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Delayed Gratification

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One of the things which separates humans from the animal world is our ability to delay gratification. While most players will begin their 2012 major league baseball season during the first week in April, there are a number of players, some valuable, who will either spend that first week on the disabled list or in the minors.

Just because they can't be in your Opening Day lineup, doesn't mean you should ignore them. Here are 10 players, who won't be ready to play on March 28, but could still help you this season.

Injured

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia - Howard's setback (infection) will mean that his earliest return will be closer to Memorial Day than Derby Day. Even when healthy over the past two seasons, Howard's home run total and OPS have been dramatically lower than from 2006-2009. He can't hit left-handed pitching (.224 batting average, 0.713 OPS in 2011) or with two strikes. Even as a eighth-round pick (Yahoo ADP 94) he's not a bargain.

Josh Johnson, Miami - Johnson has "ace" stuff when healthy (career ERA 2.98, SO/9 of 8.3), but is returning from a shoulder problem which kept him off the mound from mid-May through the end of the 2011 season. He's a huge gamble based on his injury history even as a ninth-round pick (Yahoo ADP 101), but the rewards could be as high as second-round production if he can take his turn in the rotation every fifth day.

Carl Crawford, Boston - His nightmare in Boston continues. A horrible 2011 was followed by off-season wrist surgery and most recently an inflammation which caused the team to shut him down for a week. He won't be ready for the Red Sox's Opening Day and based on all factors shouldn't be counted on for much more than 10 HR, 60 RBI and 20 SB. Would you accept that from a ninth-round selection? Neither would I?

Stephen Drew, SS, Arizona - Drew fractured his ankle last July and is about seven months into a one-year recovery process. He likely won't be ready for Opening Day but should be a few weeks later. Drew hasn't lived up to the promise he showed in his first few seasons and time is running out on our patience. Willie Bloomquist figures to start until Drew is ready, but doesn't have the bat to keep Drew from getting the job back when he is healthy. At this point in time, however, Drew is only depth for your fantasy roster.

Tim Hudson, Atlanta - Hudson was very good in 2011 (16-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) but underwent back surgery in the off-season. He likely won't be ready until early May, but could still make 22-25 starts this season. His Yahoo ADP of 201 means he could be stashed on your roster for a 17th-round selection which seems like a reasonable gamble.

Corey Hart, Milwaukee - The good news is that Hart missed 32 games last season and still posted decent numbers. The bad news is that Tuesday's knee surgery was "more involved" than expected. Hart should start the year on the disabled list, but could be ready around April 15. He's a solid hitter who plays half his games in a great hitter's park, so while his value is reduced, you should not completely ignore him.

Grady Sizemore, Cleveland - The Indians were hoping that the return of Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo would greatly enhance the Cleveland lineup. Choo appears to be ready to go, but Sizemore underwent back surgery which will have him sidelined for 2-3 months. At this point I can't recommend Sizemore even as a late-round flier.

Kendrys Morales, Anaheim - The upside on this young slugger, if Morales can return from his ugly ankle injury, is huge. Unfortunately, it still seems a long way away. On Monday the team will let him run the bases - without actually touching the bags. In 2009 Morales hit 34 HR, knocked in 108 runs and batted .306. He had started 2010 in similar fashion before breaking his ankle and we haven't seen him on the field since. As a 15th-round selection, he will either be a huge bargain or a completely wasted pick - there will be no middle ground.

Manny Ramirez, Oakland - The baggage that comes along with Ramirez is staggering. He can play in the A's Cactus League games, but will have to sit out the first 50 games due to his PED suspension. The Oakland stadium is not hitter friendly, he doesn't have much talent surrounding him and he's 39- years-old and hasn't played since last April. That's just too much going against him to have any realistic expectations of success. Let someone else take a shot with him.

Brett Anderson, Oakland - Anderson, who is attempting to return from July Tommy John surgery, threw for the first time on Monday. He isn't expected to return anytime soon, but has the talent to help you in the second half of the season if he is healthy. Remember back to 2010 when Anderson was all the rage after going 7-6 with an ERA of 2.80 and a WHIP of 1.193. If you have a last- round selection with no immediate needs to fill, you could do a lot worse than taking a flier on Anderson.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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