Morrow is on the mend from his various injuries, and will have a rehab start on Thursday. The lesson: don't pitch for the Blue Jays.

Going into the 2012 season, you probably wouldn't be wrong to think that the two best hitters on the Jays were Jose Bautista and 2011 rookie phenomenon Brett Lawrie. While Edwin Encarnacion has slugged his way into that discussion, the two men mentioned beforehand are critical pieces to the Toronto offensive attack. Well, Bautista has been slow to recover from a scary-looking wrist injury and was scheduled for another MRI yesterday. The Jays have been in no hurry to rush back their franchise player, so the timeframe for his return is now uncertain. And now Brett Lawrie may be facing DL time as well. Lawrie last played on August 3, and has been suffering from a ribcage injury. Though he may be back any day now, 

And finally, two complementary players on the Jays are also feeling some pain. Adam Lind, who's been making every effort to recover after two-and-a-half dismal seasons with a strong summer return to the Jays, is dealing with a consistent mid-back issue that will keep him on the DL for a while and below 100 percent for the rest of the season. And catcher J.P. Arencibia suffered a fractured right hand about two weeks ago, and looks to miss all of August at least.

That's a lot of injuries, you guys. And if you have a Blue Jay-heavy team, that's a bunch of guys to replace, especially in terms of offense. In reality, you're probably not depending on the parade of injured Blue Jays starters to help your team. If you are looking for pitching help, see if Morrow's still available on your waiver wire and snag him, he'll at the very least help your strikeout totals. But if you're looking for offense, perhaps some players who will be buoyed by a helpful home park like the Jays hitters are, I'd advise you to look much, much further south.

In Arlington, there are a couple new faces who can help supplement your lineup if you lost Lind, Lawrie, or Arencibia to injury. The first potential pickup I'd recommend is stellar prospect Mike Olt, who will be seeing some time at third base and first, especially against left-handed pitchers. Olt has a powerful prospect pedigree, but at this early stage in his career he's probably going to be a three-true outcomes guy (he'll walk, K, or kill the ball) who can drop a steal in here or there. He won't get everyday playing time unless an injury comes up, but he may be able to fill a box score or be a useful bench player in daily leagues where you can take advantage of matchups. In a few years, he may be a star, but for now, he's a lottery-ticket bench piece. [Note: For more info, check out Mike Axisa's great piece on Olt from last week.]

Geovany Soto isn't as bad of a hitter as he's been in 2012, is he? Well, if Soto can't hit in Texas, he probably can't hit at all. Soto's suffered from a very bad BABIP during this season, but he's shown the ability to muscle a few balls out of the yard as a member of the Cubs. Given Arlington's hitter-friendly dimensions, he might be able to do the same in his time with the Rangers...and if you're looking to replace J.P. Arencibia, that's probably all you're looking for from your catcher. Oh, and both Olt and Soto are probably on the waiver wire in your league, so you won't have to give anything up to snag them.

Jordan Schafer, Astros

Jordan Schafer is the center fielder for the Astros, which probably makes him (by default) the worst center fielder in the majors. Seriously, Jordan is bad at everything, at least compared to other major league players. Schafer sports a 72 wRC+, which translates to being 28% worse than league average with the bat. He's not a good fielder in center, having never posted an UZR in the postitive numbers. He's even a bad baserunner! He's got a career Ultimate Baserunning Score of -1.3, meaning he's cost his teams a run and change when it comes to non-SB running ability. And his stolen base percentage of 76.4% is just barely above the "break-even point" for basestealing.

In short, Jordan Schafer is a below-replacement player as evidenced by his -0.2 fWAR and -0.4 bWAR. While I don't wish injury on anyone, his separated shoulder will put him on the DL until late August or so, and this will free up time for a different player to fill in at center for the woeful Houston Astros. Whether the replacement will be Brandon Barnes, or someone else, doesn't matter terribly much. Things are bad on the field for the 'Stros.

Nevertheless, Schafer is valuable in fantasy leagues because he has (had?) the ability (and more importantly, the playing time) to steal bases. With 26 SB on the year, plenty of teams leveraged him to rack up needed steals. So now you, Jordan Schafer owner, may need a replacement. Who do you turn to?

I'd advise looking in the direction of Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders. Saunders is coming off a slow July, but has 15 stolen bases on the season to go with a respectable 10 homers and 49 runs scored. But where Schafer was only going to help you in terms of SB, Saunders has the potential to help you in multiple categories, including stolen bases. He suffers from having to play in the unforgiving Safeco Field, atop a Mariner lineup that strikes fear in the hearts of no one. But if you were running Jordan Schafer out there on your fantasy squad, then your expectations probably aren't outlandish. Best of all, Saunders is available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues. Grab him if you need an OF who can give you a few steals and may help out a little in other areas.

Quick Hits: Hooray! Evan Longoria is back! While he won't be playing the field for a while, he can probably give a nice boost to the Rays and to fantasy squads everywhere. ... Unfortunately, Todd Helton is now out for the year. The greatest Rockie of all time (sorry, Larry Walker, not enough years with the franchise) plans to return for next season, but a hip labrum tear and associated surgery will have him out for 2012. ... Francisco Liriano left Sunday's game after being hit on the leg by a batted ball, but is expected to start on August 11. ... Pablo Sandoval looks to be about ready to return to action sometime this week for San Francisco. ... Matt Garza has finally hit the DL with that pesky right elbow issue he's dealing with. His timetable, like what team he'll play for next season, is up in the air. ... Lance Berkman hit the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right knee. He's due off the list on August 18, but don't be surprised if this issue continues to linger beyond that timeframe. ... Seth Smith of the A's is dealing with hamstring issues, and has been placed on the 15-day DL himself. Like Berkman, he'll be eligible to come off (and batter right-handed pitchers) on August 18. 

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