It appears the Nationals are sticking to their guns and will shut down their ace pitcher after reaching his predetermined amount of innings pitch. The plan was designed to protect Strasburg in his first complete season following Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. The decision has been heavily scrutinized with the Nationals owning the division lead and legitimate shot at postseason success. I can't say I completely agree with the plan either but then again I don't have access to Strasburg's medical report. Innings pitched isn't the best indicator of a pitcher's workload but again there are plenty of experts that know the variables surrounding this specific situation, most notably Dr. James Andrews. The renowned orthopedist who performed the surgery, recently voiced his support of the Nationals plan, strengthening the validity of the decision. Fantasy owners will not be happy to lose a pitcher who is currently sporting a 15-6 record and a 2.96 ERA. Barring a sudden change of heart, Strasburg's final game will come September 12.
It sounds like Votto will at long last make his return to the Cincinnati lineup after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Initially he was expected to miss three to four weeks, but he hasn't played since July 15 after suffering a minor setback that required a second procedure. Meniscus injuries can be tricky to deal with and I fully expect the Reds to give their All-Star several days off in his first few weeks back. The team currently holds an 8.5 game lead in the division over St. Louis and will do everything they can to insure Votto will be ready for the postseason. He hammered a home run Saturday during a rehab assignment and I'm confident he's worth a roster spot when he's in the lineup. Obviously he's a safer play in daily leagues but even in weekly leagues you can't afford to sit a MVP-caliber player.
When MLB expands its rosters to 40 in September, fantasy owners must make difficult decisions regarding injured players. Expanded rosters means nicked up players do not have to be relegated to the disabled list, even if a DL-stint would help. It can be maddening to have a normally productive player out of the lineup and sitting in limbo while you can do little to offset the forfeited games. However occasionally expanded rosters can help a player bounce back quickly from a minor ailment. The perfect example is Kinsler. The All-Star second baseman was a late scratch over the weekend after he began experiencing stiffness in his lower back. Lower back injuries can be extremely problematic and often become chronic issues. However Kinsler was able to receive a day off instead of fighting through the pain and was back in the lineup on Monday. He reported no pain and hopefully it will not be an issue moving forward.
Another benefit of the expanded rosters is it allows for young talent to shine. When the calendar turned to September, Texas brought Jurickson Profar, the top prospect in baseball, to Arlington. The 19-year old replaced Kinsler in the lineup and hit a home run to right field in his first at-bat. Profar's value is significantly higher in keeper leagues but he could see some time if manager Ron Washington elects to rest some of his veterans.
Kinsler isn't the only Ranger spending time in the athletic training room. Napoli has been out since August 11 with a quadriceps strain and while he has made progress in rehab, his return does not appear imminent. It is being reported that he has begun agility drills and has been able to catch in the bullpen and swing a bat. His ability to squat behind the plate is encouraging but I'm more concerned with what he can't do and that's run the bases. Aggressive running will test the quadriceps and clearly the team is hesitant to let their catcher give it a go. Another factor working against him is the end of the minor league season. Without a minor league team playing Napoli will not be able to go on a rehab assignment when he is finally cleared to play. This would force Washington to ease Napoli back into the big league lineup and I expect his availability to remain on a day-to-day basis. Geovany Soto will continue to take start at catcher and is becoming a serviceable option. He has 15 of his 29 RBI since joining Texas in nearly half the at-bats.
The Tigers MVP continues to play through a painful ankle injury suffered two weeks ago. The sprain has only cost him one game but the joint remains sore. He's been able to play by spending some time as Detroit's designated hitter, but that move relegates Delmon Young to the bench. To keep Young in the lineup, Cabrera has returned to third base despite the pain it clearly causes. It's not surprising that fielding is an issue. Playing third base requires a great deal of lateral movement which put undue stress on the ligaments normally affected in most ankle sprains. Furthermore planting the foot to make the throw to first can also be painful and limited.
Manager Jim Leyland admitted his star is not 100 percent and he may need to make some changes to keep Cabrera's bat available. However with the Tigers and White Sox locked in a tight battle for the division crown resting Cabrera for an extended period of time doesn't seem like an option. The race for the playoffs benefits fantasy owners who will get what they can out of the slugger. Cabrera's value remains mostly intact since the ankle hasn't been an issue while hitting. He has 12 hits, one home run, and five RBI in 27 at-bats since suffering the injury. He may be limited running but as long as he can still swing the bat you have to play him.