Bros before Jos'
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.
More after the jump:
Players with injury questions I DON’T Trust
You know what you’re getting into here. He misses time every year and you need to factor that into your draft day price. A recent appendectomy is a non-factor, so can’t dock him for that. The finger injury from last season was treated conservatively and is hopefully resolved. He will stay in left field instead of manning center (less physically taxing playing left vs. center). My heart says to draft him so I don’t miss out should he finally put together a full season, but my brain says to be careful because he’s proven to be injury-prone.
The Cardinals SP underwent shoulder labrum surgery last year, and is now ten months removed and still having symptoms. He is unlikely to be ready by opening day and getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews is usually not a good thing. There is legit concern that he might not be the same ever again. Avoid him.
Despite enduring multiple hamstring and calf injuries over the years, he hasn’t missed many games since he guts it out when injured. Yet he is turning 35 this season and will this be the year his legs fail him or the inevitable decline of father time hits? I’d still draft him at the right price, but I’m knocking him down a few slots.
Coming off an injury-marred 2013, Beckett had surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, which is usually 50-75% effective. Thoracic outlet is a tricky diagnosis to manage, is often multi-factorial, and could easily recur. Sure the cost is cheap and a bounce back is possible, but I’d rather draft a safer, younger guy with upside than an injury-prone and aging arm like Beckett.
He suffered a Lisfranc foot injury last September, opted for rest and rehab instead of surgery, and has begun running without issue. Foot injuries are tricky to manage, Lisfranc in particular. Plus, Craig was injury prone prior to this injury. Like Beltre, I’m not avoiding entirely, but moving him down my ranks a bit to account for risk.
Pujols played only 99 games last year due to a partial tear in plantar fascia/plantar fasciitis. He is reportedly healthy now, but being eased in this spring. Plantar fascia injuries are notoriously chronic and he's now 34 years old (and a bigger guy carrying a lot of weight). With a third-to-fourth round ADP, I’m not gambling at the current rate unless a discount comes my way.
Perennial tease is just that: a tease. Radial nerve entrapment in his forearm was treated with rehab instead of surgery, so the symptoms could reemerge. He's also experienced a K% decline over four straight years. A dirt cheap ADP, but I’d rather miss out on a breakout than deal with the headache and inconsistencies.
He proved elite when healthy last season in a hitter-friendly lineup, park, and division, however, being healthy is problematic for him. He has struggled for years with various lower body injuries (hamstring, ankle, knee) that eventually will catch up to a speed-dependent player like Reyes. The ankle injury last season limited him to just 98 games, and he has played in 133 or fewer games in four of the last five seasons (two of which were fewer than 100 games). Now on the wrong side of 30, playing on the Toronto turf and sporting an ADP of 58.62 (fifth among shortstops), he’s a tempting commodity that is simply too risky to pay the going rate for.
The backstop underwent ACL reconstruction in August 2013 and will be seven months post-op Opening Day. The typical ACL timeline is 8-12 months. He is altering his batting stance to lessen pressure on the knee, however, he can’t lessen the pressure of catching. I have zero interest in a catcher with knee problems.
Coming off microfracture surgery to his knee in January, Holland is not expected back until later in the summer. See what I wrote earlier about Kemp; if Holland is able to return healthy later in the season I would invest next year. He is a compensatory injury risk this year, and unless you have lots of DL spots in your league, I would avoid.
Coming off surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, Parnell could be a good value pick if no loss of strength is reported. That said, spine surgery often is hit or miss and symptoms frequently return. I’m avoiding unless he falls super late in the draft, but I would monitor the radar gun and see how he looks in the spring.
This is the second straight spring that sees him coming into the season with shoulder woes. He ended up being fine last year, and the same could happen this year too…maybe. The problem is, biceps tendonitis is being reported, which by itself isn’t too big a deal, but could be an early warning sign of underlying issues or a compensatory injury. With an ADP of 110.35 (18th among SPs), Hamels is too rich for a pitcher likely to enter season on the DL with a throwing shoulder issue. If he goes after the first 20 SPs, that is a more reasonable risk to take.
Don’s Do Not Trust List 2014: Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Jaime Garcia, Adrian Beltre, Josh Beckett, Allen Craig, Albert Pujols, Brandon Morrow, Jose Reyes, Yasmani Grandal, Derek Holland, Bobby Parnell, Cole Hamels
Players I Trust 2014: Justin Verlander, Mark Teixeira, Manny Machado, Derek Jeter, Mat Latos, Stephen Strasburg, Jarrod Parker, Joe Mauer, Brandon Beachy, Edwin Encarnacion, Bryce Harper, Dustin Pedroia