MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Injured players who can give your team a bump

Injured players who can give your team a bump

Fantasy owners spend most of March obsessing over their Opening Day roster. But there are several injured players who can be major assets this season without being available when the first fastball crosses home plate on April 5.

Hunter Pence (Giants)
Estimated Return: Mid-to-late April
Expected Production: 520 AB, 59 R, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 9 SB, .271 BA

Draft-day Value: Pence was the most durable hitter in baseball from 2007-2014, so fantasy owners can expect him to rarely miss a game once he returns near the end of April. The 31-year-old should be roughly the 30th outfielder off the board, which means the 10th round of 12-team mixed leagues.

Denard Span (Nationals)
Estimated Return: May
Expected Production: 480 AB, 73 R, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 19 SB, .288 BA

Draft-day Value: The Nats' sparkplug will not start baseball activities for roughly one month from this writing, which means that fantasy owners will be lucky to see him in the lineup in early May. Span should be roughly the 50th outfielder off the board, which means the 17th round in 12-team mixed leagues.

Michael Saunders (Blue Jays) 
Estimated Return: Mid-April
Expected Production: 430 AB, 60 R, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB, .253 BA

Draft-day Value: Saunders' timetable has improved to the point where he has aspirations of being in the lineup on Opening Day, but a backdated disabled-list stint and a mid-April return seem more likely. The lefty slugger was a popular sleeper prior to suffering a knee injury, and he is now a terrific value pick. Owners who pluck him in the late rounds of mixed leagues should have a useful fifth outfielder for more than five months.

Garrett Richards (Angels) 
Estimated Return: Mid-April
Expected Production: 180 IP, 12 W, 170 SO, 3.15 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Draft-day Value: Richards' rehab has gone swimmingly, and a short disabled-list stint should not greatly affect his draft-day value, as there are plenty of pitching options in April. With one productive season under his belt, Richards is a bit risky as a No. 2 mixed-league starter, but he is fine as the third rotation addition.

Jose Fernandez (Marlins)
Estimated Return: June-July
Expected Production: 95 IP, 8 W, 111 SO, 3.30 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Draft-day Value: Fernandez should return near midseason, and even if he is not immediately in peak form, he should help mixed-league teams right away. The 22-year-old's draft-day value varies depending on league size. Fernandez can be one of the first 40 starters off the board in shallow formats, as there are plenty of replacement options while he is stashed on the DL for three months. His value is notably lower in deep leagues, as there are minimal lineup alternatives.

Mike Minor (Braves)
Estimated Return: Late April-Early May
Expected Production: 150 IP, 9 W, 119 SO, 3.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Draft-day Value: The 27-year-old was a trendy bounceback candidate until his 2014 shoulder woes resurfaced this month. Minor's ailment contributed to a 4.77 ERA last season, so there is reason to believe that he will struggle to pitch effectively in 2015. The lefty can fall to waivers in shallow formats, but deep mixed-league owners can stash him in a DL slot and then check back in at the beginning of May.

Kenley Jansen (Dodgers)
Estimated Return: Late April-Early May
Expected Production: 50 IP, 33 SV, 75 SO, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Draft-day Value: Jansen was a consensus top-four closer in early drafts, but his foot injury has bumped him down to the second tier. Owners would be wise to grab Jansen once the top eight closers are off the board and hope to manage his absence in April with a low-end fireman such as LaTroy Hawkins for a few weeks. The Dodgers lack a clear handcuff candidate who can shut the door in April, which slightly detracts Jansen's draft-day value.

Sean Doolittle (A's)
Estimated Return: Late April-Early May
Expected Production: 53 IP, 30 SV, 56 SO, 3.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP

Draft-day Value: The 28-year-old was knocking on the top-tier door until he suffered a shoulder injury. Fantasy owners have been very hard on Doolittle, as 17 closers are coming off 2015 draft boards before his name is called. The lefty could be an elite stopper for five months of the season, and setup man Tyler Clippard should be a useful April asset. Smart owners will nab Doolittle in the middle rounds and then draft Clippard with a late-round pick.

Jake McGee (Rays)
Estimated Return: May
Expected Production: 54 IP, 27 SV, 64 SO, 2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

Draft-day Value: McGee saved 19 games last season, but his skill set offered fantasy owners hope that he could top 35 saves in 2015. December elbow surgery has taken the 28-year-old's buzz away, and he is now the 25th closer off the board in mixed-league drafts. Like Jansen and Doolittle, McGee could be a great asset for close to five months of the season. He should be ranked as roughly the 20th closer in mixed leagues, even though the Rays do not offer a sure-fire April closer alternative.

Bobby Parnell (Mets)
Estimated Return: Late April
Expected Production: 42 IP, 14 SV, 34 SO, 3.43 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

Draft-day Value: Mets manager Terry Collins has indicated that Parnell has a good chance to serve as the team's closer once he gets his feet wet after 2014 Tommy John surgery. The 30-year-old is a shaky saves option for fantasy owners, because he may not immediately regain his top form. The ninth inning is no place for someone who does not have his "A game" and Parnell will need prove that he can be trusted ahead of incumbent Jenrry Mejia to protect narrow leads. He is worth a final-round flier in leagues with DL spots.

Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.