There is no avoiding the fact that Fantasy sports are subject to luck. No one can predict, with any certainty, the health of athletes. Did anyone guess Jacoby Ellsbury would fracture his ribs in a collision with his own teammate, and miss the majority of the year? Of course not. Do I need to remind anyone about Tom Brady and the first game of 2008? Not a chance.
You can start by drafting players without a history of injuries, or who are younger in age. However, that or any other strategy will not keep you completely free of injuries. It's inevitable; it happens to everyone. Age and history had nothing to do with Ellsbury or Brady. So what is an owner to do? Well, just like when you play poker, you adapt.
For this example, we'll use Texas Hold'em as a reference, since it's the most well-known poker game. It starts with everyone being dealt a set of cards. Just like a Fantasy draft, that is your starting hand. Then the flop comes out (three more cards everyone shares). This is where the second part of your strategy comes in to play. Depending on your hand's quality and other's moves, you either fold your hand or continue on with what you have (hold on to your cards). This is your situation all year long. You continually have to play your changing hand due to injuries, trades, performance, etc. As things change, you decide whether to hold or fold your players.
Fantasy sports are actually easier than poker when deciding to "hold them or fold them." At least in sports you know all the information involved, and there is no bluffing. Well, unless you are dealing with the Patriots and Bill Belichick. Luckily, this is a baseball injury column so we're okay.
With it being so close to the end of the season, it's a key time to make that decision on whether to hold (keep the player on the roster) or fold (drop the player). Fortunately for you, here is some advice on how to play your hand.
The injured oblique just won't stay away. Last Thursday, Reyes aggravated the oblique injury that kept him out for a month earlier this year. As of Sept. 2, he has yet to play. On Wednesday, he participated in a full batting practice session and feels "better".
The Mets say he could return for the upcoming weekend series. Keep in mind, given Reyes' history and the quality of the Mets' injury management, there is always a chance for another setback. It's also important to note that he won't be placed on the Disabled List with rosters now expanding.
Reyes owners should be used to this situation by now. The Mets are filling in at shortstop with Luis Hernandez and Ruben Tejeda. Sadly, neither player is a viable Fantasy option. The good news is that you can find a few shortstops, who may be available.
Look no further than another NL East team for a Reyes-like player. Ian Desmond of the Nationals is hitting .340 with five steals in the last 30 days. Need some late season power? Yuniesky Betancourt of the Royals has seven home runs over the past month.
Decision: if you need the spot to pick up your replacement -- Fold Him
Lowe has reached the point where his name outweighs his production. To this day, he is regularly overrated and drafted too high. Owners cannot seem to shake the memory of his 21-win and sub-3.00 ERA season with the Red Sox -- even though that was eight years ago.
Recently, Lowe admitted he has been dealing with elbow discomfort for the past six weeks and even received a cortisone shot for the pain. He still pitched Monday, but only lasted three innings and gave up five runs. He's been a subpar Fantasy pitcher for some time now. Even the Braves cannot help him get enough wins to make him valuable. His next start on Friday is being skipped, and this elbow issue may linger. The good news is that there are some available options, that may not get many more wins than Lowe, but will contribute more in the way of ERA and strikeouts.
One option who is only owned in one quarter of leagues is Jonathan Niese of the New York Mets. He has 36 strikeouts in his last 38.1 innings. Be aware, you might only have Niese a short time. The Mets continue to discuss whether they will limit his innings in his first full year.
Decision: Lowe is a shell of his 2002 self -- Fold Him
This is one of the more devastating injuries in Fantasy Baseball. Morneau suffered a concussion in early July, and as a result, many owners lost a legitimate MVP candidate. News of his progress and return has been hard to come by and near impossible to predict.
Recent news from the Twins and Manager Ron Gardenhire indicate that Morneau could work out at Target Field beginning Friday. Like the entire situation, not even this is for certain. Concussion injuries are simply too difficult to manage and diagnose.
At this point, owners will be thrilled if Morneau makes a return in September. Anything he can give teams, both Fantasy and the Twins, would be a plus. If you are still looking for some help at first base in the meantime, there are a few options.
Oakland's Daric Barton has been fairly hot at the plate. In his past 86 at-bats, Barton has a .314 batting average, 17 runs scored, three HRs and a .997 OPS. The best part is he's almost guaranteed to be available, as fewer than 10 percent of teams own him. Wilson Betemit of the Royals is another player on a hot streak that you may be able to ride for the time being. He has six home runs over the past month and has eligibility at third base as well.
Decision: Morneau is simply too good when playing -- Hold Him
There are plenty of players who have been dealt injuries. Here's who's caught in the shuffle.
A torn meniscus has finally landed Ricky Nolasco on the DL, and his season is over ... Brian Roberts strained his left hip but won't miss any significant time ... Justin Upton felt shoulder pain during a swing on Monday, but will only miss a few games ... X-rays came back negative on Gordon Beckham's hand. It's only a bruise, and he should return to action Friday ... Yunel Escobar still feels sore when swinging and might not return this weekend ... A strained groin sidelined Troy Tulowitzki for two games, but he returned to the lineup Wednesday ... Andy Pettitte threw 55 pitches in his bullpen session on Wednesday and is on track to return in the middle of September ... While X-rays came back negative on Brandon Phillips' wrist, he has yet to return to the starting lineup. He might return Friday, but check on his status before you start him ... Dan Uggla has a right groin strain and has no set date to return ... Cliff Lee is dealing with soreness in his back ... Surprise star Angel Pagan is dealing with wrist tendinitis and continues to be held out of games ... Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler have both been activated from the DL. Cruz has played since Monday and Kinsler should be in the lineup Friday.
* All ownership percentages courtesy of Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball
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