Manny Happy Returns?
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Diehard players know that among all the fantasy sports, baseball is the true test of an owner's skill and dedication. Whether it’s the long season, huge player pool or myriad of stats to pore through, fantasy baseball rewards knowledge and preparation. Some of the most difficult things to prepare for are injuries, and the more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be. Injuries WILL play a major role in the success of real and fantasy teams alike.
Not all injuries are created equal. Knowing which players are worth the risk can pay huge dividends on draft day. As a practicing physical therapist with extensive experience in orthopedic rehabilitation (and a fellow fantasy nutjob), I have the skill-set 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 expected levels. Basically, will you get what you pay for on draft day? Players I don’t trust 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 me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment. I’m here for you.
All ADP data courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com (MDC) and rankings courtesy of Yahoo! default ranks, current as of this writing.
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Manny Machado finished as a top-10 third basemen last year in his first full season and had he not suffered an ugly knee injury, he’d probably be ranked as a top five or six option at 3B entering drafts this year. Machado was an elite prospect and certainly passes the eye test, reminding many scouts and fans (myself included) of a young A-Rod. Manny’s ascent to greatness hit a snag in late September last season as he landed awkwardly on first base legging out an infield single. It was feared Machado had suffered a torn ACL, however testing later revealed that Manny had dislocated his patella and tore his medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL). The original plan was for Machado to rest and rehab with return to running in six-to-eight weeks, but after fielding multiple opinions, it was decided that Machado would be better off having surgery. Machado went under the knife in mid-October and was projected to require four-to-six months of recovery time. As of this writing, Machado has been participating in all drills with the exception of running the bases and sliding. Manny is scheduled to meet with his surgeon in mid-March to gain clearance for spring games, and both Machado and the team anticipate him being ready in early to mid-April.
MPFL injuries receive a lot less press than the ACL or meniscus injuries, but occur fairly commonly in both athletic and general populations. The patella (kneecap) has no bony connection to our body, it literally “floats” in the quadriceps and patellar tendons and acts as a pulley system to increase power in our legs. Every time we bend and extend our knees the kneecap moves (test it on your own knee), and the MPFL specifically is one of the structures that helps keep the kneecap from dislocating laterally (outside portion of knee). Typically these injuries are treated conservatively with rest and rehab, and in most cases resolve with favorable outcomes. In cases where an individual has dislocated the patella multiple times or in elite athletic populations, surgery is performed (Machado falls into the elite athlete category). Recovery time from MPFL surgery is four-to-six months, which is consistent with the reported timeline for Machado and puts him on pace to return in mid-April as reported.
Drafting a player coming of a major injury is always risky, particularly when the recovery timeline runs right up to the start of the season. Having such a tight timeline leaves little room for error and in some cases the athlete may push too hard to return and suffers a setback. I also think it’s important for athletes to have a normal offseason whenever possible. It gives the player a chance to recharge the batteries and spend time honing their skills in preparation for the season. It’s much more difficult to prepare when your entire offseason is spent rehabbing an injury, particularly for a young player who would benefit from as much seasoning and preparation as possible. Machado’s second half last season wasn’t nearly as good as the first half as the league adjusted to him. A healthy offseason where he could make adjustments and learn would have been much more ideal. Manny’s current ADP is 155.12 (15th among 3Bs), which is simply too low for a guy with his potential. That number will surely spike in the next few weeks if he continues to progress well, but you’ll probably be able to land him in the 10-12 range among third basemen, and for me that’s a risk worth taking. Frankly if I don’t land one of the top five 3B, I’d happily wait and take a chance on the upside of Machado. I fully expect Machado to make a regular season appearance sometime in April, but I also expect him to be rusty and for the Orioles to take it easy with their franchise player early on. Temper expectations for the first month or so and I think you will be rewarded down the stretch as talent trumps all and I’m drinking the Machado Kool-Aid.