Posted: Thursday September 13, 2012 4:32PM ; Updated: Thursday September 13, 2012 4:32PM

MLB fantasy mailbag: Dunn's injury leaves power void for some owners

Story Highlights

Adam Dunn's oblique injury does not present clear path to full recovery

Since start of August, Mark Reynolds has hit 13 homers and hit .271

Jeff Samardzija struck out 180 batters in 174.2 innings before being shut down

By Ray Flowers, BaseballGuys.com, Special to SI.com

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Mark Reynolds' reliable power, when coupled with a surprisingly productive average, has made him a valuable stretch-run addition.
Mark Reynolds' reliable power, when coupled with a surprisingly productive average, has made him a valuable stretch-run addition.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account in my never ending attempt to replace myself by explaining to everyone how I evaluate players thereby making myself obsolete.

With Adam Dunn down, who is the best option for the rest of the season: Mark Reynolds, Justin Morneau, Garrett Jones?
-- @JohnnyCrashMLB

Dunn has been dealing with an oblique issue as the White Sox try to hold off the Tigers for the AL Central title. Dunn has been one of the better comeback stories in baseball this season, but has been sidelined with an oblique issue of late. With the injury likely to linger, Dunn owners need to find alternatives.

As for Reynolds, he has gone deep nine times with 17 RBI and a 1.157 OPS over the last three weeks. Don't forget that he also brings some positional flexibility with his ability to play first and third base. Since the start of August, he's gone deep 13 times with 27 RBIs, 24 runs scored an a .271 batting average over 36 games. He is streaky, but right now the streak is hot while not hurting anyone in batting average.

Morneau may not be all the way back, but he's close. He hasn't seen much success against lefties (.231-2-19 with a .575 OPS in 173 ABs), but he has mashed righties (.307-17-56 with a .952 OPS in 280 ABs). He's also been on the top of his game since the All-Star break, hitting .318 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 54 games.

Jones, like Reynolds, also qualifies at two spots (first base and outfield). Of course, this decision is more about the power these players offer than it is about positional flexibility (more on that below). Jones has hit 23 homers, a career best, and is two runs (he has 62) and 11 RBIs (75) from tying his career bests. He's also sporting a .283 batting average after failing to reach .250 in either of the past two seasons. Like Morneau, he is a waste against lefties (.210/.250/.339 in 62 ABs), and like Morneau and Reynolds, he's been sharp of late. Over his last 39 games Jones has hit .316 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and 22 runs scored, providing those that have been playing him with near elite-level hitting.

Honestly, there is no wrong answer here. All three have been better fantasy performers in the second half of the season than Dunn, who has hit .207 with 13 homers and 27 RBIs. At this point of the season there's little chance that even a .300 hitter for the final 20 games is going to move the needle on your team batting average since you'll have so many at-bats piled up on your squad (not to mention that you've been saddled with that .208 deadweight that is Dunn's batting average this year). There's also no real speed to speak of with this group, so forget about steals. Given that Jones qualifies at two spots, he would be my selection over Morneau (you never know when you might need that flexibility, so I'll let it be the tipping point between those two). So it's Jones versus Reynolds for me. Given that I'm operating under the assumption that batting average isn't a real concern here I'd roster Reynolds and hope his power/run producing ways continue to impress the final couple of weeks of 2012.

Keeper for next season in 20th of 25 rounds, Jeff Samardzija or Brett Anderson?
-- @Valen007

Both represent tremendous values at that cost.

Anderson has dominated in four starts this season, allowing a total of three runs (two earned) for a 0.69 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Still, Anderson is not the new Roy Halladay, folks. He had a 4.00 ERA and 1.33 ERA last season before injuring his elbow. But he is a very solid major league hurler. Take a look at his career numbers: 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.35 K/9, 2.68 K/BB

Wait a second, those aren't Anderson's numbers; those are the numbers of a pitcher that I think profiles very similarly to Anderson in terms of their expected fantasy output -- the Brewers' Shaun Marcum. Here are Anderson's career numbers: 3.47 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.91 K/9, 3.21 K/BB

Anderson should be a solid option in 2013, but his skills, despite what he has been doing for the last month, are nowhere near elite, though I do love his 54 percent career ground ball rate, which makes him an arm that could have some impressive runs with his diving, darting pitches.

Samardzija was shut down recently after he threw as many innings this season as he had his previous four years at the big league level (he actually tossed five more innings this season). Samardzija finished his first full season as a starter on a high note, throwing a complete game and lowering his ERA to 3.81 and his WHIP to 1.22. Those ratios are in line with the career rates of Anderson, but Samardzija owns one skill Anderson will never posses -- he can strike out batters with the best of them.

Over the last two seasons Samardzija has struck out a batter per inning, including 180 in 174.2 innings this season. If he can maintain the massive reduction in walk rate he had this season, he should be on his way to continuing to post numbers that rival, if not surpass, his 2012 effort in coming seasons.

I'd frame the answer this way. Do you want a "safe" play or an "upside" play? Anderson is more likely to be the stable/solid play next year, especially since I'm not sold on the drastic walk reduction that Samardzija offered this year. The A's also recently announced that Anderson will not be on an innings count next year (the Athletics are not the Nationals). On the other hand, Samardzija is likely to produce a substantially higher amount of Ks, so that right arm of his shouldn't be discounted one bit. Given the fact that neither is going to be your ace in 2013, I'd favor the power righty from Chicago.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 at 7 PM EDT, Monday through Thursday, and Friday's from 9-12 PM EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

 
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