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Injury Watch: Finishing Strong

Today's edition of Injury Watch is the last one with a full slate of MLB games in front of it. We're down to the wire, and it's time to take a look at the last, best players dealing with injury issues as we prepare for October.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

With news that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will get at least one more chance to start before the end of the season, Dodgers fans and fantasy mavens should be rejoicing. Heck, anyone who likes to see good pitching should be pretty pleased.

The reigning Cy Young champ has been dealing with a hip impingement. At first, the thought was that he may need surgery, but now it appears that Kershaw will throw and see if there's any pain. If not, he'll make his scheduled start on Friday against the Rockies.

In case you haven't been keeping track, Kershaw's 2012 hasn't been quite as awesome as his 2011. This season, Clayton has only racked up 12 wins and 211 strikeouts, both numbers considerably less than his 2011 numbers. At the same time, his K/9 rate is hasn't fallen too much, moving down to 8.97 from 9.57, and his FIP still sits at 2.99, which is quite close to his sparkling 2.68 ERA. This "down" season from Kershaw is still one of the best in the majors, so he's still certainly an elite pitcher.

When it comes to fantasy, your options are clear. Basically, if you already have Kershaw, you should try to start him as the season winds down. If you don't have him, grab him if someone was foolish enough to drop him. And, given how that outing goes, you might feel just a bit more comfortable drafting him first (or close-to-first) among starters for 2013. Less-than-100-percent Clayton Kershaw is a heck of a lot better than almost any other start at full strength.

Josh Willingham, Twins

Offseason import Josh Willingham has certainly been one of the two best hitters on the Twins this season, along with Joe Mauer. While both players have been pretty consistently healthy this season, Willingham is now due to miss time due to a strained left shoulder. While his MRI revealed only a strain, a shoulder issue will almost-definitely affect his play leading up to the end of the season.

Josh has been pounding the ball so far in '12, and is working his best season ever with the bat. With 3 HR and 110 RBI (not to mention a sterling .378 wOBA), he's been a fantastic fantasy contributor in almost any format. If the strain isn't too serious, I wouldn't worry about Willingham being limited for next season. But keep in mind that this is a career year, and he may not hit quite at this level next season or any other in the future.

Do yourself a favor, and don't make it a point to start the Hammer for the rest of the season. But you should definitely consider adding him in the offseason, leading up to 2013. Perhaps his raw numbers won't be quite as impressive as his 2012 campaign, but there's also a non-zero chance that Willingham gets moved in the offseason or during 2013 to a team where his bat might play with more potency.

Quick Hits: A's starter Brett Anderson is suffering from a strained oblique, and will miss the rest of the regular season. He may be able to return for the playoffs, which would be a big boon to the Athletics. ... Mets closer Frank Francisco is out for the rest of 2012, but a mysterious tweet indicated he will miss 2013 as well. Though this could have been a mistake, Francisco isn't an elite back-of-the-bullpen option anyway. Draft accordingly in 2013. ... Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand, and will have the chance to up his game in 2013. ... David Freese is hobbling on a sprained ankle. He may be ready for game action over the weekend, so he's worth monitoring. ... Chris Young of the Diamondbacks is still out with his right quad injury, but Adam Eaton is doing a great job Wally Pipp'ing Young. He won't be rushed back. ... Outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins are still day-to-day with minor injuries. Both could be back any day now. ... Yu Darvish missed his Tuesday start with neck stiffness, and may be held out until the playoffs.

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