By Chris Cwik, CBSSports.com
How soon can you trust players returning from injury? For star players, the answer is almost immediately. But what if the player isn't established at the major-league level? At what point should a Fantasy owner start to buy into the hype?
Avisail Garcia was thought to be sidelined for the rest of the season after going down with a shoulder injury in early April. He managed to return earlier than expected, and has looked like the type of players owners expected when they selected him with a late-round pick. Garcia has a chance to play a big role for Fantasy teams down the stretch, but only if he's over his shoulder issues.
Avisail Garcia, OF, White Sox (27 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against Indians, Tigers
Garcia returned from what was thought to be a season-ending shoulder injury roughly a week ago, and he's looked like the hitter the White Sox expected when they acquired him last season. Hitting a home run in his fifth game back should alleviate some concerns about the injury having lingering issues. On top of that, the White Sox have inserted him right back into the middle of the order. That means he'll hit behind Adam Eaton when Eaton gets healthy, and rookie stud Jose Abreu. That should provide Garcia with plenty of RBI opportunities down the stretch.
Players I would start him over: Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, Dustin Ackley
John Lackey, SP, Cardinals (68 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: At Pirates, home against Cubs
Turns out, Lackey's 2013 comeback season wasn't a fluke. With about a month left to go in the regular season, Lackey has been just as good in 2014. While a nine-run game has skewed his numbers with his new club, the move to St. Louis should help Lackey's overall performance down the stretch. Getting out of Fenway is probably a good thing, and moving to the league where pitchers hit can't hurt either. It doesn't get much better than Lackey's Week 22 opponents, so make sure he's in your Fantasy lineup.
Players I would start him over: Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda, (one start) Ian Kennedy
Chris Tillman, SP, Orioles (59 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against the Rays, Twins
A late-May/early-June swoon couldn't keep Tillman down. Over his last 14 starts, Tillman has turned in a 2.32 ERA over 93 2/3 innings. Home runs are still a bit of a concern for him, but he's been locked in on the mound lately. While both of his starts come at Camden Yards, he's surprisingly been better there than on the road. On top of that, his two opponents don't inspire much confidence on offense. Tillman is a must-start Week 22.
Players I would start him over: Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, (one start) Chris Archer
Dexter Fowler, OF, Astros (28 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against Athletics, Rangers
When healthy, Fowler has looked like a tremendous asset for the Astros. An intercostal strain put him out of commission for nearly two months, but Fowler has returned with a vengeance. It's only been seven games, but Fowler is hitting .385 since his activation. Overreacting to small sample sizes is silly, but at least his production shows the injury is no longer a concern. He might not steal that many bases down the stretch, but could be a decent source of runs and on-base percentage if your league values that sort of thing.
Players I would start him over: Dayan Viciedo, Matt Joyce, Gerardo Parra
Derek Norris, C, Athletics (46 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: At Astros, Angels
Despite some strong numbers, Norris' start percentage remains relatively low. That could be a result of Fantasy owners going with more established players at the position, or perhaps it signifies how shallow one catcher leagues can be. Either way, Norris deserves more recognition. His home park isn't the friendliest for power, so starting him on the road always seems like a smarter option. Playing half his games in Minute Maid Park Week 22 should help him out.
Players I would start him over: Dioner Navarro, Yan Gomes, Miguel Montero
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros (64 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against Athletics, Rangers
Keuchel has still been a good pitcher lately, but his numbers have taken a slight tumble. Over his last 10 starts, Keuchel's ERA is a pedestrian 4.11. He's been more hittable too, giving up 78 hits over 65 2/3 innings. That doesn't bode well against Oakland, which has consistently rated near the top of the league in offense. Things get a little easier when the Rangers come to town, but the damage may have already been done. Keuchel is a questionable start Week 22.
Players I would start instead: Dillon Gee, Chris Tillman, (one start) Jake Arrieta
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays (62 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: At Orioles, home against Red Sox
Odorizzi has been fantastic this season. His peripherals suggest he should probably be performing better than he has thus far. If there's one knock against Odorizzi this year, it might be the fact that he plays in an unforgiving division. While the quality of the AL East has dropped slightly, four of the five parks in the division can be described as hitter's parks. Odorizzi has a decent start against the Red Sox later in the week, but will have to take on the Orioles at Camden Yards to kick things off.
Players I would start instead: Danny Duffy, Wei-Yin Chen, (one start) Yordano Ventura
Billy Butler, DH, Royals (63 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against Yankees, Indians
Butler has certainly picked things up since struggling to open the season, but it hasn't been enough. His power has been up in the second half, and part of that has to do with his increased fly ball rate. That's a promising sign, but it may be too little too late. Given the talent at first base, Butler isn't a sure start in shallow leagues. Playing in the spacious Kauffman Stadium was always going to limit Butler's pop. He'll play all of his games at home Week 22.
Players I would start instead: Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Morse, Mike Napoli
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers (66 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: At Padres, Giants
Despite his age, Ramirez is still an effective player. The issue with starting Ramirez Week 22 has nothing to do with his skills, and everything to do with his opponents. Ramirez will play in two large ballparks, which could hurt his offensive numbers. He's not a bad start, overall, but there are some concerns this week that could justify a benching. Get him back in the lineup Week 23.
Players I would start instead: Conor Gillaspie, Brock Holt, Casey McGehee
Austin Jackson, OF, Mariners (55 percent started Week 21)
Week 22 schedule: Home against Rangers, Nationals
Jackson's trade to the Mariners doesn't do much for his Fantasy value. For one, he left one of the best offensive clubs for one of the worst. On top of that, his new home park is even more of a pitcher's park than his last one. Jackson's power numbers were already down this season, and that's not likely to change in Seattle. His days stealing 20+ bases also appear to be over. He just doesn't contribute enough in Fantasy to justify starting him in shallow leagues.
Players I would start instead: Avisail Garcia, Dexter Fowler, Carl Crawford
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