The trade deadline has brought about another period of intrigue for fantasy managers. Suddenly Pudge Rodriguez is a hot commodity, Mark Teixeira is once again an American Leaguer, and Manny being Manny finally wore thin on the Red Sox. While most fantasy experts will concentrate on the impact of these trades, I'll take a look at some players who may make as great of an impact as any star involved in a blockbuster deal without any of the publicity. In the fight for the post-season, several players will return from injuries with the ability to play the role of difference-makers down the stretch. Do you recall their fantasy value? Can you identify the fantasy stars based on their statistics from their last full season? Time to do your homework, Name That Game!
637 at-bats, 89 Rrns, 10 HR, 78 RBI, 27 SB, .289 AVG
Which outfielder is this?
Rocco Baldelli, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Five years ago, a five-tool talent with a memorable name took the major leagues by storm. Looking like the second-coming of Ichiro through the first half of the season, Baldelli compiled 109 hits by the All-Star Game, before fading down the stretch. The Rays outfielder still managed to rack up 184 hits on the season along with 89 runs and 27 steals. While his debut was enough to warrant third place in the Rookie of the Year voting, the future appeared brigher for the 22-year old drafted in 2000 with the sixth pick of the draft. Unfortunately, Baldelli's next few seasons did not go according to plan. Despite hitting a career high 16 home runs in '04, Baldelli's injuries started to pile up as he missed 26 games and all of '05 due to a knee injury. In '06, Baldelli returned to power 16 home runs in just 92 games, but this time an elbow injury sidelined the once promising star. Last season, Baldelli made it through just 35 games before a left hamstring injury wrecked his season. Most recently, Baldelli had to call it quits again in spring training as fatigue forced him out of the entire first half of the season. In the last three years, Baldelli has played just 127 games.
Even with all the injuries, Baldelli's potential has shined through. Over the last two years, Baldelli has played in 35 games shy of a full season, yet when you combine the totals, you get an impressive 21 home runs and 14 steals. On that note, fantasy managers should pay attention to his latest comeback. Just 26-years old, Baldelli can still return to top prospect status. He has recently played in Double-A, where he has racked up three home runs and a .333 average through 11 games. Realistically, expectations need to be lowered this season, as the Rays have clearly found a way to win without him. However, it seems like they may call him up to face southpaws, and a return may be in order as soon as this weekend. What will be interesting to watch is what develops for Baldelli this offseason. The Rays have declined their option, which will make the 6-4 outfielder a free agent. If he can finish strong this season, fantasy managers should eye Baldelli as a sleeper for '09, particularly if he finds himself in a hitter's park.
15-8, 221.2 IP, 184 Ks, 43 BB, 3.09 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Which pitcher is this?
Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
A top major league pitching prospect since his days in high school, Carpenter was selected with the fifth pick of the 1993 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. Carpenter made his major league debut in '97, and it did not go well. He finished 3-7 with a 5.09 ERA. The 6-6 right-hander turned things around the following season with a 12-7 record, and much-improved 4.37 ERA. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Carpenter in Toronto, as injuries and ineffectiveness wore out his welcome. In '02, he signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals. After major surgery kept him off the field in '03, Carpenter returned in fine form in '04. The Cards' new ace finished 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA and 152 strikeouts. Carpenter followed with a Cy Young season, hurling seven complete games en route to a 21-5 record, a career-best 213 strikeouts, and 2.83 ERA. Despite pitching with pain, Carpenter put together another stellar campaign in '06, racking up 15 wins and finishing third in the Cy Young balloting. After just one start last season, Carpenter again went under the knife. At the age of 33, Carpenter hopes to return to his winning ways again this season after his second major surgery in his career.
If you go down the list, it's incredible how many pitching careers Dave Duncan has turned around in his career as the Cardinals pitching coach. The litany of resurrected stars include Carpenter, Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro, Todd Wellemeyer, Jeff Suppan and Jason Isringhausen. On that note, working with Carpenter this season has become another one of Duncan's projects. So far, Carpenter looks like he has a few more pitches left in him. In the minor leagues, Carpenter allowed just two runs to score on him in 9.2 innings of work. That earned him a promotion, and in his first major league start this season, Carpenter escaped several jams while allowing just one run in four innings of work against the Braves. With the Cardinals still alive in the playoff hunt, Carpenter could pay huge dividends down the stretch. While you shouldn't expect the same hurler who went deep into games, Carpenter could offer a solid six innings of work on a regular basis.
10-3, 114.1 IP, 72 Ks, 46 BB, 2.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Which pitcher is this?
Anibal Sanchez, SP, Florida Marlins
At the age of 24, Sanchez is still considered a great prospect for the Florida Marlins despite coming off major right shoulder surgery. A strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues, Sanchez earned his way to the majors in '06. Despite making just 18 appearances, Sanchez was considered for the Rookie of the Year honor after a dazzling 10-3 season, in which the opposition hit just .217 against him. Of course, Sanchez also made the national news that season, hurling a no-hitter, one of two complete games for the young hurler that season. Last season, Sanchez made just six starts before ending his season because of a shoulder injury. Shelved for nearly a season and a half, Sanchez is finally on the mend and will join the Marlins rotation for the final stretch.
The road to recovery has not been easy for Sanchez, as he has missed more than a calendar year of major league service while recovering from major shoulder surgery. The good news is that the scouts love what they see thus far. Hurling a fastball in the mid-90s, Sanchez made five rehabilitation starts in the minors leagues, and finished 2-0 in 28 innings, with 25 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a 3.21 ERA. Sanchez joins fellow recovering hurler Josh Johnson in the rotation with hopes of providing the Marlins pitching staff with the boost necessary to grab the NL East Division and reach the playoffs. With youth on his side, Sanchez should once again regain his fantasy value as a hurler with plenty of upside in fantasy baseball.