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Injury Watch: The Late Season Shuffle

Today's Injury Watch focuses in on players who play critical roles for up-and-coming playoff contenders. Whether you're a veteran third baseman who shows real toughness, or a young shortstop looking to comeback strong in his breakout season, there's room for you in this week's column.

Brandon Inge, Athletics

I hope the Oakland Athletics knew what they were acquiring when they added Brandon Inge during the 2012 season. Inge has been known through much of his career as a stellar defensive third baseman, who also used to be able to hit ok. Despite some late-game heroics after coming over to the A's, it looks like his time as an ok-hitting third baseman are over. He's currently posting a .224/.285/.384 slash line with the A's, which is "good" for an 81 wRC+. Not awesome.

But do you know what is awesome? Brandon Inge, in the midst of making a diving stop down the line, separated his right (throwing) shoulder as he stopped the ball. Wait, hold on, that's not awesome. What's awesome is that (a) Inge immediately popped the shoulder back into place (b) played through the rest of the game and (c) drove in a run with a single later on in that tilt. Give the guy crap about being a poor hitter, if you like, but that's some tenacity, commitment, and toughness.

Anyways, one assumes that the adrenaline wore off after the game, and the cool heads in the A's training room have chosen to put Inge on the 15-day DL. The A's, fighting for a playoff berth, will call up another catcher-third base hybrid player, Josh Donaldson, to take Inge's spot on the roster.

Donaldson is an odd duck, at least so far in 2012. Anointed an early-season sleeper once Scott Sizemore's injury took him out of the Oakland third-base picture, JD failed to impress in an early-season audition. That's probably an understatement, actually. Donaldson was BAD, posting a wRC+ of 8, meaning he was roughly worth 8% of a league-average hitter in over 100 plate appearances. However, once he was sent down to Triple-A, Donaldson started crushing the ball. In 2011, his Triple-A numbers weren't terribly impressive, but in 2012, those numbers have been terrific. Donaldson has been hitting for power (13 HR, .598 SLG) and getting on base (.402 OBP), and now will presumably get another crack at ML pitching.

When it comes to your fantasy team, you probably weren't rostering Brandon Inge. But maybe Donaldson could be worth a shot. First, and most importantly, Donaldson carries catcher-eligibility in most leagues. So if you're not running Joe Mauer or Buster Posey out there every day, you may be looking for an upgrade at that position, perhaps as well as third base. Second, Donaldson's Triple-A numbers indicate a history of decent power, as he's posted 48 HR in Triple-A over parts of the last three seasons. Homers in the PCL aren't exactly super-tough to come by, so take those with a grain of salt. And finally, the A's are actually sporting a pretty nice offense right now, led by MVP-candidate Josh Reddick and post-hype prospect Chris Carter. So there's a nice chance that Donaldson could rack up a few R and RBI as well in this role.

So while Brandon Inge wasn't a fantasy factor, Josh Donaldson, just like he did before the season started, could be. Don't set your expectations too high, as Donaldson is a player who, before a nice stretch in Triple-A this season, hadn't recently seen the kind of success that proves future value. But like the rest of the A's team this season, there's a chance he could jack up his performance as the team rallies for a playoff slot.

Ian Desmond, Nationals

The word is out that Ian Desmond could return to the Nationals as soon as Friday from his oblique injury. Desmond, who'd been raking before the injury, tore his left oblique and has been out of action since July 21st. Desmond, who stepped onto his first All-Star team during the middle of the season, was the Nationals' best hitter for much of the season.

From a fantasy standpoint, Desmond's surprise combination of home runs (17) and steals (15) has been huge, especially from the shortstop position. But should you expect that to continue as Desmond returns? Maybe yes, as Desmond's power increase this season has been sustained. The one thing that you might want to take into consideration is that an oblique injury like Desmond's could sap some of his power. But Desmond has really come on in 2012, and remains available in 30% of ESPN leagues. So if he's on your waiver wire, and you're not already running a Jose Reyes or Elvis Andrus out there, you might want to give him a long look.

So who can you add if Desmond isn't available in your league, but you'd like to add a little pop? You could consider Zack Cozart. Cozart, the Reds' shortstop, has 13 HR on the season, which is slightly fewer than Desmond's HR total. Granted, Cozart doesn't offer the steals and batting average that Desmond does, but he'll do in a pinch, and is available in 75% of ESPN leagues. 

Quick Hits: Colby Rasmus looks to return today for the Blue Jays. The centerfielder has missed nearly a week with a groin injury, and was pulled from the lineup last night, but will probably return today. ... In other Canadian news, there's no timetable for Joey Votto's return from a meniscus tear. While the Reds are surging in his absence (thanks Todd Frazier!), I'm certain they'd like to have him back before playoff time. ... Will Middlebrooks is probably out for the rest of 2012, making that Kevin Youkilis trade look even worse in hindsight. ... Pablo Sandoval finally returned from his hamstring injury last night, and had a productive outing going 1-2 with a walk. Sandoval probably won't play much first base (where he suffered the injury), but should slot in for regular time at 3B. ... I'm always thrown when I see words used to describe injuries that I'd never really seen before. So the fact that Matt Garza has a "elbow stress reaction" and won't be pitching again this season, well, that sounds mildly scary. I bet the Cubs wish that they'd traded Garza while they had the chance. ... Dillon Gee will likely miss the rest of the season as he recovers from a blood clot in his shoulder. ... Rookie catcher Yasmani Grandal is about to begin a rehab assignment, and could return to the Padres by the end of the month. ... Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, and given that he's already playing in his rehab assignment, I'd expect he'll be activated shortly after he's eligible. ... Mike Carp is returning to his native home, the disabled list. In the meantime, the Mariners will go back to using Justin Smoak at first, and Smoak has made some adjustments to his swing, so perhaps Seattle fans will have a whole new context in which to be disappointed by Smoak's production?


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