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Diamond Cuts: Looking Ahead

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

While a select set of individuals remain in contention for fantasy glory, the majority of fantasy owners have already shifted focus to next season. With the regular season wrapping up this week, let's take a look at the players who will have a busy offseason focused on recovery and rehab.

Stephen Strasburg

The Nationals withstood the scrutiny and stood by their decision to shut down Strasburg despite the franchise qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in over 70 years. The young right-hander was limited to 159 innings pitching in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. He will enter the offseason focused on going through a normal offseason routine and prepare to pitch in 2013 without an innings cap. A healthy and refreshed Strasburg will be an elite fantasy pitcher capable of posting big numbers.

Brian Wilson

Batters were only able to fear the beard briefly this year after Wilson's season ended after two innings of work. The enigmatic closer underwent Tommy John in April on his right elbow. The procedure was the second time in his career he required Tommy John, the first occurring in 2003. Wilson has rehabbed throughout the season and hopes to throw for the first time at some point in October. He's stated he's ahead of schedule and should enter training camp ready to go. Pitchers recovering from Tommy John often need 10 to 12 months to completely recover, making Opening Day a strong possibility.

Mariano Rivera

Like Wilson, the Yankees closer's 2012 season was cut short by injury. Yet Rivera's injury did not occur to his prized pitching arm but instead to his lower extremity. Rivera suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee while shagging balls in the outfield. He has aggressively rehabbed and there were some grumblings about a postseason return in 2012. While that remains a long shot, it bodes well that Rivera will have the ball in the ninth inning during the 2013 season.

Jose Bautista

The Blue Jays will have multiple injuries issues to manage in the winter, none more important that the wrist of their slugger. Bautista needed surgery to repair the tendon sheath surrounding a tendon in his left wrist. A tendon sheath is a membrane that encapsulates a tendon allowing for smooth movement. Bautista initially injured the area in July and a week's worth of rest did little to alleviate the pain. He finally elected to undergo the procedure and will spend the next several months strengthening the area and regaining any lost range of motion. Tampa outfielder Sam Fuld underwent a similar procedure in April and was able to return to the lineup in July, suggesting Bautista should be able to play by spring training. However Fuld isn't the power hitter Bautista is and fluid wrist motion is critical to a smooth power stroke. Monitor Bautista's early at-bats in the spring to determine if his power numbers will suffer initially before spending an early draft pick on the outfielder.

Ryan Howard

The Phillies first basemen missed a large portion of this year recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon and will miss the conclusion of the season after breaking his toe. The toe injury occurred after Howard dropped his bat weight on his foot in the on-deck circle. The toe fracture is a hairline fracture and not considered serious. Howard anticipates he will be able to carry out his winter training and be healthy and ready to bounce back next season. A fully healed toe and Achilles should aid in Howard's plate discipline after he posted career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Victor Martinez

The Tigers never got the opportunity to use Martinez alongside Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera after Martinez tore his ACL during offseason conditioning. He needed surgery to repair the torn ACL, an injured medial collateral ligament (MCL) and meniscus damage. The four-time All-Star also underwent microfracture surgery, a procedure in which small holes are made on the surface of the knee to stimulate cartilage growth. After flirting with a September return, the Tigers medical staff elected to shut down Martinez for the remainder of the season and shift their focus to 2013. The move was a wise decision and should insure Martinez will rejoin the team in spring training and be ready for Opening Day. However don't expect to see Martinez spend much time behind the plate. Catching is extremely hard on the knees and Detroit will likely shift him to a designated hitter role with the occasional start at first base. Martinez could be a sneaky addition next season barring any setbacks in the offseason.

Carl Crawford

Crawford has been a disappointment since signing his megadeal with Boston. He struggled mightily last season and offseason surgery on his wrist kept him out of the lineup to begin the 2012 season. His rehab was delayed by a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow. He attempted to play through the pain but ultimately required Tommy John surgery. The recovery time coming off Tommy John is shorter for a position player than for a pitcher so it's realistic to imagine Crawford could make his Dodgers premiere on Opening Day. However Crawford's recent track record suggests he will remain a risky pick for next year.

Johan Santana

Santana was in the middle of an amazing comeback in 2012 after missing the previous year recovering from a capsulorrhaphy, a surgery to repair a capsule tear in his shoulder. He started the season well, posting a 2.76 ERA through June including the first no-hitter in Mets franchise history. However in mid-July, Santana began experiencing tightness in his back and the associated pain clearly affected his play. He allowed at least six runs in each of his final five outings (0-5, 15.63 ERA) before the team elected to shut him down and let his back heal. Surgery will not be warranted and the inflammation will be treated with rest and medication. Santana should be ready to go for the start of the season but, like Crawford, will have significant inherent injury risk entering the new year.