Puff, puff, PASS on Matt Kemp’s price tag
Photo Credit: Ron Reiring
Fantasy baseball draft season is upon us, and just as every MLB team enters Spring Training with hopes of a deep playoff run, lunatic fantasy baseball owners hope for the same. Injuries WILL play a major role in the success of real and fantasy teams alike, and most are very difficult to predict. Not all injuries are created equal either, particularly when it comes to recovery times, potential for recurring/additional injury, or any lingering effects when the player returns. Knowing which players are worth the risk and which players to saddle the competition with can pay huge dividends on draft day. The good news: if you’re reading this, then you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. As a practicing physical therapist with extensive experience in orthopedic rehabilitation (and a fellow fantasy nutjob), I have the skillset to steer you in the right direction. I’ll be discussing a number of players with injury concerns entering the season, and whether or not I “trust” them to stay healthy and/or produce at their normal levels (i.e. will you get what you pay for on draft day?). If I don’t trust the player they get a spot on Don’s Do-Not-Trust List (DDNTL). If there’s a player I didn’t address that you want to read about, feel free to email or comment and I’ll get to it. I’m here for you. Let’s roll.
More after the jump:
Coming into last season, Jose Bautista was arguably the most dangerous hitter in baseball and a surefire first round pick. Sons of Roto’s own Starbonell even made a compelling case to take Bautista first overall with his incredible power numbers and 3B eligibility (at the time). While Bautista saw a big dip in his batting average through the first 92 games of the season, he still showed his characteristic power with 27 HR and 65 RBI, even knocking 22 out of the yard in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately for Bautista, his violent swing finally came back to haunt him and he injured his wrist fouling off a ball. After missing the next five weeks, Bautista returned to lineup only to re-injure the wrist a mere two games later. Bautista’s season was over, and he required surgery in September to repair a “tendon sheath” in his left wrist. Bautista was fully expected to be ready for the start of Opening Day, and as of early January, he’s been able to swing a bat at 100% and was lobbying to participate in the World Baseball Classic (the Jays wisely won’t allow him).
Wrist/hand/thumb injuries are notorious for sapping a player’s power, and power is Bautista’s game. Will he be the same player? The rehab for this sort of surgery is long and tedious and long-term outcomes are often reflective of how diligently the player followed the rehab protocol. If you don’t push yourself enough, the wrist heals up weakly or becomes too tight. If you push too hard too soon, you risk re-tearing or building excess scar tissue. From all accounts Jose Bautista is as hard-working and diligent a player as there is, so I’m confident his rehab compliance won’t be an issue. There’s also a precedent in the big leagues for this sort of surgery, both Sam Fuld and David Ortiz had similar procedures and bounced back well. Bautista’s ability to swing a bat full force a solid two months before Spring Training is also a great sign. While all signs point toward a healthy Jose Bautista for the start of the season, there’s still risk here. Anyone who has seen Bautista swing the bat knows the ferocity he exhibits in each swing. The incredible torque and bat speed allows him to hit the ball a long way, but it also exerts a ton of stress on his wrists, particularly his left wrist as a right-handed batter. He may feel fine now, but after a few thousand swings will the wrist act up again? Spring Training reports will be critical to monitor here. If he can swing without issue against live pitching (and pop a few out of the park), that will be a great sign. Bautista’s current ADP is 9.4, and if the positive reports out of Toronto keep coming he’s only going to get more expensive. Bautista has been a fairly healthy player during his run as an elite hitter, he’s had plenty of time to recover (he will be seven months post-op Opening Day), and the surgery (and surgeon) have a track record of success. Plus, Bautista himself has an unquestioned work ethic. While I’d typically shy away from a guy with a wrist problem, I’m willing to gamble on Bautista. The risk of re-injury and reduced production is very real, but the prospects of Bautista’s unrivaled power along with the revamped Blue Jays lineup and all the positive signs detailed above make him too enticing for me to pass up. While I wouldn’t draft him in the first half of round one, I’d certainly consider him late in the first or certainly anywhere in the second round.
He entered 2012 as a top three fantasy pick as there are very few players in baseball with his combination of power and speed. Kemp started off the season in MVP form, tearing the cover off the ball to the tune of 12 April HR’s and looking every bit like the best player in the league. Then the injury imp took over, as Kemp dealt with two separate DL stints for hamstring injuries, suffered knee and jaw bruises running into an outfield wall, and dealt with shoulder pain as the season winded down. All these injuries resulted in just 106 games played, and while the power and high average were there (23 HR and .303 BA), the hamstring issues really hurt his SB totals (nine). Kemp entered the offseason with lingering shoulder soreness, and an MRI revealed fraying of the labrum. It was decided that Kemp would undergo an arthroscopic cleanup of his shoulder, a surgery that typically requires around eight weeks recovery (with no lasting effects), giving Kemp plenty of time to get healthy prior to Spring Training. There was just one problem: the MRI didn’t reveal the full extent of the damage in Kemp’s shoulder. Upon further inspection, Kemp’s surgeon discovered that he had minor rotator cuff damage and a significant tear of his labrum, and the labrum required reconstruction. Labrum repairs typically require four-to-six months before the athlete returns to sport activity, and can take six-to-12 months for maximal recovery. As of this writing, Kemp has begun swinging a bat and reports are he’s “ahead” of schedule and expected to face live pitching at some point in the next couple weeks.
Things have been fairly quiet on the Kemp front this offseason and he’s ranked in the top 5-10 overall players on most expert draft boards. His ADP is even higher, currently being taken fourth overall (third OF). If Kemp’s health was guaranteed and we could be sure he’d have no lingering effects from the labrum repair, I’d be in full agreement with these lofty rankings; he’s probably the only legitimate 40-40 threat in the league (Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen are the only guys who can come close to his power-speed potential). The problem is that his health is not guaranteed, and I think there’s a very real possibility we see a performance drop-off as well, at least early in the season, and because of these factors I’m putting Kemp on my DDNTL.
While recovery from a labrum repair for a position player is generally quicker than a pitcher, it’s still a major surgery that takes many months to recover from completely. Kemp can look no further than his own teammate Adrian Gonzalez, would had a similar procedure performed on his labrum a couple years ago. Gonzalez was ready for Opening Day and by and large had a nice season, but his power numbers came way down and it wasn’t until late in the season before he felt fully recovered. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Kemp was more of a 20-25 HR guy as opposed to a lock for 30+, which is still very good but I would want more out of a top five pick. His SB totals will probably take a big hit as well, not only due to the strain of head-first sliding on the shoulder, but his recurring hamstring woes. When a hamstring strain heals, the scar tissue is not as pliable as the original tissue, making it less springy and receptive to quick stretch forces and increasing the strain on the tissue surrounding it. In short: straining your hamstring makes you more susceptible to straining it again. We’ve seen plenty of examples of guys with balky hamstrings have the issue or something similar creep up year after year (Nelson Cruz and Jose Reyes come to mind). With the shoulder being the focus of his offseason routine, how prepared will the rest of his body be for the rigors of a long season? The medical literature if full of examples of athletes suffering compensatory injuries to other parts of their bodies following shoulder surgery, and Kemp is a prime candidate for this. Again, I love the player, I think when fully healthy he’s arguably the best in baseball, but this season I’m exercising caution. I expect a drop-off in his power and speed numbers, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him pull a hammy and see some time on the DL. While a 20-20 season with a good average and nice counting stats are certainly attainable (with the potential for much more if he proves me wrong and his health cooperates), I’d rather grab the Dread Pirate or CarGo than Kemp this year. He makes sense to me as a second rounder if he manages to fall that far, but he won’t, so let someone else take the big gamble with their top five pick.
Hart entered last season with injury concerns regarding his right knee after having arthroscopic surgery, and this season is looking eerily similar. Hart’s surgery last year was more of the “cleanup” variety, and I encouraged people to take a chance on him given his low price tag. Hart responded by playing in 149 games and racking up 30 HR. Things were relatively quiet in the offseason until early January when it was reported that Hart experienced swelling in his knee during offseason workouts and would need another surgery to repair a small meniscus tear. Hart is expected to miss four months, and while there’s hope he’ll be ready by the end of April, the Brewers are realistically expecting him in mid-to-late May.
Hart’s surgery this time around is much more extensive than the cleanup he underwent last year. While the meniscus tear is reportedly small, it’s still a “reconstructive” type procedure. As with any meniscus repair, Hart will not be allowed to bear weight through the leg for roughly six weeks. Then he will need to gradually restore his range of motion, strength, and mobility. The timetable for meniscus repairs is generally four-to-six months, so four months was already on the shorter side of the recovery timeline. While it’s certainly reasonable that a young, healthy individual such as Hart could return closer to the four month mark, reports of three months are overly optimistic in my eyes. Let’s not forget that this is not Hart’s first rodeo in terms of knee problems. He had cartilage issues last season and meniscus damage this time around. Both the cartilage and meniscus are located on the joint surfaces and act as stabilizing and shock absorbing structures inside the knee joint. People with injuries to these structures are more susceptible to pain and swelling with any impact activity such as running or jumping even after the surgery has healed. While I do expect Hart to return sometime in May and perform to his usual standards shortly thereafter (once the rust is shaken off), I’m concerned there could be flare-ups that force him to either miss time or perform at less than his usual output. There’s always the chance he develops a compensatory injury somewhere else as well, particularly if he’s trying to rush himself back. Even with his relatively low current ADP of 193, Hart finds himself on the DDNTL. I would consider taking him as a late-round flier if I have DL spots to stash him, but I’m not reaching for him and I don’t expect the quick recovery we saw last year.
Halladay has been in the discussion as baseball’s best pitcher (real or fantasy) for the last few years and has been a model of consistency at the wildly inconsistent SP position. Entering the 2012 season, Halladay had an ERA under three with 200 or more Ks for four straight years and had pitched 220 or more innings for six straight; we’re talking elite production and durability here. Last season, however, Halladay’s stats and health took a turn for the worst, and he enters this season as a big question mark. Halladay started the 2012 season in up-and-down fashion, and in May he was removed early from a start due to pain in his throwing shoulder. It was revealed that Halladay had strained the latissimus dorsi in his throwing arm, and he’d been experiencing symptoms off-and-on all season (reflected in his inconsistent performances). Halladay was placed on the DL and did not return until mid-July, making a total of 25 starts. In those 25 starts, Halladay saw his ERA jump over two runs and his Ks drop by nearly 90 from his 2011 totals.
Studies have shown that the latissimus dorsi, or “lat,” is one of the primary power generators during the late acceleration and follow-through phases of a pitching motion, meaning it’s vital for a pitcher during the latter stages of throwing a pitch. According to reports, Halladay had no structural issues in his shoulder joint (where the more ominous rotator cuff and labrum injuries occur) and had two opinions from shoulder specialists confirming the lat strain diagnosis. Lat injuries are less common shoulder injuries than rotator cuff or labrum injuries and in general are less severe with fewer lasting ramifications. The most (in)famous lat injury I can think of is Jake Peavy, who actually tore his completely in ugly fashion a couple years ago while pitching. Peavy required surgery but returned last season with one of his best seasons in years. Halladay did not tear his to this degree and has had the entire offseason to rest and rehab.
So which Doc will we see? The dominant innings-eating ace of years past, or the inconsistent, mediocre version we saw last year? Well, I think it’ll fall somewhere in between, and there’s enough red flags here that I’m putting Halladay on the DDNTL, especially at his current ADP of 88. That ADP makes him the 18th SP off the board. If you’re taking a pitcher at this draft position, R.A. Dickey, Zack Greinke, Chris Sale and CC Sabathia could all possibly be there, and I’d take any of them over Halladay in a heartbeat. While it’s great news that Roy’s injury is not to the actual shoulder joint stabilizers, lat injuries can still be problematic. The lat itself is a large muscle and contributes to many different movements of the arm, shoulder blade and trunk. Pain or restriction will alter mechanics and put excess strain on other structures, which we got a glimpse of at the end of last season when Halladay experienced spasms in a different area of his shoulder. While there’s certainly a decent chance that his shoulder woes are behind him and he reverts back to his dominant self, he’s also 36 years old with a LOT of miles on his arm. I’d take the plunge if he falls outside the top 25-30 SPs, but inside the top 20 is just too risky for my taste.
A mainstay as one of the top options at C for years, his entire 2012 season ended before it began when Martinez injured his knee and required microfracture surgery to repair the damage. Early on it was expected that V-Mart would require both an ACL reconstruction and the microfracture procedure, but when the surgeon examined his ACL during the second surgery, the damage to the ACL was not as extensive as previously thought, so Martinez avoided reconstruction. While there was some optimism that Martinez could possibly return in September for the playoff push, the Tigers wisely exercised caution and shut him down for the season. Now over a year removed from the original microfracture procedure, Martinez is running, hitting, and participating in offseason workouts without restriction, and is looking for a big bounce-back season.
Will we see the V-Mart of old in 2013? At 34 years old, it’s unrealistic to expect him to put up some of the numbers we’ve seen in the past, healthy or otherwise. I do, however, expect him to bounce back nicely and I’m leaving him off my list. There was a time when microfracture surgery was career threatening, and while it remains a serious procedure, athletes are bouncing back better than ever as the surgery and rehab evolves. Carlos Beltran gave us a great example last year when he put up big numbers bouncing back from microfracture well into his 30s. Microfracture surgery involves drilling small holes in the joint surface to encourage cartilage growth, and while effective in most cases the new cartilage grown is not as strong as the original tissue, making it more susceptible to breakdown. Repeatedly stressing the joint surfaces with pounding activities or excess loads (such as catching) would likely result in flare-ups. The Tigers hope to avoid that and have already stated that V-Mart will not catch at all in 2013, serving as the primary DH and occasionally spelling Prince Fielder at 1B. So while it wouldn’t be surprising if V-Mart is rested a bit more than the average everyday player, he’ll still likely get more plate appearances than most catchers while avoiding the wear and tear. He’s currently being drafted as the 10th catcher, around pick 108 overall, and at that price I’d encourage you to take the plunge. This guy could easily finish in the top five at the catcher position.
Kershaw dealt with right hip “impingement” during the 2012 season, but still managed to make 33 starts and post the elite numbers we’ve come to expect from him. Reports surfaced in-season that Kershaw was going to pitch through the injury and require arthroscopic surgery in the offseason to correct the issue. Fast forwarding to the offseason, Kershaw’s symptoms resolved with rest and rehab, and surgery was deemed unnecessary. Kershaw is reportedly 100% healthy and ready to roll entering 2013.
So why the big change from surgery needed to no surgery at all? What in the blue hell is hip impingement? Good questions my friends. The hip is a ball and socket joint, similar to the shoulder, and when an athlete has an impingement part of the femoral head/neck region, the “ball” pinches against the acetabulum (“socket”) and labrum (just like a shoulder a hip has a labrum too), particularly when the hip is flexed or weight is distributed through it. Kershaw’s right hip is his lead leg when pitching, so each time he lifts his leg to throw a pitch and then subsequently lands on that same leg, he would feel pain. There are numerous causes for this and different variants of the injury, but it’s often a precursor to a full blown labrum tear. Rest and rehab is often effective in relieving symptoms and, in many cases, eliminating the problem altogether. Unfortunately for Kershaw, it’s also just as common for the athlete to have recurring symptoms upon return to full fledged sport activity. Continued symptoms could be indicative of structural issues, often excess bone in the areas creating the impingement or tearing of the labrum, and would require surgery. Surgery can be anything from a simple scope cleanup that would sideline the player for 8-12 weeks, to a full blown labrum repair that can end a season.
So the million dollar question is: do I trust Kershaw this year? As the number one SP off the board with an ADP of 17… absolutely not. If you’re taking a pitcher within the first two rounds of the draft, you better be damn sure there are no question marks regarding his health. There’s a good argument to be made that I’m being overly cautious here, that there’s no way the Dodgers would let their 24-year-old ace pitch if there was even a hint of concern for re-injury. The red flags here, however, offer a more compelling argument. Kershaw is absolutely at risk for recurrence of the hip issue, and should it persist, he could damage his labrum and/or require surgery. Alex Rodriguez and Chase Utley had hip labrum surgeries, how’d those guys do? Perhaps even more alarming of a scenario is that Kershaw could develop symptoms again and decide to pitch through the discomfort, which will likely force him to change his mechanics and put added risk on a much more valuable part of his body: his arm. Again, if there was no injury questions regarding Kershaw, I would fully support his case as the number one fantasy SP on draft day. I’d never draft a pitcher that early regardless, but if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be a guy with a health concern. Draft at your own risk gamer, and welcome to my list Clayton.
Despite turning 38 last June, Jeter surprised many with a solid 2012 season, hitting .316 with 15 HR and leading the Yankees into the playoffs yet again. It was during the playoffs, however, that Jeter’s 38-year-old ankle let him down. Jeter fractured his ankle during Game One of the ALCS, and it was determined shortly thereafter that he would require surgery to fix the issue. Jeter was expected to miss four-to-five months recovering from the surgery and be ready for Opening Day. The specifics on the ankle fracture and surgery have not been reported (that I can find), but we can deduce a few things simply because Jeter required surgery. Simple ankle fractures where the fractured ends line up nicely and no ligaments are damaged are typically treated conservatively with crutches or a walking boot until healed, followed by rehab to restore functional mobility. Jeter required surgery to fix his, which tells us that A) his fracture was not well aligned, B) ligaments were torn and required reconstruction, C) he fractured the talus and required bone-grafting (less common and more severe), or D) all of the above. In all cases, the return to baseball activity for someone like Jeter would be four-to-six months with some residual symptoms up to a year post-op.
We’ve seen good outcomes (Buster Posey) and bad ones (Kendrys Morales) when it comes to ankle fractures, and there are a number of factors that determine how well the athlete is able to perform long-term. The severity of the injury, location of the fracture, whether the fracture healed in proper alignment, age, compliance with rehab… they all play a role. Jeter is old by baseball standards and medically he simply won’t heal as well as he would have in his 20s (unless he’s got some of Ray Lewis’ Deer Antler Spray). As of this writing, Jeter is currently taking batting practice and fielding grounders and will start a progressive running program in the next few weeks. How he responds to that will be critical in a more accurate timeline for recovery. He’ll need to advance through a progressive running program pain-free before he’ll be allowed to run the bases, which will be the biggest hurdle. I think it’s reasonable to expect Jeter to be ready in time for Opening Day if there are no setbacks between then and now.
So if Jeter is ready to roll come April 1st, draft away right? Not so fast cocky Yankees fans. Jeetah is only a God in your eyes; he’s still a human being and an old one at that. His speed was already in decline, and I’d expect this injury to limit his effectiveness on the bases even more. If Jeter’s base running isn’t up to par, that will not only limit the SBs, but will also cut down his runs and hits. Jeter is currently the ninth SS off the board, around pick 181, so he will not cost you an arm and a leg. Even with the low price tag, I personally won’t be investing in him; welcome to my list Pretty Boy. His advanced age, variability in recovery time and numerous rehab goals he’s yet to achieve have me pessimistic he’ll have a big season. I’d rather gamble on someone with upside or speed at SS. If his speed is significantly limited, it’ll reduce his runs and lower his batting average, which are his two best fantasy assets. If Jeter only gets 80 runs and hits .280 with single digit HR and SB numbers, will he be worth it? Let someone else pay for the name while you take Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar or Josh Rutledge a couple rounds later and get better production.
2012 was shaping up to be a nice season for Garcia until throwing shoulder problems ended up derailing him on two different occasions over the course of the season and rendered him useless for the Cardinals’ playoff run. Garcia had three different opinions on his shoulder and all three recommended surgery. The fourth opinion, that of esteemed surgeon Dr. James Andrews, was to rehab the shoulder instead of operate, and Garcia decided to go that route as opposed to the surgery (and thus avoiding the 6-12 month recovery time). As of this writing, he’s on schedule with his offseason throwing program and feels “normal.”
The injury itself is reportedly a tear in the labrum of his throwing shoulder, with the torn piece actually floating around inside the joint. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, and around the socket portion of the joint is a cartilage-like ring called the labrum that acts like a cup to help hold the ball in place. It’s a structure that’s vital to joint stability and can be tricky to recover from because the lack of blood flow to the area limits its ability to heal. Rehab consists of a heavy emphasis on rotator cuff and scapular strength to ensure the mechanics of the shoulder are as perfect as possible. Plenty of people recover from labrum injuries conservatively, particularly if the tear is minor, so it doesn’t surprise me that Garcia opted to go the conservative route.
So with Garcia feeling well and on schedule for his normal offseason throwing program, do I trust him? In a word…no, Garcia easily makes my list. Labrum tears really don’t heal, meaning Garcia can rehab all he wants but his labrum will never be 100%. Garcia’s tear is significant enough that a piece is floating around in his shoulder joint, which can be painful if it becomes lodged somewhere. And while many people recover nicely with rehab, those people don’t throw a baseball for a living. This situation reminds me of Josh Johnson a couple years ago. JJ had a small rotator cuff tear that was managed conservatively, and he performed great for a short while before his shoulder eventually began to bother him and he was shut down. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens to Garcia. The three physicians who recommended surgery are all well-established orthopedic surgeons, and for all three of them to agree is pretty telling. With all due respect to Dr. Andrews, it may be a matter of time before Garcia needs surgery, and I’m not chasing. With an ADP of 322 (113th SP), there’s not much to lose by gambling on him, but I’d use that late-round flier on someone else.
Holliday never technically hit the DL last season but dealt with nagging “tightness” in his back that hindered his play and forced him to miss a few games, most notably Game Six of the NLCS. Holliday had an MRI of his lumbar spine that showed no structural damage, so what he’s dealing with is some sort of myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) issue that he’s hoping to resolve with modifications to his offseason workouts that target his low back. With the absence of structural damage, I don’t see any reason Holliday would miss any extended periods of time due to his back. He is at risk, however, of playing through pain, missing a start here or there and developing compensatory injuries elsewhere. Big muscly guys like Holliday don’t typically age well, and at 33 his low back pain could be a sign of things to come. Back pain is notorious for being chronic, structural damage or not, and I’m not convinced we’ve heard the last of it. With his ADP of 53.8 (18th OF), you’ll be paying a pretty penny for him. I suggest you pass on draft day. Holliday makes my list. His speed is gone, and while his power and counting stats are decent, I want more for a fourth round price tag.
He was shut down in July 2012 with a torn flexor tendon in his throwing arm that required surgical repair. The flexor tendon is located along the inside portion of the elbow area (near the UCL) and is responsible for flexing the fingers and turning the wrist downward (such as gripping the ball or rolling the wrist for breaking pitches). Recovery time is typically faster compared to a UCL repair, but it’s still four-to-six months before a return to throwing. Upon completion of a throwing program, consideration for a return to the mound can be made. In Lewis’ favor is the fact that he’s nearly six months removed from the surgery already and is currently progressing through a throwing program. The Rangers are hopeful for a return sometime in June barring any setbacks, and I think there’s a reasonable chance it could even be sooner. Lewis is going so late in drafts that I think he makes an ideal stash candidate if you have a DL slot available. There will be some rust from the long layoff, but pitchers tend to bounce back quicker from this than Tommy John surgery so I would expect him to come back and be effective at some point this summer.
We all know the story on Crawford: puts up a career year with Tampa, hits the market and gets a big money contract from Boston where he totally flops, battling wrist and elbow issues. Crawford was eventually shut down in 2012 and underwent UCL reconstruction (Tommy John), which is somewhat unusual for a non-pitcher. While it’s unusual, it also bodes well for him in terms of recovery time. While a pitcher will need 12-18 months for full recovery, a position player can return in half the time and has less re-injury risk. Crawford is already full bore into a throwing program and barring an unforeseen setback, he should be ready to roll for the start of Spring Training. While elbow/wrist/hand injuries can be tricky for hitters to bounce back from, I think Crawford may enter the season as healthy as he’s been in some time and I’m cautiously optimistic we could be looking at a bounce back year. Crawford is more a speed guy with decent counting stats, and his legs are fine. Assuming he hits near the top of a formidable Dodgers lineup, he could potentially put up some big numbers. If his ADP stays where it is (around 132 as the 36th OF), I’d be ready to pounce and so should you.
Brandon Beachy/Cory Luebke
I’m grouping these two together because both are returning from TJ Surgery later this summer. Luebke is about a month ahead of Beachy (surgeries performed in May vs. June 2012, respectively) in the recovery timeline, but both are expected back sometime in the second half of the season. So what can we expect from these guys? It’s pretty well established that pitchers need 12-18 months of recovery time from Tommy John surgery to get back to full strength. There’s plenty of precedence to this, and the one pitcher I’d point to for reference here is Adam Wainwright. Wainwright entered the 2012 season already roughly 12 months post-op, and his performances were not quite as crisp as we were accustomed to seeing until much later in the year. In the cases of Luebke and Beachy, they will not be 12 months postop until May and June, respectively. I fully expect to see both these guys healthy and pitching by midseason, but I wouldn’t bet on either of them performing at an elite level until late in the year or perhaps next year. I think you’ll see spurts of their elite abilities, but finding consistency will be difficult for them to achieve this year, much like we saw with Wainwright last year. I certainly think they are worth stashing if you have the DL space, but I’m putting them both on my DDNTL due to the performance drop-off I expect until they reach 18 months post-op.
Other players with injury concerns that I DO trust
Joey Votto: Many months removed from knee scope, he’s healthy again, draft in the first round please.
Ryan Zimmerman: Minor shoulder scope, played through it last year, shouldn’t have any lasting effects.
Andrew Cashner: Thumb surgery, should be ready in April; thumb tricky, but better than shoulder/elbow.
Justin Upton: Thumb injury healed, sapped his power last year, finished strong, poised for big year.
CC Sabathia: Minor elbow scope, full motion, throwing on schedule, he’s aging but I expect normal year.
Cole Hamels: Shoulder “soreness” all that’s reported, assuming he has no issues this spring; I’m not worried… yet.
Scott Baker (by midseason): One year removed from TJ in April, could be solid option when rust wears off.
Dillon Gee: Blood clot highly unusual, no orthopedic injuries; if medically stable, should bounce back.
Howie Kendrick: Minor elbow scope, already fully recovered, no lasting effects, completely healthy.
Ricky Romero: Minor elbow scope limited him last year, now healthy; possible bounce-back candidate.
Other players with injury concerns that I DON’T trust
Jayson Werth: Wrist still not 100%, could hurt power numbers, wonky swing, ridiculous hair.
Troy Tulowitzki: Groin/sports hernia surgery, 150+ games in just two of last six seasons, won’t fool me again.
David Ortiz: Achilles tendonitis often chronic, good chance for recurrence, old and fat.
Chad Billingsley: Has partial UCL tear, trying conservative treatment, probably will need TJ Surgery eventually.
Lucas Duda: Only three months removed from wrist surgery, worrisome for power hitter, could start slow.
Michael Pineda: Labrum reconstruction, poor work ethic, DUI while rehabbing, won’t be 100% this year.
Brian McCann: Labrum reconstruction, likely to miss Opening Day, power numbers will suffer, in decline.
Matt Garza: “Stress reaction” will be healed but stress of pitching remains; big compensatory injury risk.
Alex Rodriguez: May not return this year, won’t be 100% until next year, old and declining ‘roid monkey.
Sergio Santos: Another labrum repair, won’t be 100% until late in year if that, velocity could be down.
Mike Napoli: Avascular necrosis (AVN) leads to fractures and bone tissue death, I’ll pass thanks.
Ryan Madson: See Joe Nathan two years ago, won’t be 100% until later in season, soreness already reported.
Rafael Furcal: Bad back, torn elbow ligament allegedly healed, old and frail, full season seems unlikely.
Frank Francisco: Elbow surgery minor, but injury prone and performance poor even when healthy.
Jose Reyes: 2012 first full season since ‘08, history of chronic hamstring issues, now playing on turf.
Brian Roberts: Old and brittle, chronic injuries…you probably didn’t need me to know this one.
Don’s Do-Not-Trust List: 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Edition
Matt Kemp, Corey Hart, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Derek Jeter, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke, Jayson Werth, Troy Tulowitzki, David Ortiz, Chad Billingsley, Lucas Duda, Michael Pineda, Brian McCann, Matt Garza, Alex Rodriguez, Sergio Santos, Mike Napoli, Ryan Madson, Rafael Furcal, Frank Francisco, Jose Reyes, Brian Roberts
There you have it kids, bookmark this page if you know what’s good for you. Injuries are almost impossible to predict but with the right knowledge, you can make highly educated guesses and get a jump on your league-mates. It’s still very early in the draft season and things could change depending on reports out of spring training. Keep an eye on all the guys in this article, whether they made my list or not, to ensure no unexpected setbacks take place. Take some of the principles I discuss and apply them to other players when new injuries pop up. Don’t be afraid to draft someone with an injury if the price is right either: I usually end up drafting a number of guys on the DDNTL because they end up dropping low enough to be worth the risk. Good luck and congratulations, it takes a man to play fantasy baseball.
*ADP data from MockDraftCentral.com