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Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market: Brian Roberts seeing the light at the end of the rehab tunnel
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In case you forgot, Brian Roberts is still in the major leagues. But boy, has he ever fallen off the face of a cliff in the past two seasons. His .290-12-57 2007 campaign that included a whopping 50 stolen bases feels about a decade in the rearview at this point.
Where did all that production at the keystone go? Unfortunately it was all derailed by a series of concussions and a back ailment; he suffered two serious head injuries in a span of eight months between the 2010 and '11 seasons. In those two years, he was able to suit up for only 98 contests, including just 39 a season ago after being bumped in the head at Fenway Park last May.
Roberts went from being a steady and reliable fantasy second base option whom you could count on for 130-plus games, 10-15 homers and anywhere from 30-50 stolen bases to a guy who just can't get back on the field to save his life.
Concussions will do that to athletes; just ask Justin Morneau and the Minnesota Twins. Serious head trauma is no laughing matter, and professional institutions, including major league baseball, are taking increased precautions to avoid long-term affects that concussions can cause. B-Rob is one of these extreme cases.
His incredibly long road to recovery took a huge step Wednesday, when he played three frames in his first competitive atmosphere since a year ago. Roberts walked twice with Double-A Bowie in his first game of a 20-day minor league rehab quest.
It's great news that B-Rob has resumed playing in games, but, as we've seen through the course of his rigorous road back, nothing is a sure thing with him. Setbacks could easily occur, and the O's have every reason to continue preaching caution and patience. B-more is surprisingly atop the AL East, too, so they won't feel the need to rush him back. Right now, a return in late June or just before the All-Star break is feasible, but don't bank on that.
When - or, at this point, even if - he returns, don't be surprised to see Buck Showalter ease him into the lineup. The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck points out that Showalter won't have an easy time shoving Robert Andino (.258-3-14) to the side. Expect plenty of days off for Roberts in the beginning, at least until he can regain his footing.
As for how much you can expect Roberts to resemble the B-Rob of old, yours is as good a guess as anyone's. It would be awfully optimistic to expect him to come back and pick up exactly where he left off, especially since he's now 34 years of age with - to put it lightly - a bevy of health questions.
If you've been stashing him all along, sit tight. You can probably hold off in deep mixed leagues unless you have the room, but he should be owned and stashed in AL-only leagues. Roberts' solid contact and hit rates suggest he can maintain a healthy batting average, and he was hitting enough fly balls before his injuries to provide some decent pop. The SB threat won't be close to what it was; he's likely lost some speed, and it's unlikely he'll be running as much to avoid contact.
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