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Fantasy Baseball Injury Report: Contenders Might Have to Dump Harper

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.

This might be the worst week of the season for an injury analyst. Teams at both ends of the standings begin to rest players in anticipation of the postseason or, in most cases, next season. As a result, seemingly minor injuries begin to force players to miss time. It becomes even more critical to utilize the RotoWire Daily Lineups page to ensure you are maximizing your games played to insure productivity across the board.

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy

The two cogs in the Nationals' offense could abandon fantasy owners at the worst possible moment. With fantasy championships on the line, Harper is nursing a sore left thumb after an awkward slide over the weekend. The digit was reportedly swollen and Harper was seen sporting wrap on the area following the game. Fortunately, the team indicated it is not the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his thumb. If you recall, Harper previously tore the UCL in this thumb during the 2014 season and missed a significant stretch following surgery.

The Nationals are calling him day-to-day, though further tests, including an X-ray, were on tap for Monday. With the National League East title clinched, look for the team to take a conservative approach with Harper the next few days. Fantasy owners, especially those in non-keeper leagues, might be forced to send Harper to the waiver wire for a player more likely to take the field.

The same goes for Murphy who has missed four consecutive games and five of the last seven with a mild glute strain. Given Murphy's previous history of lower extremity problems, including hamstring and quadriceps issues, the Nationals will do everything possible to ensure he's ready for the postseason, even if that means sitting him for the remainder of the regular season. He may get a spot start if the injury improves but counting on his availability is a gamble.

Nelson Cruz

The Mariners believe Cruz will be in the lineup on Monday against the Astros after being pulled from Sunday's game with a sore left wrist. Cruz missed two games in late August with nerve damage in his left hand that left him with limited sensation in his fingers and diminished grip strength. The associated pain eventually decreased and the feeling in his digits returned, allowing Cruz to avoid the disabled list. Unfortunately, he appears to have aggravated the area on a swing Sunday and is again reporting functional limitation in the joint. Cruz did manage to hit his 41st homer un following the incident, suggesting he remains a long-ball threat. Keep him in the lineup if he does indeed suit up but have a reliable backup ready just in case.

Johnny Cueto

Cueto's groin strain was diagnosed as a Grade 1 strain, meaning it is the least severe strain possible, and is eyeing a quick return after missing his last start. He's slated to throw a side session Tuesday that could lead to him resuming his spot in the rotation Thursday.

However, fantasy owners should tread cautiously. The groin is a group of muscles known as the adductors. They work synergistically to pull the leg inward during lateral movement. For Cueto, a right-handed pitcher, his left groin is stretched when he completes his windup and enters into the phase of throwing known as the cocking phase. The muscle group then helps control weight transfer throughout the acceleration and declaration phases before aiding with stabilization in the follow-through.

The groin's active role in throwing leaves it vulnerable to re-injury if the area remains limited following a strain. Furthermore, any limitation in the lower extremity could actually alter the biomechanics of the upper extremity and negatively impact Cueto's velocity and accuracy. As a result, Cueto should be downgraded for the remainder of the season, even if he able to return after missing just one start.

Check Swings

Nick Castellanos:
The Tigers' third baseman is still working his way back from a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand. He recently suffered a minor setback but managed to face live pitching over the weekend. Castellanos may participate in an Instructional League game Monday, setting up a possible mid-week return. He may be worth a look if you are in a deeper league and in desperate need of infield assistance.

Kevin Gausman:
The Orioles were forced to push back Gausman's recent start due to an intercostal strain. The intercostals sit between the ribs of the ribcage and play a role in moving the ribs while breathing. For reference, when you dig into a rack of ribs at a barbeque, you are generally eating the intercostals of the pig or cow. Fortunately Gausman's strain was mild and he plans on making his next start Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He was in the middle of a solid stretch before the injury, failing to give up a run in four of his previous six starts.

Ken Giles:
The Astros closer took a line drive off his right wrist during batting practice over the weekend but still managed to post his 14th save of the season Sunday. The injury has been officially diagnosed as a wrist contusion and shouldn't prevent Giles from closing out games down the stretch.

Zack Greinke:
The 32-year-old right-hander will not pitch again this season as the Diamondbacks shift their focus to next season. Greinke reported stiffness in his throwing shoulder following his most recent start and the team is going to play it safe with its ace. Greinke recently missed time with an oblique injury.

Masahiro Tanaka:
The Yankees will limit Tanaka's throwing for the next five days after a MRI revealed a slight strain of the flexor mass in his throwing arm. New York is wise to slow-play his return given Tanaka's previous elbow problems. Forcing him to throw with even the slightest strain in his flexor bundle could put excessive stress on his previously sprained UCL and increase his risk of a significant injury. With their chances of a wild card quickly diminishing, don't be surprised if the Yankees shut him down for the remainder of the season.