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Week That Was

Week That Was: Neil Down

by Nick Nelson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The Mets have generally featured one of the least effective offensive units in the league, ranking 11th among National League teams in OPS and 13th in runs. One clear strength, however, has been hitting the ball over the fence. They've launched more home runs than any NL club save for St. Louis.

Neil Walker has been a driving force behind the power production, with his 23 homers ranking third among the league's second basemen. He's also second in OPS on the Mets, behind Yoenis Cespedes, with an .823 mark, so it goes without saying that New York's postseason chances took a significant hit with this week's news that Walker will miss the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery.

Walker was diagnosed with a herniated disc on Wednesday and while he initially indicated that he'd try to play through it, the idea was quickly nixed. The 30-year-old's long-term health rightfully outweighed the importance of staying on the field down the stretch, even though he hasn't noticeably been deterred by the ailment (he batted .389 with a 1.117 OPS in August).

On the flip side, Wilmer Flores is in line for regular starts the rest of the way, and offers sneaky pop of his own, so he's a solid target given his availability in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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* The troubles don't stop there for the Metropolitans. We talked last week in this column about their health concerns in the rotation and recent days have brought no good news on that front. Jacob deGrom struggled through a home start against the Marlins on Thursday, allowing three runs in five innings, and afterward Terry Collins said the righty would miss his next turn. deGrom was starting in place of Steven Matz, who suffered a setback with his shoulder and missed his scheduled spot.

Things are uncertain with both key rotation cogs, to say the least.

* The Tigers called up outfield prospect JaCoby Jones on Tuesday and the 24-year-old made a fast impact by tallying four hits – including three doubles – in his first two games with Detroit. Jones is a dynamic talent with a nice speed/power profile, but he posted a .665 OPS and 30 percent K-rate after being promoted to Triple-A in early June. With that being said, injuries have opened a path to regular playing time in a stacked Tigers lineup so there's certainly fantasy appeal here.

* There's plenty of debate surrounding Toronto's handling of Aaron Sanchez. One thing that everyone can agree on is that it's creating major fantasy headaches.

Sanchez remained a must-own in many leagues even after he was optioned to the minors on August 21st in a move designed to manage his workload. Sure, enough, 10 days later he was recalled for a lights-out performance in Baltimore. Pitching for the first time in 11 days, he held a potent Orioles lineup to one unearned run over six innings.

Boasting a 13-2 record and 2.88 ERA, the 24-year-old has been Toronto's top starter. Rarely have the Blue Jays possessed a young arm of his caliber so you can understand why they're taking extra precautions, especially with plans to play into October. They had moved to a six-man rotation to lighten his load prior to the minor-league stint. Before that they had talked about shifting him to the bullpen for a time.

Yet, they also have two rivals within three games in the AL East standings heading into September, so they can ill afford to back off Sanchez too much. Sadly, we have little clarity on the plan regarding the All Star hurler at this time. With league titles riding on the line, his owners have no choice but to keep a close eye on the Player News feed.

* Two starters that have been out of action made their returns on Friday. Alex Cobb made his first start of the year for Tampa following Tommy John rehab, and struck out seven over five innings of two-run ball. He got better as the night went on, coughing up a pair of runs in the first inning but settling in to retire the last 10 men he faced.

Junior Guerra wasn't out nearly as long – he was sidelined for a month by elbow inflammation – but he stepped back into the Brewers rotation. Operating on a pitch count after throwing only 55 pitches in his lone rehab start, Guerra tossed 3 1/3 innings without allowing a run. He should ramp up to a higher workload against St. Louis on Thursday.

* When the Cardinals first called up top prospect Alex Reyes in early August they placed him in the bullpen. But it was only a matter of time before he began getting starts, and now that time has arrived.

Reyes slid into the rotation last weekend after Mike Leake came down with shingles, and it looks like he'll stick there. The electric 22-year-old fired 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his first MLB start on Saturday, and followed with a quality start in Cincy on Friday.

The young phenom may battle control issues from time to time but misses tons of bats and offers enormous upside over the final month. He is available in more than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. His rookie rotation-mate Luke Weaver is also worth a look.

* In a year filled with sooner-than-expected debuts, we hardly batted an eye at the news that Yoan Moncada would be joining the Red Sox for September. Ranked as the game's best prospect in Baseball America's midseason update, Moncada earned his way up to the majors 18 months after being signed out of Cuba.

The 21-year-old infielder is a sensational talent with 40/40 potential down the line if his power keeps evolving. Between Single-A and Double-A this year, he slashed .294/.407/.511 and filled the stat sheet with 15 homers, 31 doubles, six triples and 45 steals.

Moncada plays second and third, and while he won't be unseating Dustin Pedroia he should have no trouble drawing regular starts at the hot corner. He's out there in about half of all leagues.

* After pitching out of the Marlins bullpen for the first four months, David Phelps finally got his shot in the rotation in August and took advantage by posting a 2.22 ERA across five starts. Unfortunately, he strained his oblique during his last outing of the month and landed on the disabled list. He hopes to return quickly but this is a pesky type of injury. We wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't make it back until the end of September, if at all.

Jake Esch, currently holding his place in the Miami rotation, offers minimal intrigue in general though he does get the Phillies at home on Monday.

* Since returning to the Angels after a two-month layoff, C.J. Cron has been making up for lost time. The slugging first baseman posted a 1.092 OPS with six homers and 24 RBI in his last 20 games prior to going down with a fractured hand, and has picked up right where he left off. Cron collected multiple hits in four different games this week and launched two homers on Tuesday.

An established power hitter who is red hot, Cron's availability in more than 80 percent of leagues creates an interesting late-season opportunity. I wrote about him in my Deep Pickups column on Season Pass this week.

* If Los Angeles sending Yasiel Puig to Triple-A at the end of July was intended as a wake-up call, it seems safe to say that the message was received. Puig reported to Oklahoma City and obliterated Pacific Coast League pitching for a month, batting .348 with a .994 OPS in 19 games.

The Dodgers recalled the 25-year-old on Friday and he notched a pair of singles in his return to the lineup. We like his chances for a strong September.

* Clayton Kershaw threw a two-innings simulated game on Tuesday and came away fine, so he'll head to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday for a rehab start. If things go smoothly he could slot back into the LA rotation next weekend. The Dodgers are already getting a pitching boost from the promotion of top pitching prospect Jose De Leon, who is set to debut on Sunday.

* Scary moment for Mike Trout: he was involved in a car crash following Wednesday night's game that left one person seriously injured, but Trout escaped unhurt. He played on Friday and went 1-for-3 with a three-run homer and two walks.

Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to NBC Sports Edge's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.