Praying to the baseball gods he stays healthy
Photo Credit: SD Dirk
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 (email@example.com) 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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I warned against drafting Matt Kemp last season coming off surgery to repair the labrum in his shoulder, and those who listened avoided a massive letdown as the first-round pick floundered for most of the season. Kemp enters this season with even more question marks after having undergone both shoulder and ankle surgeries, and as of this writing has yet to be cleared for running. Recent reports on Kemp state that he’s expected to miss the team’s two-day opener in Australia on March 22-23, but may be cleared in time for start of the typical regular season in early April.
The surgery to Kemp’s shoulder was to clean out his acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is where your collar bone connects to your shoulder blade. This might sound disconcerting since Kemp had shoulder surgery last offseason with disastrous results, but AC cleanup surgery is relatively minor and shouldn’t be much of an issue for him. The ankle surgery, however, is another story entirely. Kemp underwent microfracture surgery to the talus of his left ankle along with loose body and bone spur removal. The talus is your “ankle” bone; it connects your leg bones (tibia and fibula) to your foot bones. 60% of the talus’ surface is covered by cartilage and it has no muscles connecting to it; it’s stabilized entirely by the surrounding bones, ligaments and fascia (connective tissue). The talus has so much cartilaginous coverage because it absorbs a lot of force during weight-bearing activities, and the cartilage acts as a shock absorber. Kemp damaged the cartilage on his talus to the degree that the damaged tissue couldn’t simply be cleaned out; his surgeon needed to try to grow more cartilage to adequately cushion his ankle for the rigors of baseball. Microfracture surgery, in simplistic terms, means drilling small holes in a joint surface to stimulate growth of cartilage. The new cartilage grown is known as fibrocartilage, and while effective in absorbing shock, it is not as strong or resilient as the original cartilage and thus more susceptible to breakdown and further injury. The rehab process for microfracture surgery consists of a period of immobilization and non-weight-bearing followed by closely monitored rehab exercises to stabilize the joint and regain range of motion. Eventually, the athlete will be cleared for progressive weight-bearing, running and sport-specific activities. Recovery times vary but in most cases it can take six months or longer to return to competitive sports and often 12-18 months for maximal recovery. As of this writing, Kemp had yet to be cleared for full-blown running, and looking at the calendar he will be six-months post-op in early April.
I will not be drafting Matt Kemp this year, and unless you’re in a league with me I suggest you avoid him too. Even if things go perfectly and he’s ready for the start of the season, what can we realistically expect? Kemp’s fantasy intrigue centered on his power-speed combo, but will he be running much coming off the ankle surgery (hamstring injuries too)? With continued shoulder woes, will his power return or will we see a drop off here as we saw last year? The Dodgers have four starting caliber outfielders with three spots to fill; you can bet Kemp will be eased in with frequent days off. Kemp is being drafted at around pick 32 (15th OF). We’re talking a late second or early third round pick in most leagues; that’s pricey for a guy coming off multiple shoulder surgeries, hamstring injuries and major ankle surgery over the last two seasons. Kemp’s ankle may not be fully healed until next season, and microfracture surgery has a nasty reputation for good reason: sometimes it simply doesn’t work. Ankle surgeries in general can often be more problematic than they get credit for as well: Derek Jeter, Kendrys Morales, Buster Posey… all these guys struggled coming back from major ankle injuries. Kemp is still a young man and elite athletes heal better than average people, but there’s just too much risk to draft him at the going rate this year.