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Injury Watch: Berkman & McCarthy Edition

Welcome back to Injury Watch, baseball fans! Though I was gone last week, I'm back now, and ready to update you on some of the league's most important injuries. We'll focus on the injuries that will affect your fantasy team the most, but this time we'll take a long look at two season-ending injuries that may affect players all the way to 2013, or even beyond.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals

The Cardinals were hit with some more bad news recently. Lance Berkman hasn't been able to come back from his nagging right knee injury, and will need another surgery, his second this season. The Cardinals' slugger has made mention in the past that this might be his final season in the bigs, given his recent health issues.

Lance had been having a solid line in the time he was able to get on the field. He had posted a wRC+ of 130, and a wOBA of .361, in just under 100 plate appearances. In fantasy terms, Lance was slightly less impressive, with two homers and steals each, 12 RBI, and a .263 batting average. But Berkman was coming off a stellar 2011, in which he crushed 31 HR and bit .301 on the season, with solid R and RBI numbers as well. If Berkman does return in 2013, I certainly would not expect him to put up those kinds of counting stats again, or to remain healthy through a full season. He could be a fine spot-starter or bench piece for a fantasy team, but don't use a high draft pick on someone who's as risky as Lance.

If the Big Puma rides off into the sunset, do not, and I repeat DO NOT sleep on Allen Craig for next season. Craig is a boss. In 766 career plate appearances, Craig has logged 35 HR and a nifty 138 wRC+. He's got a triple-slash line of .305/.359/.538 this season. Now, given that Craig's in his age-27 season, I don't anticipate that he's going to have a massive spike in performance. I do, however think that this is probably pretty close to his true talent level. If he can stay on the field, and maybe get comfortable at first, I expect his production to be pretty great, both in fantasy and real life.

Brandon McCarthy, Athletics

One of the most unfortunate pieces of news of the last several weeks was the one about Brandon McCarthy's very serious, life-threatening injury. In case you missed it, McCarthy was pitching against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday, September 5, when a batted ball off the bat of Erick Aybar struck McCarthy in the back of the head. McCarthy actually suffered a barrage of effects: the line drive cracked his skull, caused an epidural hemmorrhage, and even caused a brain contusion. After brain surgery, McCarthy remained hospitalized for a few more days, but was recently released and is recuperating at home.

First things first. Although we haven't heard anything officially, it is very safe to assume that Brandon is done for the season. This is a serious blow to the playoff-contending A's, who were leaning on McCarthy as a cornerstone of their rotation. He had followed up on his breakout 2011 campaign with an impressive 3.77 FIP and 3.24 ERA over 111 innings of work this season, and remained a solid fantasy contributor in wins and rate stats, despite a lack of strikeouts. But these kinds of serious, life-threatening injuries tend to end seasons, no matter how well your team is doing, or how well you're pitching. So if you've got Brandon in a redraft league, he's a pretty safe drop.

When it comes to 2013, I'm actually pretty optimistic. McCarthy has dealt with injuries throughout his major league career, and obviously possesses the perserverance and drive to come back from this terrifying event. When he does come back, he'll probably be much the same pitcher he was before: a guy who strikes out few, walks far fewer, and pitches in a terrific pitcher's park. He'll be a mid-to-lower tier starter again, but keep an eye out for updates as he makes his way back in the off-season. And best wishes to Brandon in his recovery.

Quick Hits: Cy Young candidate (yeah, you heard me) Aroldis Chapman has lost some effectiveness recently, and the Reds seem a little worried. While Chapman says that he's tired, not injured, the Reds will still probably rest him for at least a few days. ... Mark Teixeira is dealing with a Grade 1 calf strain, and the injury should keep him out of the lineup until the very end of September or the start of the postseason. ... David Price was dealing with shoulder soreness, but says that the soreness is gone, and intends to start on Friday. Keep an eye on this, as shoulder injuries are dicey. ... Jason Hammel left yesterday's game against the Rays with an apparent knee injury, which is serious bad news for the Orioles as they fight to keep in the Wild Card hunt. Yes, this is the same knee which Hammel had arthroscopic surgery on back in June. And no, the Orioles don't have a lot of depth behind their ace. ... Jed Lowrie has rejoined the Astros, and the potent-hitting infielder could be back on the field today. Get him back in your lineups! ... In case you missed it, J.A. Happ was scheduled for season-ending surgery on his broken foot. Because that's EXACTLY what the Blue Jays needed. ... Rafael Furcal has always had one of the most phenomenal arms I've ever seen in a shortstop, but now that arm needs a lot of rehab. He's dealing with his UCL strain by getting a plasma treatment, and will miss the rest of the season. ... The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo left Tuesday's game after a collision at first, and is day-to-day with upper body soreness. ... Vance Worley will miss the rest of the season after Sept. 7 elbow surgery. Fortunately, he will probably begin a throwing program within six weeks. ... Last, and certainly least, Stephen Strasburg has been shut down as a precautionary measure, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Expect the reins to be lifted in 2013, when he should resume a normal workload.


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