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Picking up or trading for an injured player is always a gamble, especially when the player has been a long-term resident on the disabled list, like a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery. Yet, it also could be one way for a losing fantasy team to pursue a turnaround, or at least stake a claim on a long-term investment.
There are a number of players who have recently come off the DL, or are expected to in the days ahead. Some of them, who haven't played at all this year and largely were ignored during drafts, could provide a nice mid-season boost for a fantasy team in need.
Jose Fernandez, SP, MIA: Arguably the most anticipated return, more than a year after an injury that lead to Tommy John surgery. He is due back July 2, and fantasy owners have been picking him up like crazy in recent weeks, though he's still available in about 15% of Yahoo! leagues. Only one full season (2013) to his credit, but what a season: 12 wins, 187 strikeouts in 172 IP, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .182 BAA.
Matt Moore, SP, TAM: Another TJ surgery, though his comeback has been much quieter than that of Fernandez, even though he won 17 games in 2013. Still available in more than 75% of Yahoo! leagues. Not as much a dominant strikeout pitcher, but the Rays have somehow wandered into first place, so he could get good run support.
Matt Cain, SP, SF: In 45 starts over 2013 and 2014, he was 10-17 with an ERA over 4.00, far removed from the stingy veteran presence that led him to 16 wins in 2012. He also has looked very hittable during his rehab after an elbow injury, but a great coaching staff and organization could help him find his mojo again. Still available in more than 50% of Yahoo! leagues.
Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs: He had not been delivering on expected fantasy value before going down with an ankle sprain about four weeks ago, but pre-Kris Bryant he was considered the Cubs' most viable Rookie of the Year candidate. He'll head to rehab soon, but a return before the All-Star break looks likely. Available in about 23% of Yahoo! leagues.
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, WAS: After missing the first two months of the season, he's back. It's been a quiet return so far, but he did go 4-for-4 Monday night, and his 2014 numbers - .287, 24 HRs, 83 RBI, 17 SBs - suggest he could get hot in the second half. Available in only 6% of Yahoo! leagues, but maybe a trade target if his current owner is running out of patience.
* USA Today Fantasy Score has a video on using ballpark factors to fuel your fantasy decisions. It might have more impact in the increasingly popular one-day fantasy leagues, though I admit to setting my lineup occasionally based on who's lucky enough to be playing in Colorado's thin air.
* CBS Sports has something on the unexpected success of Joey Butler, OF, TAM. He's one of the reasons why the Rays as a team have surprised, though at 29 and without much of a track record, I wonder how long Butler can keep it up.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.