The season, sadly, is drawing to a rather rapid close for everyone, but for some players, it has already ended. In April or May, season-ending injuries bring to mind things like a torn UCL, a horrific knee injury, or a blown out shoulder; now that it’s October, a bruise in the wrong place could be enough to shelve a player until spring training starts. It’s a little depressing, frankly, but all good things must end and this end means the playoffs are nigh.
Before we get there, however, there is a little matter of the fantasy season to finish. For anyone still contesting a title, here are the players I would avoid playing if at all possible.
While Joe Mauer will almost certainly remain in the lineup in order to fight for a batting title up until the very death of the season, the rest of the Twins’ run-producers will be on the bench. Willingham has been out for the last few games with a shoulder injury that’s not believed to be particularly serious, but with nothing to play for and not even an opponent that’s still fighting for something, the Twins have more or less declared his season over. Ditto for Doumit and Morneau.
Doumit is done because of a finger injury and Morneau has succumbed to one of the Twins’ greatest foes in the last few seasons: General soreness. Like Willingham’s shoulder injury, neither Doumit’s finger nor Morneau’s corpus is expected to cause offseason problems, but the Twins aren’t about to risk these two going into a rather important offseason for the team.
A broken left ring finger means that Pedroia will be on the bench as the Red Sox stumble to the finish line. If you believe this article in which no one actually talked to anyone in Baltimore, the Orioles may not have been happy with the Quad-A lineup that the Red Sox ran out against the Yankees on Monday — and presumably will again on Tuesday and Wednesday — but I’m not sure a second baseman with a broken finger is going to do much to help matters. Even if Bobby Valentine wanted to pencil him in the lineup just to make it look like the Red Sox had fielded a stronger lineup than they actually did, I wouldn’t touch Pedroia with a 39.5 ft. pole.
UPDATE: It appears as though Pedroia is going to be in the lineup Tuesday night and may try to pull the same trick on Wednesday. I don’t see the point, frankly, but not much about Boston’s season makes any sense to me and this is hardly an aberration. I stand by my thoughts above, however, and I wouldn’t start Pedroia if there is another decent option available.
This is one to watch for those who are still in contention, but need help in the pitching categories. The Brewer are going to let Gallardo decide whether he makes his last start of the season against the Padres and will go with pitcher-by-committee if he declines. Quite frankly, I’d be surprised if Gallardo does make the start. He’s already broken the 200-inning barrier, he’s made 33 starts, and there’s nothing in his contract that kicks in at 34 starts or 210 IP. We prize guys who take the ball every chance they’re given, and for good reason typically, but there’s just nothing gained by running him out there and putting the strain on his elbow and shoulder or risking a liner to the head.
Another whose absence isn’t yet guaranteed, but seems likely, is Posey, who left Monday’s game with back spasms. Like the Twins’ trio above, there doesn’t seem to be anything serious here yet, but the Giants have their position in the postseason secure and a recurrence of more serious back spasms could keep Posey out for the beginning of their playoff chase. If he’s in the game on Tuesday, he’ll probably be a safe play for Wednesday as well, but my hunch is that the Giants will go ahead and rest him for both games, then bring him back healthy for the Division Series.
All Tigers not named Cabrera
The Tigers surely can’t rest 39 of their 40 available players — 38 if you count Drew Smyly since someone has to start — but they’ll probably make a decent try at it. Miguel Cabrera is about the only Tiger I’d be comfortable playing, since we know he’ll play because of Triple Crown (and by extension MVP) considerations, but it’s not hard to imagine Prince Fielder, Omar Infante, and perhaps most importantly Austin Jackson getting a breather ahead of their playoff series. Jackson’s potential absence also makes Smyly a dangerous play, since he has the lowest groundball rate of any of the Tigers’ starters right now. Jackson is the glue that holds Detroit’s outfield together and without him, Smyly could find himself on the wrong side of a BABIP spike.
It has been something of a disappointing year for Moustakas, which may seem a bit harsh considering he just turned 24 and put down a 3.5 WAR season, but his offensive output was well below where many people expected he’d be this year. He won’t have the chance to finish the year on a high note as it appears that a previous groin injury has flared up on him again and will keep him out for the Royals’ remaining two games. Given that the Tigers may not be playing too many starters and the Royals will be missing at least one of their stars and possibly more, here’s a fun question: Which game will feature more actual MLB-caliber players, Wednesday’s game or a hypothetical spring training game between the two teams?