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I'll admit it; I watched the American Idol season finale and Simon Cowell's last show. Without knowing too much about the business of the program, I think Cowell's leaving at the right time ... ratings are down, there's money to be made elsewhere, etc.
So last night, as popular singers from the past 30 years marched out to perform, Idol decided to have Dane Cook sing some lame song about Cowell with rejects from seasons past. If I'm Cowell, seeing Cook on stage would have confirmed my decision to flee. He had to be thinking, "I created one of the most successful TV franchises of the past decade and they send me off with Dane Cook? Seriously?"
The perfect artist for Cowell's exit would have been the Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers. Cowell's folding; he's walking away at the perfect time.
While Cowell probably knows more about fantasy cricket than baseball, fantasy owners can learn a lot from the music exec's actions. When a player's injuries start to get messy, it's probably time to evaluate the situation and come up with an exit strategy.
Back in April, I addressed this topic when discussing Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb. He has a ton of upside and was selected in most fantasy drafts, but has suffered constant rehab setbacks since undergoing shoulder surgery in August of 2009.
Similar to Webb, guys like Carlos Beltran and Erik Bedard entered the season on the Disabled List, and have yet to show their fantasy owners any type of return on their investment. Other players like Grady Sizemore, Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge have been in and out of the lineup throughout the season.
Throughout a 162-game campaign, almost every player will suffer some strains or bruises. However, when players suffer recurring injuries to the same area, especially injuries to joints, it may be time for fantasy owners to emulate Cowell and Rogers, and run away from these injury risks. Otherwise, they may end up like Dane Cook, trying to climb out of the basement by performing with a bunch of clowns.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
I'll start with Rollins simply because out of the players I mentioned he has the best chance to return and be effective (looking for other quality players, check out RotoExperts Xclusive Edge Rankings). As a matter of fact, I think Rollins is a good buy-low target. His two trips to the DL in the first two months probably have a lot of owners pressing the panic button. Yet Rollins' injury is only a calf strain, and this time it's just a Grade I strain (mild), which is much better than the Grade 2 strain he suffered earlier in the year. The injury should heal completely with rest, and that's what the Phillies are allowing Rollins to do by placing him on the 15-day DL.
He's eligible to come off the DL on June 6, and the Phillies expect him to be back on or shortly after that date. For his career, Rollins hits nearly 20 points higher post-All Star break and last year he hit 18 of his 21 home runs in June through September. There's no reason to think Rollins can't be a Top Five fantasy shortstop from the time he returns through the end of the year.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians
Do a news search for "Grady Sizemore" and skim through the first five articles you find. When the most glaring terms are "chronic knee problem," "second opinion," and "microfracture," it's not a good sign for a centerfielder known for his speed. Sizemore is seeing multiple doctors this week about a deep bone bruise in his left knee, an injury that reportedly first occurred in the preseason. The worst-case scenario is that Sizemore undergoes microfracture surgery, a procedure that would end his 2010 campaign and likely alter the rest of his career. The best-case scenario is that he doesn't require any type of surgery and he plays the rest of the season with a little bit of pain in his knee.
Sizemore has been dealing with the best-case scenario so far this season, and the results have been a .211 batting average, zero home runs, and four stolen bases on six attempts. Fantasy owners should trade Sizemore if they can; let him be somebody else's problem. His replacement in both center field and the Indians' leadoff spot is Trevor Crowe, who is batting .260 with a homer and three steals in 12 games. Crowe's a good addition in AL-only leagues. For mixed leaguers looking for a Sizemore fill-in. Former 20-20 club member Corey Hart is available in many fantasy leagues. Hart has 9 HRs and 23 RBIs.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets
Speaking of chronic knee problems, Beltran was moved to the 60-day DL this week. The DL move itself doesn't mean much in the fantasy world, because he was originally placed on the DL on March 26 and the move is retroactive to that date. The problem is that Beltran still isn't anywhere near ready to returning. He's been running since April (not continuously like Forrest Gump), but he's still not sprinting nor doing any strenuous baseball related activities. There is no concrete timetable as far as a rehab assignment.
Beltran was drafted in 100 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he had an ADP of 172.9, which means that many fantasy owners left their drafts feeling like they got a steal. Since then, 36 percent of his owners have let him go, and it's safe for others to walk away as well.
Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies
A bad 2009, offseason surgery, and two trips to the DL in '10 would spell doom for most closers. However, even with Jose Contreras effectively ending games for the Phils, Lidge has a chance to regain the closer job. The good news for fantasy managers who picked up Contreras: Charlie Manuel says Lidge will not immediately take over.
Lidge is supposed to come off the DL sometime next week. After that, Manuel wants him to work his way back to the point, "where he can go at least three or four days in a row." If that's the case, it will likely be about two weeks before he's ready to close. Contreras has been nothing short of spectacular with a 0.63 earned run average, a 0.70 walks plus hits per inning and 20 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. He's picked up saves in his only two attempts. Let's say he saves three more games and continues to pitch this well before Lidge is ready. Is there any way Lidge gets the job back? And if he does, can he stay healthy? Lidge's owners should be finding another way to get saves, and they should start by picking up Contreras, who is surprisingly available in more than half of all leagues.
Erik Bedard, SP, Seattle Mariners
After suffering a setback last week, Bedard is scheduled to throw a side session this Friday. If all goes well, the Mariners hope to be able to plan for his return. The key phrase there is, "hope to be able to plan." Not exactly encouraging. He's entering the Webb Zone, where the bad news is outweighing the good news and the wasted roster spot is outweighing his upside.
Meanwhile, Doug Fister is still available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues and owners who need help in ERA and WHIP can rely on the young righty. For those looking for wins, Oakland's Gio Gonzalez has five; including wins in his last two outings. Gonzalez has a decent K/9 rate and a 1.19 WHIP. He's available in 70 percent of fantasy leagues. Maybe it's time to drop Bedard and get an up-and-comer.
Here are some other injured players who are less of a gamble than the one's listed above.
Yes, it's true, Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson is recovered from his groin strain and scheduled to return this Friday. Of course, like Rollins or any other player with a strain, you can't be entirely sure of the player's health until they test it in live game situations for consecutive nights. ... Jacoby Ellsbury's fantasy owners are learning a lot about rib injuries. Like strains, fractured or bruised ribs can cause problems for a player if they return too soon. It looks like that may be the case with Ellsbury, who experienced soreness after only three games back with the Sox. Tests revealed inflammation in the area, but doctors say there is no sign of a fracture. He may be able to avoid another DL stint. ... Mike Cameron (abdominal strain) returned on May 25, just in time to fill in for Ellsbury in center field. Cameron is still dealing with an abdominal tear, one that could require surgery. He's batting at the bottom of the order, and I don't expect him to become much of a fantasy factor in the near future. ... The Dodgers have fitted outfielder Andre Ethier with a splint on his broken pinky, and he may be able to return as early as Monday night. That could be delayed if he has any trouble during a weekend rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The Dodgers did get shortstop Rafael Furcal back after he missed nearly a month with a hamstring strain. Furcal is safe to insert into any fantasy lineup, especially with the team's upcoming 13-game homestand. Furcal is hitting .348 at home. ... Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse has been diagnosed with exertional compartment syndrome, which has nothing to do with trying to cram your luggage into the overhead bin on a plane. It's a rare forearm condition that will probably require surgery, which would effectively end Lohse's season. ... Brad Penny also hit the DL for the Cardinals (retroactive to May 22). The team expects him to return as soon as he's eligible, but in the meantime, rookie P.J. Walters will take his place. Walters had 23 Ks and a 0.48 ERA in 18.2 Triple-A innings, and is worth consideration in NL-only leagues. ... What I'm learning about Josh Beckett (back) isn't horrible, but it's not great, either. He's eligible to come back on June 3, but expect Tim Wakefield to get one more start in his place. ... Mr. Perfect, Dallas Braden, did sprain his ankle but he expects to pitch Sunday against the Tigers. ... More good news for the Athletics as starter Brett Anderson (forearm) is set to return Saturday. With Trevor Cahill and Gonzalez pitching so well, Tyson Ross will move back into the bullpen. ... Rockies closer Huston Street (shoulder, groin) is on pace for a return some time in mid-June. ... Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun has been diagnosed with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He says it's "50-50" whether or not he'll return this season. ... In other catcher news, Brian McCann left the Braves game Wednesday with a quad strain. It's uncertain whether or not a DL trip is needed.
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Have injury questions? E-mail Nate at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter@RotoExpertNate.