2015 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Nationals Institute of Health

The 2015 baseball season is nearly 60 percent over, and before long it’ll be October and we’ll all be trading in fantasy baseball for fantasy football. Not unlike football, baseball hits us with injuries every day. Some will send your top player to the DL, and some will give an opportunity to the rookie you had stashed away on your bench.

There are a number of players to talk about as we enter Week 16, but one team has been hit by the injury bug the most: the Washington Nationals.

With all the injuries they’ve suffered this year, the fact that they are still atop the NL East is quite the accomplishment. If the Nats end up winning the World Series, the whole team should just win the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The Nats will be getting a handful of players back in the coming weeks, and they will be a scary team to face if all of them can stay on the field at once.

Anthony Rendon

Man, it feels like this kid will never be healthy. He’s missed a total of 72 games this year with ailments ranging from his knee, to his quad and most recently, his oblique. Rendon has a history of injuries, so this isn’t anything new, but owners who drafted him in the early rounds would like to get him back nevertheless. Rendon went 2-for-2 with a double for High-A Potomac on Saturday and was pinch-ran for in the third inning. He didn’t play on Sunday either, so it’s clear the Nats are being cautious with him. Once he is able to play in back-to-back games, we should see him back in D.C., which could be by this weekend.

Jayson Werth

Like Rendon, Werth has missed a large chunk of the season, playing in just 27 games before landing on the DL with a broken wrist. The veteran outfielder began his rehab assignment this past Thursday, going 2-for-7 with two RBI in three games with the Potomac Nationals. Werth is 36 years old, so it’s not like he’s getting any younger, but the Nats figure to play him nearly every day once he returns.

Of course, owners should be aware of the nature of his injury. Wrists, and pretty much all hand injuries, take time to heal, and I’m not talking about just the bones themselves. The most important part of the body for a hitter is their hands. That’s what you grip a bat with. If you can’t get a full, strong grip on the bat, your power will be affected. It’s not that the injury isn’t fully healed, it’s that it takes time to build up strength and mobility in the hand/wrist. We’ve seen hundreds of players with hand injuries lose much of their power in their initial games off the DL. The power will eventually come, but being that it’s almost August, how long can a fantasy owner wait?

Werth is currently available in 80 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, and in his case, I don’t think he’s a must add player. At this point in the season there are far too many other solid options out there. He’ll help the Nationals, but he could do more harm than good for your fantasy team.

Stephen Strasburg

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions on Twitter regarding Strasburg. Mainly, trade questions.

“Should I trade Player A and Player B for Strasburg and Player C?”

Strasburg has been a nightmare this season. On top of his two DL stints, he has posted a 5.16 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and a 9.30 K/9 — the second worst rate of his career. The only season in which he had less strikeouts per nine innings was in 2011, when he made five September starts after returning from Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is not on top of his game. The injuries could definitely be contributing, but regardless, the 2015 version of Stephen Strasburg is unlike what we’ve seen in the past.

So, do you trade for him based on his potential? In Strasburg’s case, it all depends on who you are giving up. He’s not the top 10 starting pitcher that he was on draft day, so we can’t treat him as such. If you can trade a SP3/4 and an expendable bat for Strasburg’s services, do it. But please don’t consider sending a pitcher who has pitched well all season for an injured and down-trodden Strasburg just on name recognition alone.

A lot of owners forget how far along we are in the year. We’re closing out July. The “regression bug” is not as big of a phenomena at this point. BABIPs and FIPs are normalizing. If the slugger you drafted in the fifth round only has seven home runs, it probably means he’s just not going to have a great season. If you’ve found the opposite, a player who has outperformed his pre-season prospects, then you should ride it out.

Only trade for Strasburg if the price is right and your team can afford to wait for his services while he continues to rehab his oblique injury.

Denard Span

Back injuries are awful. I’ve personally had two back surgeries over the past nine months, so I can attest to how debilitating they can be. For a speed guy like Denard Span, it’s even more detrimental to his game. So, when back spasms forced Span to miss a handful of games over the past month, the team finally decided the right move was to put him on the DL. It was perfect timing, as they were able to shut him down while limiting the games lost during the All-Star break.

The Washington Post reported that Span received a cortisone shot last week, which has come as a “sigh of relief” for the Nats’ center fielder. Span blames the core surgery he had in the off-season, saying his back just hasn’t been strong enough. It’s good to hear that he is feeling better and that he has pinpointed the root of his problems.

While on the field, he’s been great, slashing .304/.367/.430 with five homers, 22 RBI, 11 SB and 37 runs scored. He’s the cog at the top of the Nationals’ lineup and really gets everything going (no offense to Yunel Escobar and Danny Espinosa).

Right now, Span is available in just under 40 percent of ESPN leagues, and that needs to change. He should be back within 10 days or so and can offer teams a solid batting average to go along with elite run scoring and stolen bases.

Ryan Zimmerman

It’s been a rough go of it for Ryan Zimmerman in 2015. He’s missed 34 total games, with the majority coming due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. This is a very painful injury, and often one that can only be remedied by an extended period of rest, or even surgery. Though he is ramping up his activity — he played in a rehab game with Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday — his season-long prospects may even fall below those of Werth’s.

The pain in Zimmerman’s foot will be there for the remainder of the year. The question is, can he gut through it and produce enough to warrant staying in the lineup? This would be an easy answer if he had performed well prior to landing on the DL, but he didn’t. The 2009 All-Star was hitting a meager .209 with an ugly .265 OBP and just five home runs prior to his disabling.

Zimmerman has the tools to help your fantasy team, but unfortunately, there may be too many things working against him this year. He’s worth rostering to see if he can literally come out of the gate running, but don’t be afraid to cut bait if he continues to hit like he did in April and May.

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