Injuries


RotoAuthority Unscripted: Replacing the Irreplaceable--Goldschmidt and McCutchen

Maybe someday, years from now, this will be remembered as the day Javier Baez made his debut. Maybe someday, while he’s giving his Hall of Fame induction speech after having led the Chicago Cubs to several World Championships, you’ll think back on this day with a tear of gratitude in your eye—grateful that you read this and remembered to scurry over to your fantasy baseball website and pick him up, that you got in on the ground floor of Baez’s career because you read this column.

Or maybe not. But if you haven’t checked it yet, go check your site just in case. Baez might still be there.

Okay, that’s done and you're back. Which is good, because this column isn’t about Baez; that was just a public service announcement.

In the last couple days, we’ve had several star players either hit the DL or get the bad news that they won’t be coming back from the DL this season. Or both. How do you replace Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, or Matt Cain? Well…you don’t. But technically you have to try. And frankly, it might be tough to replace what you hoped to get from those “star” pitchers, even if it won’t be any trouble replacing what you actually got from them. And I know you didn’t draft Gonzo without his backup in mind, so I’m not going to worry too much about him or the hurlers. The big hits are Goldy and McCutch.

We’ll take a look at similar—albeit lesser—players that could be available via trade or the waiver wire to help you recoup some of your production. 

If you don’t have these guys you can skip today’s column…except that anyone who can stand in for Goldschmidt and McCutchen can probably play just fine on your team anyway. So don't touch that dial....

Replacing Paul Goldschmidt (broken hand: out at least 8 weeks)

“Realistically, he’s done for the year.” –Manager Kirk Gibson

19 HR/75 R/69 RBI/9 SB/ .300 AVG/.396 OBP/.542 SLG 

Good luck finding another slugging first baseman with some speed…though you could try swinging a trade for Todd Frazier (16 SB), but then he’s been arguably better than Goldy and plays third base, so good luck with that. Jose Bautista is another high-end possibility to replace Goldschmidt’s production (five surprising steals even).

Chris Carter is one of only four first basemen (Goldy included) with more than one steal in the last month, and he’s knocked eight homers in that span. As a plus, he’s only owned in about half of fantasy leagues, so he might be on your waiver wire.

Lucas Duda (68% owned in Yahoo! leagues) is still available in the shallowest leagues and may be easier to pry away from his owner than others. We’ve thrown the speed away at this point, though. Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira make decent trade targets as well; they’ve delivered some nice power, but don’t expect much out of the average category.

For waiver wire searchers, Juan Francisco (15% owned) and Mark Reynolds (17% owned) might be available, though you’re going to really be hurting in average if you go that route.

A final, unorthodox choice could be Daniel Murphy, who produces not in power but in speed (11 steals) and average (.296). Of course, he's currently manning someone’s second base slot, so that might make him more expensive than most single-digit-homer first basemen.

Full disclosure: CBS.Sports’s Scott White put out a whole column on this topic, but I promise I didn’t read it until I wrote the above. He’s got some ideas I didn’t think of, so go check it out. Subscription required…I think? 

Replacing Andrew McCutchen (oblique: perhaps 3-4 weeks)

17 HR/64 R/67 RBI/17 SB/.311 AVG/.411 OBP/.536 SLG

The bad news is that power/speed outfielders who hit for average don’t grow on trees. That’s why we picked this one in the early half of the first round. The good news is that there might be more such players in the outfield than at first. 

A pretty good comp is Hunter Pence, who’s going 15/10 in homers and steals and batting .289. Breakout All-Star Michael Brantley has maybe been even better than McCutch, with 16 homers, 12 steals and a .322 average, as has Charlie Blackmon—14 homers, 20 steals, and a .296 average. Okay, maybe not better. Quieter breakout player Brett Gardner has 15 homers, 18 steals and a .284 average, so similar-ish players aren’t quite as hard to find as I’d expected. Carlos Gomez 15 homers, 22 steals, and a .291 batting average is another star-level guy you could look to. Another  Hmm…Pence is looking easier and easier to trade for….

I tried to look for a true power/speed threat without the corresponding good batting average to keep the trade price down—kind of what B.J. Upton used to be—and the closest I could come was Desmond Jennings (9 homers, 13 steals, .240 average). Actually, Curtis Granderson (13 homers, eight steals, .220 average) was closer…no, he’s been pretty much the same, but with his number dragged down by a worse April. This position isn’t what it used to be…year ago. 

How about some cheaper options? McCutchen’s teammate Josh Harrison has five homers and five steals this month and has flashed good skills in both categories. If you want a buy-low candidate, Jay Bruce has 10 each of steals and homers…but the average isn’t there on good years. Shin-Soo Choo is another buy-low guy who profiled as a McCutchen-lite last year…and has thus far been a bench outfielder…lite.

Drew Stubbs is having a resurgent year that just won’t seem to quit (five homers, four steals, a .363 average this month) and is available in most leagues (just 17% owned). If Gonzalez misses time, Stubbs’s play should be even safer. Rookie Arismendy Alcantara (14%) has shown some power/speed ability and is still on plenty of waiver wires. Those in very deep leagues might want to consider Grady Sizemore (6%), who’s smacking the ball well for his new Phillies squad.

To all of us that just lost McCutchen or Goldschmidt there isn’t much to say…other than at least you probably couldn’t have lost both first-rounders, right?



RotoAuthority Unscripted: What to Do with Albert Pujols?

Last week, I got into a comments debate about Albert Pujols with a reader known only as “Tom.” We went back and forth on Pujols’ value, his outlook for the rest of the season, and whether or not a particular trade involving a number of high profile players makes sense. At one point I--harried with the huge demands of being a big-time fantasy expert (or was it my day job?)--promised to put off finishing my analysis of Albert Pujols. 

Well, Tom, here’s your answer. Since this is RotoAuthority Unscripted, I promise to go into this article and my investigation without cherry-picking the evidence to fit my original recommendation—I’ll go where the facts lead me. As best as I can understand them. Also, I promise not to make this a particularly well-organized article. I take the “unscripted” label very seriously.

For those of you not old enough to remember, Albert Pujols was once among the greatest players to ever live, spending 10 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, with lows of 32 homers, .299 batting average, 99 RBI, 99 Runs Scored, and 143 Games Played. Seriously, those are the worst numbers he put up in the decade from 2001-2011. So…you could say that things have changed somewhat, as Pujols has only exceeded those career lows in one stat since moving to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (Is that even still their name? Can’t we just go back to California Angels?) He drove in 105 RBI in 2012. It’s been a story of ageing, huge paydays, dropping BABIP’s, bad defence, the inability to run, and plantar fasciitis. Maybe LA isn’t for everyone.

So, that’s the past, but it’s an important backdrop to what’s going on with Pujols now, because your fantasy team isn’t locked into a hundred ten-year contract with him, and his play this year hasn’t been unambiguously good or bad. So, is he someone to trade for or someone to trade away? And what can we really expect to see from him for the next four months?

 Here’s the Pujolsian line thus far in 2014.

Runs

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

35

15

35

2

.245

.304

.486

 And here are some of his slightly-farther-under-the-hood numbers.

BB%

SO%

ISO

BABIP

7.0%

12.6%

.241

.226

So his production has been pretty ambiguous: the power is there (15 homers ties him for 8th in MLB) but he’s killing you in average and probably worse in OBP. His ISO is pretty good for the “New Albert” (starting 2011), and actually fits into the lower range of the earlier, better part of his career. His BABIP, however is by far the worst of his career and marks the third year in a row of decline.

Nice! We can chalk Albert’s struggles up to some bad luck, assume that his average will bounce back and be happy that it hasn’t hurt his power in the meantime. Right?

With a mid-career player, or one who hasn’t been hobbled by injuries that line of thinking would work just fine. But that’s not what we have. There are two other serious possible explanations for Pujols’ BABIP troubles, neither of which recommend him very well at all: one or more important skills has permanently regressed due to age; he remains injured, perhaps chronically so, impacting one of those “important skills.” In the bad-luck scenario, Pujols is an easy trade for candidate. In the other scenarios, he may well be someone you should be shipping off your team…or maybe still trading for, if the price and your expectations are low enough.

Let’s take a look at some of Pujols’ batted ball data, and see how this is happening.

 

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

2014

1.14

15.9

44.9

39.3

20.2

17.9

Career

1.02

18.9

41.0

40.1

13.1

18.7

 Once again, we’ve got a seriously mixed bag here. I’ve bolded the three most interesting numbers. The first is his line drive percentage—it’s way down from his career numbers—so that’s actually pretty easy to see as the cause of his BABIP troubles…but it leaves the answer unknown: is it down due to skill diminution or bad luck? Where have those line drives been going?

Straight up in the air it turns out: his popups (IFFB’s) are far above his career norms, and even far above his more recent, less illustrious years. So that’ll kill your BABIP right there, hitting a bunch of popups instead of liners. I’ve always heard that popups are just a hair off of flyballs, so maybe the increased infield flies are the result of Pujols trying for more power on every swing…just a guess, so don’t bank on that one. It is worth noting, though, that his previous highest IFFB rates came much earlier in his career, in higher-power years.

The last number to stand out significantly is that HR/FB rate that’s actually pretty close to his career norm. That’s a big deal because this rate is by far the highest that he’s posted as an Angel. If he has changed his approach to get more power, it’s working. 

In our comment debate, Tom mentioned that Pujols’ flyball distance is about ten feet less than his career norm. I assume that rate is counting infield flies among the flyballs—so I think we’ve found our culprit for the statistical oddity of shorter flies and more homers at the same time. All those popups. We may be back to the drawing board if the flyball distance doesn’t count IFFB’s though. I honestly couldn’t find that information, so if you know, I’ll be happy to be shown the light, either way. 

Pujols has been hot and cold this season: he was a fantasy monster to start the season, putting up huge numbers in March/April, and he’s cooled a fair bit since then. In particular, Pujols’ strikeout rate shot up and his homers went way down. It’s too early to say if the strikeouts are a one-month aberration or a trend. Nine homers in a month, however, is probably just something to be happy about and not expect every time out. Most of his other indicators were pretty similar, however, including his BABIP: .237 in March/April and .241 in May. (Things aren’t off to such a good start in June, either, but we’ll let that go for now).

The elephant in the room is still that BABIP, with it’s thinly veiled suggestion of debilitating injury. Pujols certainly doesn’t look so great running, and his defence isn’t exactly what it used to be, but he’s played in 61 of the Angels’ 62 games, 47 of them at first base. It’s entirely possible that his foot is still bothering him…but less possible to prove. As far as placing odds on his health for the rest of the season…well, I wish I could, because I’d be a lot better at fantasy baseball if I had that kind of clairvoyance.

Pujols has had one killer month and one less-than-awesome month, and—by the looks of it—he’s done a bit of self-reinvention. If he doesn’t still have the skills to be baseball’s best all-around hitter, he’s concentrating on power, even at the cost of more whiffs, more popups, and a lower batting average. The results are there in the home runs, and with a good lineup around him, you can expect them to be there in RBI and Runs Scored as well. 

After taking another look at Pujols, I feel less confident that he’ll be doing much to drag his average up into levels that help you out. I do suspect that he’s lost something when it comes to his hit tool. That said, I also suspect that he’s run into some good, old-fashioned small sample luck: a .226 BABIP is really low, and I think it will go up a bit, brining his .245 average in to a more palatable level. 

I also think his power is pretty real: the homers are serious, and they’re not just the most important part left in his game, they’re also the most important fantasy category. Now, before you have me down as predicting that he'll keep up with his early homer pace and have 45 homers under his belt by the season's end, I'll admit that his HR/FB rate has probably also gotten some small sample luck--just the good kind. 

But even if Pujols only manages five homers per month for the rest of the season (his low end this year), he'll still end up with about 35 bombs--that's pretty good. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if it were even a little better than that. Given the leaguewide diminishing levels of power, getting a serious homer source should be a high priority for just about everybody. Pujols may have just one thing left, but he’s got the one thing we all need the most. That, combined with getting a good deal based on his recent slumping, seems to make him a strong trade for candidate. I’d pull the trigger on a Pujols deal. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t deal him away for the right price either….

 

 

 



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Time for a Kershaw Trade

I got a trade offer in the RotoAuthority Silver League and it got me thinking. Hopefully, writing here about said thinking won't ruin my chances of making a trade, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. The analysis must come first!

See, I was offered Clayton Kershaw, and whenever you're offered Clayton Kershaw you have to think about it.

My first thought was to be disappointed that this wasn't in the MLBTR staff league, 'cause I'm sitting in dead last in most of the pitching categories in that one. My second through however many thoughts were about how cool it would be to have Kershaw on my team.

Then I started to feel sad about the guys I'd give away: Giancarlo Stanton--I believed in you and you've returned 43 RBI for me, almost twice what the next best player on my team has. Scott Kazmir--I believed in you too and you've given me five delightful wins, a truly beautiful 2.39 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. And Greg Holland--I...okay, we all thought Holland would be good, and sure enough he's the only non-terrible reliever on my team.

The initial offer also included a couple guys that I'm probably supposed to be hoping will bounce back or regress to their peripheral stats in Allen Craig and Zach McAllister. (This article isn't about them, though, so I won't tell you I'm not optimistic about Craig and more or less apathetic about McAllister.) Okay, so I'm not clicking "Accept" on the initial offer, but overall, yeah, I'm intrigued with the thought of dealing my best hitter for baseball's best pitcher.

But should I be?

When was the last time you saw Clayton Kershaw sporting a 4.43 ERA? I'm not a Dodger fan, so I don't mind...but it's pretty weird to see, I'll tell you that.

Now, most of that comes from his most recent start, an epic tagging for over 100 runs (actually seven) in less than two innings. Or something bad like that. Manager Don Mattingly reassures us that there's nothing physically wrong with the Dodger ace, and he's probably in a position to know that and tell the truth about it. Right?

When you see any pitcher give up a disaster start like that come so quickly after escaping the DL, you can think one of two things about it:

a) He's fine. Just had to shake off the rust and it didn't happen to go well this time. He'll be okay.

b) Ouch. He's gonna be right back on the DL soon; either that or he'll be pitching bad and through pain for a few weeks.

The manager's taking choice a), and since I sent back a trade offer of Stanton for Kershaw straight-up, I guess I'll give away the ending by admitting that I am too.

But only kind of, obviously. If I were 100% sure that Kershaw was perfectly healthy, I'd have sent back the offer with a somewhat useful throw-in, because Kershaw is definitely a first-round, better-than-everybody-else-in-the-world pitcher, while Stanton's teammates will surely help him regress to the realm of the mortally awesome in terms of Runs and RBI. (Yeah, I don't think he's going to end the year with double David Ortiz's RBI, I just don't.)

So is now the time to trade Clayton Kershaw, or the time to trade for him? (Feel free to expand the thought to a more generally helpful analogy about all such elite pitchers who perform horrifically right after returning from the DL.)

Obviously, it has to be something of a case-by-case situation, but we can look at this case and see if anything applies generally.

One thing it's always good to do is check on a pitcher's velocity, as Fangraphs has done here, in which Kershaw is noted to have lost about two miles per hour on his fastball (in his few starts before the May 2 article), and examined to see what kind of decline might be expected if that reduced velocity is more or less permanent. Good news: that analysis suggests that Kershaw has been equally great in games pitched at what looks like his current velocity as he has when throwing harder. Bad news: a similar velocity drop coincided with Ubaldo Jimenez's precipitous decline, so we can't just assume all pitchers will be fine if they lose a couple miles on their fastball.

It's also worth looking into how a disaster start happens: according to the LA Times, it looks like Kershaw didn't have any control over his curveball during the second inning, in which he served up three triples. So that's bad, but it doesn't send up so many red flags that I'm running scared to rescind my trade offer for Kershaw. Unfortunately, I'm not enough of a scout or a pitching coach to know what to do with such data. Any elucidating ideas are more than welcome in the comments....

Right now, I think it's a good time to target receiving Kershaw in a trade, and I'm inclined to think that's usually the case in a situation like this one. Let him get a really good game in, and his price will go very close to full market value in a hurry. There aren't many times when baseball's best pitcher is likely to come at a discount, and this is one of them.

That said, now is a good time to deal Kershaw away, too.

What?

Yeah. There is some real risk involved in having a pitcher who gets brutally tagged right after coming off the DL, and trading that risk away isn't a terrible idea. Especially when your opponent/trade partner thinks they're getting a good deal. See, the thing about making a trade at this time, is that everyone knows Kershaw has to come at a discount, but that also allows the human mind to persuade itself that it is getting a good deal. It's like going to a store and seeing that everything is on sale: before you even start trying to remember what that stuff cost yesterday, your brain is already processing the idea that you're getting a bargain.

Just because you (probably) can't sell Kershaw for his highest-possible free market value doesn't mean you can't get what you want for him. And getting what you want in a trade makes it a win. We've reached the point of the season where your team situation and your place in the standings of each category is nonrandom. If you're getting killed in the power categories but still doing well in pitching, why not trade Kershaw for Stanton? No, they didn't get drafted in the same round, but who cares about that now? If you've got needs to fill, have Kershaw on your roster, and somehow aren't depending on him to carry your pitching staff, his trade value is still plenty high enough to help your team out in multiple categories.

Right now, it will be easier to get a good deal done than at other times, just because Kershaw will already be on other owners' trade radar. They may be hoping to lowball you, but once they're as intrigued by the chance to get Kershaw as I am, they might just bite on a fair offer. Right after a start like this is a great time to trade for Kershaw, yes...but it's also the right time to trade him away.


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RotoAuthority Unscripted: The Replacements

Yesterday made Bryce Harper the latest casualty to thumb injury but he's far from the only impact player with a little red cross next to his name--we've seen more than a few early-round players go down with injuries this year. While Adrian Beltre has already come back, and Ryan Braun gave us a scare without hitting the DL, plenty of other players will be sitting on the shelf for quite some time. Today, we'll take a look at their replacements to see which injury situations offer viable fantasy opportunities. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we're gonna need them....

Injured: Bryce Harper (out about two months)

Replacement: Nate McLouth

McLouth went into the season touted as baseball's best fourth outfielder, and now he's got an unsurprising chance to prove that. Of course, he's rocking a batting average that would be bad if you doubled it (.118--ouch), but it's in only 34 AB, so who cares? McLouth brings significant speed, and ought to help out a bit by scoring runs. Don't get too excited about his average, which will get better (I mean, it has to--pitchers hit better than that) but has never been an asset. (He's batted over .260 just once in his decade-long career.) He won't replace Harper's power but he probably just became one of the better options on most waiver wires anyway.

Injured: Ryan Zimmerman (out 3-5 more weeks)

Replacement: Danny Espinosa

Espinosa is proving the Nationals right for not trading him in the offseason. While continued good play may force the Nats to make some tough decisions when Zimmerman comes back, those aren't worth worrying about right now. As it stands, Espinosa is well worth rostering...at second base. So that isn't very helpful if you're a floundering Zimmerman owner needing someone at third.

Injured: Josh Hamilton (out 3-4 more weeks)

Replacement: J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill, Raul Ibanez

Losing two of your top three outfielders is rough for any team, but the Angels have options that might still offer some short-term utility. Not, you know, a lot. But some, at least. Ibanez can hit homers (and do nothing else). He's more likely to kill your average than help with longballs. Shuck started out with some promise, but his average is sitting around Ibanez territory in 65 at bats. His playing time has been pretty regular, though--not that the Angels have much choice at this point. Cowgill has had the least exposure--he's gotten more than three at bats in a game just three times this year. Expect his playing time to increase if Shuck's batting average doesn't.

Looking backwards, Cowgill's got a few years of sub-mediocrity under his belt, while Shuck managed a .290ish batting average in over 400 AB last year; he's the only one I'd pick up out of this crew.

Injured: Mark Trumbo (out 6-8 weeks)

Replacement: Cody Ross

Once, long ago, Ross was a somewhat useful fantasy outfielder. With Trumbo out for an extended period and the friendly confines of Arizona's high-altitude park, he may be again. Ross has a much more interesting hitting history than the free agent outfielders available in most leagues and is worth keeping an eye on, or even picking up if you were rostering Trumbo in the outfield. Best case scenario is that Ross delivers a little pop with an acceptable batting average over the next couple months--worst case is that he still doesn't hurt your average more than Trumbo already was....

Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks and I don't have much for you when it comes to replacing Trumbo's power or his 1B eligibility.

Injured: Chris Davis (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Stephen Lombardozzi? Ryan Flaherty? Jemile Weeks?

The good news is that Davis should be back soon. The other good news is that Manny Machado should also be back soon. The bad news is that the O's really don't have anyone fantasy-appealing who might take over in the short term, as they appear to be stuck with light hitting middle infielders as their first base replacements. If you've got Davis, you'll need to get your 1B replacement elsewhere. At least one of these guys could be your replacement for Zimmerman, right?

Injured: Michael Cuddyer (unknown timetable--two weeks minimum)

Replacement: Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Corey Dickerson

Blackmon is already getting lots of the CF playing time in Colorado, but expect this move to see him playing more like full time than in a platoon. That might mean more opportunities for runs and RBI, but might not be great for his average. Stubbs could benefit from more regular playing time, and is worth watching to see if he goes on a hot streak. (Hey, stranger things have happened, and he's shown some power and speed in his career.) If Stubbs struggles, Dickerson may get a shot. If either player emerges as a regular or semi-regular, their home park should give them a chance to be valuable in deeper leagues. Gotta love Coors Field....

I definitely wrote this article up expecting a little more from the injury replacements for stars around the league, but, well, hopefully you had your own internal backups, especially for the non-outfielders. That said, there are a couple options with potential. I'd stay away from all the Orioles' and Angels' backups, but Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, and Drew Stubbs have all been pretty good before. Asking them to put together a good month or two doesn't seem impossible. Dickerson and, really, anyone playing for Colorado is pretty interesting too. The best of the bunch is probably Espinosa--not that he can replace the playing time any of these stars are losing.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Ow! Ow! Ow!

It's been a painful year so far. Not for me, and (hopefully) not for you either. But it sure has for baseball players. Maybe every year starts like this and we all just forget, but there do seem to be more injuries going around lately than in times of yore more or less recent memory. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so, since I've heard theories on the matter blaming everything from youth baseball leagues to the reduced use of PED's. Aside from the question of, "If the major effect of PED's is to reduce injuries, what is the rationale for banning them and punishing their users?" I'm inclined to think there isn't anything truly special going on: if injuries happen at random intervals, we should expect to eventually see years when more of them happen. It's the baseball season counterpart to Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable.

Regardless of the underlying reasons (or lackthereof) for all these injuries, they're a fact we've got to deal with and if you haven't got an injured guy on one of your fantasy teams, you don't have enough teams. (Or you get tomorrow's newspaper today....) It started before the draft, with something like half of the top pitchers getting little red crosses next to their names on my cheat sheet: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Mike Minor, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mat Latos, Doug Fister...Darvish is the only one who's even back yet. The flood spread to super-utility post-hype sleeper Jurickson Profar, hit closers Aroldis Chapman, Casey Janssen, and Bobby Parnell (helpfully after you drafted him), prospect Taijuan Walker, and lights-out Walker replacement James Paxton. The injury wave hit Jose Reyes' always-hurt hamstring, Ryan Braun's thumb, Bryce Harper's face (and Omar Infante's too), Josh Hamilton's brain thumb and seemingly half of the quality third basemen: Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman. Matt Moore may be headed for Tommy John, and Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season.

And this isn't everybody! It's just a few names I cherry-picked while skimming CBS's "Injury Report." There are plenty more.

What is the point of brining up all these names and injuries? Is it to show off how many baseball players I can name? C'mon, I posted the player rankings--I think we both know I can list a lot of ballplayers.

No, my point is to show you just how widespread the injury phenomenon is. Your team is not the only one in your league splattered in red injury news marks. You're not the only owner in your league trying to decide whether to keep Carlos Quentin or Josh Johnson stashed on the DL to accommodate the injury to David Robertson and let you pick up Shawn Kelley. Almost everyone's team is playing through some sort of injury--just be glad you aren't A.J. Burnett and trying to play through something called an inguinal hernia. Yeah. Ow. See: managing your DL isn't so rough.

If this were a self-help site designed to help you cope with the psychological stresses of the fantasy season, this is where I'd offer you some friendly reassurance and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. I'd help you feel better by telling you how many teams I own Beltre on, or remind you that Alex Cobb should still be a good pitcher in six to eight weeks. But that is not our purpose here; our reason for writing is nobler, more ambitious: it is to help you win. (Unless you're my competitor in the RotoAuthority Silver League. If you are, quit reading and checking your team so I can cash in.)

There's an old saying in English that goes something like this: "The Japanese word for problem is the same as the word for opportunity." I have no idea if that's true in Japanese, but it's a cliché in English now--and for once it holds true. I mean, it helps that you may be working with someone else's problem right now, but still.

Take what's happened to me in one league: someone decided to release Ryan Zimmerman instead of DL stashing him. Maybe that's the right call for their team (I don't remember their DL/bench situation--maybe they're just too crowded) and maybe it's not. On my own team, I have three third basemen and room on my bench for an injured upgrade. Ideally, I'd trade Jedd Gyorko or Kyle Seager and snag Zim off the waiver wire. We'll see. But it's an opportunity.

What about when my own players are injured and I'm reduced to picking up Conor Gillaspie or Juan Uribe? For one thing, I can let that be a lesson in the strategic choice not to back up a position because my starter is too good to afford losing anyway--not a good call. (Hopefully I remember that one next year.) Also, I can trade the hurt guy.

This, too, is an opportunity. For one thing, you've got the chance to deal a player you can no longer use. It's tough, because most of your league doesn't want to be trading for an injured player...but it's doable because some dope (me, in the previous example) thinks they can get value later by trading for an injured guy now. Ideally, the player you trade is someone like Zimmerman or Josh Hamilton--someone who was playing well before he got hurt. It doesn't work so well if they looked really bad before going on the DL. Say you trade one of those guys for another player you can actually use for the next couple months--but one who's worth only about half to two-thirds their value--essentially a fair trade. Not only do you get the near-term production, you also mitigate your risk. Injured players don't always come back the same, and often have setbacks that delay their return to play. It is good to get rid of injured players. If you can get more than a fair trade (say, a player worth five months of Hamilton or Zimmerman's production) even better.

With the right construction of rosters, this is actually the sort of trade that can benefit both owners. Star players can be worth much, much more than the next best guys. That's why Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout cost over $60 in Yahoo! auctions and nobody else usually topped $50. If you've got a backup worth more than your league's replacement level, offering something decent but below-market for an injured star can pay big dividends later in the season. Of course, it adds to your team's floor, but it probably adds even more to its ceiling. In head-to-head formats with playoffs, this is strategy is exponentially more useful.

What about when your team sustains a major injury? There's nothing good to be had from losing Matt Moore for much or all of the season. True enough (apart from losing his contribution to your WHIP), but even bad injuries have one bit of opportunity: the replacement player. Now, in Moore's case, that player is Erik Bedard. He's been good before, so it's worth watching to see what he does. That's sort of a middle-of-the-road case. With Beltre, you want no part of what Josh Wilson does in the interim. But with Zimmerman, the upshot is that Danny Espinosa comes up to play second, while Anthony Rendon moves to third. Is that a slam-dunk pickup? Of course not. But is it a potential opportunity now available that wasn't there before? Yup. And you don't even have to lose Zimmerman to cash in on Espinosa.

Don't despair of your team's injuries--everyone else has them too, to one degree or another. Use the injuries and the opportunities they present as best as they can by being active in trade talks and on the waiver wire. Andrew Gephardt wrote yesterday that the best thing you can do in April is nothing at all, and he's right...until you develop a need or sense an opportunity.



2013 Position Rankings: Value Changers

Each year things seem to happen in Spring Training. Good things, like injured players coming back quicker than expected, or sleepers clubbing their way into jobs. Bad things, like setbacks and new injuries. Other things, like trades, job changes, and the end of position battles. 

I hate all of these things, because they upset my neatly crafted rankings. Speaking of which, check out Starting Pitchers 1-4041-80RelieversShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders.

Below is a selection of players that we ranked that should now be shooting up, plummeting, or doing something rather less drastic.

Catchers

Down: Mike Napoli (Rounds 5-6, ranked 7th)
Poor Napoli seems to be feeling good and playing well, so why is he downgraded? It's just a strategic move, as he's going a lot later in many drafts. If you can pay less, you should. I'd wait till the 7th or 8th, but his position relative to others stays the same.

First Basemen

Down: David Ortiz (Rounds 7-8, ranked 11.5)
Ortiz isn't eligible at first in every league, but he will be starting the year on the DL in every league. The Red Sox don't have a timetable for his return, and I hate drafting anyone in that situation. I'd wait until the 15th round, at the earliest, making him number 26 or 27 among first basemen.

Up: Corey Hart (Round 21 and Beyond, ranked 33rd)
Hart we knew was injured, but the news out of the Brewers' camp has been more positive than not, with an early or mid-May return possible. Like any other injury-stash, he's more valuable in H2H leagues, and less in any league without DL slots. I wouldn't go as high as the 15th Round with him, but I'd snag him in the 17th or 18th, slotting him in right behind Ortiz.

Second Basemen

Up: Emilio Bonifacio (20th-22nd Rounds, 21.5)
If your league's eligibility requirement is 15 games or lower, Bonifacio's value could be going up, thanks to a bad spring from Maicer Izturis. If he's stealing bases in the Toronto lineup, he could be a great value. Consider bumping him up to the 18th-19th Rounds, and perhaps the 16th or 17th player at second base. I'm not so excited if he's just an outfielder.

Shortstops

Down: Hanley Ramirez (3rd Round, 2nd)
I was excited for Hanley to start the year, but a jammed thumb and torn ligament have him sidelined for eight weeks. He doesn't seem to be falling all that far, but really, he's going to be out until late May, with the ever-present possibility of setbacks for more. I'm staying away completely, but if you want to draft him, wait until the 7th round at the earliest, after Ian Desmond is gone. That would make him the 7th shortstop taken.

Down: Derek Jeter (12th-13th Rounds, 9th)
Jeter is another guy that I'd been more exited than most about, only to run into his injury issues. He's only "questionable" for Opening Day, but those questions seem worth letting him drop a couple rounds for, to the 14th or 15th. Upon further review, I'd probably want to take him after Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus, who are probably worth taking a little higher in light of Jeter's and Ramirez's injuries. That would make Jeter the 12th SS taken.

Third Basemen

Down: Chase Headley (5th Round, 7th)
Headley is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which could easily push his return into early May. I really don't like having a stud player miss that much time, because it forces me to draft a bum for the position and play him for a month. Again, this isn't so bad in H2H, since September playoffs determine the whole season, but it really hurts in standard Roto. I honestly wouldn't take Headley until the 11th or 12th rounds, until Will Middlebrooks and Todd Frazier are off the board.

Down: Pablo Sandoval (7th-8th Rounds, 9th)
Sandoval's situation has more optimism than Headley's, as his manager hopes he'll be able to play on Opening Day. However, the Panda's sketchy health history has me a little skeptical. I'd let him drop into the 10th or 11th Round, but he actually becomes the  8th player at the position, thanks to Headley's lost value.

Down: Mike Olt (20th-22nd Rounds, 23rd)
I had expected Olt to start in the bigs, and see time at first, third, and DH, kind of like Michael Young did last year. Not so much, as he was sent down to the minors. I'd save him for waiver bait in most leagues.

Outfielders

Down: Curtis Granderson (3rd Round, 13th)
Granderson isn't scheduled to return until late May, and a wrist injury stands the chance of reducing his power going forward. In a H2H league, I'd be willing to snag him in the 10th round, making him the 33rd OF. In standard Roto or any other format without playoffs, I'd wait until the 12th or 13th, slotting him in after Andre Ethier at 43 or so.

Down: Adam Eaton (14th-16th Round, 52nd)
Eaton will be missing two months or so, by which time the Diamondbacks might just be happy with the production they get from Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Gerardo Parra. I'd leave Eaton for the waiver wire in most leagues, but I'd be willing to draft Kubel and Ross several slots higher.

Up: Carl Crawford (14th-16th Rounds, 55th)
A month ago, things weren't so optimistic for Crawford, with the talk being that he'd probably have to start on the DL. Between that prospect and his complete awfulness for the last two years, that had him buried on all my lists. Well, he was just as terrible in the past, but at least he looks like he might be starting the year healthy. With that to limit his downside, his upside becomes intriguing again. I'd grab him in the 12th-13th Rounds, around number 45 or so.

Up: Domonic Brown (unranked)
Brown had been a big disappointment for fantasy owners the last couple years, but he's been tearing up Spring Training. Like Steve Adams, I don't really care about most Spring stats, but his are so good that the Phillies don't have much choice but to give him another chance. If they're giving Brown a chance, I could too, among the guys in the 15th-16th Rounds, maybe around number 52. In fact, you could just trade him with Eaton in your rankings if you're feeling lazy.

Starting Pitchers

Down: Roy Halladay (Rounds 7-8, 23rd)
Another guy I was bullish on! Halladay's Spring hasn't had much of anything good happen to it, and I'm a lot more nervous to take him than I was. I'm not really comfortable with him as more than my number three starter now, which means I'd want to take him in the 8th or 9th Round, in most cases. I'll take the risk as the 30th or so pitcher taken. 

Up: Zack Greinke (Rounds 5-6, 17th)
Greinke was looking pretty rough a little while ago, but the most recent reports have been a lot better. For that reason, I still want him in the same timeframe, but perhaps as high as pitcher number 11. 

Up: Chad Billingsley (unranked)
Billingsley now appears to be healthy enough to start the season, so he makes a pretty good back of the rotation option for late rounds, perhaps around 19th-20, putting him 77th or so among starters. So, not super exciting.

Down: Chris Capuano (Rounds 17th-18th, 74th), Hyun-Jin Ryu (unranked)
With Billingsley and Greinke looking healthy, expect these guys to be edged out of the rotation. Unless something changes, don't draft them.

Up: Julio Teheran (unranked)
 Teheran has pitched well, and has always had good upside. It appears that he'll be getting starts for the Braves, so I'd be happy to snag him in the 18th-19th Rounds, maybe as the 70th pitcher taken

Down: Trevor Bauer (Rounds 17th-18th, 71st)
He was sent down, so leave him for the waiver wire. 

Down: Johan Santana (Rounds 17th-18th, 76th)
Santana isn't looking healthy, so I'm not so excited to take the risk on him anymore. It appears that he'll be unavailable to start the season. With better DL stash options out there, I'll be leaving him and my memories of 2004 on the waiver wire.

Down: Phil Hughes (Rounds 13th-14th, 50th)
Hughes might not be ready for Opening Day either, so I'd drop him down to the 17th-18th Rounds, around number 67-68. Of course, he may end up being healthy, so don't let him slip too far.

Relief Pitchers

Up: Aroldis Chapman (Rounds 7th-8th, 26th SP)
With his move to closer official, Chapman loses upside, but he also loses a huge portion of his risk. I'd make him the second closer taken, probably in the 6th or 7th Round. 

Down: Jonathan Broxton (15th-16th Round, 18th)
Broxton moves up...in holds leagues. So much for his value in standard formats, as many other non-closers will post better strikeout numbers.

Down: Jason Motte (8th-9th Round, 5th)
News just came in that Motte has injured his elbow, and will almost certainly start the season on the DL. How much more he might miss is up in the air. I like to avoid pitchers in this situation, so, to be safe, let him drop a long ways in your draft. Hopefully he won't be out too long, and hopefully there will be a more solid timetable before you draft. For now, Mitchell Boggs will be getting first crack at saves in St. Louis. 

Chances are, things will change again in the last week of the season, but the good news is that your draft will happen and you won't have to worry about overpaying for an injured has-been, or missing out on a star prospect who hasn't quite won a job. No, instead, you'll have a whole team full of commitments to players whose value could still change on a bad hop or a tough slide. 


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Injuries

Offseason Injuries: To Stash Or Not To Stash?

There is no bigger wildcard throughout a season than injuries. A bad hamstring or a sore elbow can sink an entire fantasy season almost instantly, so there's always a lot of finger-crossing going on. At the same time, fantasy owners always try to take advantage of their DL spots early in the season by drafting an injured player and stashing him until he's healthy. Carlos Quentin, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mike Morse, Salvador Perez, Brett Anderson, and Drew Storen were among the most popular "draft-and-stashes" a year ago. Some worked better than others, obviously.

Spring Training will surely bring a wave of injuries that carry over into the season, but there are already plenty of players who we know will miss the start of 2013. Some are worth grabbing late in the draft and hiding on the DL for a few weeks while others are just a waste of time. It's the same story every year. Here are a few players who will miss the start of next season and could prove useful in the second half.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson
Hudson, 25, battled elbow trouble last April and May and it eventually blew out in late-June. He had Tommy John surgery and is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. Hudson became incredibly homer prone last summer (1.79 HR/9), which can be atrributed both to the injury and simple regression -- only 6.4% of his fly balls left the yard in 2011, which is very low for a fly ball pitcher (career 39.1% grounders) who makes half his starts in Chase Field. In 2012 that jumped up to 16.7%, which is a bit high but more in line with expectations. His strikeout (7.35 K/9) and walk (2.38 BB/9) rates barely changed, however. When he returns with a healthy elbow, Hudson is someone worth carrying because he'll keep his ERA down and chip in some strikeouts. I'd go ahead and stash him if he's sitting there in a late round.

Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy
Like Hudson, the 26-year-old Beachy blew out his elbow in June and required Tommy John surgery. Unlike Hudson, Beachy was absolutely dominant before getting hurt: 2.00 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 81 innings. The Braves have plenty of starting pitching depth but they'll surely clear a spot when their young right-hander is healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation. Beachy is definitely someone worth stashing on the DL in the first half, no doubt about it.

Kansas City Royals: Danny Duffy
Duffy, 24, had Tommy John surgery in late-May and is expected to return a few weeks before Hudson and Beachy. He showed big strikeout ability (9.1 K/9) in six starts before getting hurt, which is on par with his minor league performance. Assuming the uncharacteristic walk problems (5.9 BB/9) stemmed from the elbow injury, Duffy is an intriguing young starter with whiff potential for next season. I don't believe there's enough track record here to warrant a DL stash in typical 12-team mixed leagues, however.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez & Michael Pineda
It has been five years since A-Rod made it through a full season without visiting the DL, and that streak will reach six years following his left hip surgery later this week. He's expected to be out until the All-Star break, though Dr. Bryan Kelly recently acknowledged it could be even longer. They won't know the extent of the cartilage damage until they actually cut him open. A-Rod, 37, is no longer the best fantasy producer in the game, but he's not useless either. He hit 18 homers in 122 games last season and has consistently produced a batting average in the .270s over the last three seasons, plus the lineup around him ensures plenty of RBI opportunities. I'm on the fence about this one, I can see the argument to both stash and not stash New York's third baseman.

Pineda, 23, has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners one year and one day ago. He had shoulder surgery in May and is expected back in June, but the club has admitted they will play things very carefully. Pineda wasn't far off from a fantasy ace in 2011 -- 3.74 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 and 1.09 WHIP -- but labrums are not UCLs. If he had Tommy John surgery instead of shoulder surgery, he'd be a slam-dunk draft-and-stash. Because his trademark velocity may never return, the uncertainty is much greater. Factor in the tough division and hitter friendly park, and Pineda is someone who is more worth a midseason waiver pickup than a draft slot. I'm watching this one play out from afar.

San Diego Padres: Cory Luebke
The 27-year-old Luebke starred after moving into San Diego's rotation in late-June 2011, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 9.9 K/9 in 17 starts to close out the season. Expectations were fairly high coming into last year, but he instead lasted just five starts (2.61 ERA) before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He's due to return in late-May/early-June and will be expected to get back on the path he appeared to be carving 12 months ago. Luebke misses bats, has a history of limiting walks, and pitches half his games in a super-friendly ballpark (even with the walls coming in at Petco Park). He's definitely someone I'm looking to stash for a few weeks, no doubt about it. He and Beachy are the gold standard.

Texas Rangers: Joakim Soria, Colby Lewis & Neftali Feliz
The Rangers have three pitchers due to return from elbow surgery at midseason, with the 28-year-old Soria likely to join the bullpen before Lewis and Feliz rejoin the rotation. The presence of Joe Nathan means Soria is unlikely to see save chances, but he would be a prime holds candidate as Mike Adams' replacement. It's worth noting that he's coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which is much more risky and unpredictable than the first. I wouldn't expect the Royals version of Soria, at least not right away.

Lewis, 33, is more of a solid fantasy option than a standout, but he is guaranteed a spot in the Texas rotation when healthy. Feliz, 24, could wind up back in the bullpen depending on how Soria and Lewis recover. GM Jon Daniels has already hinted that a return to relieving could be in the cards, if not likely at this point. With Nathan entrenched in the ninth inning, Feliz's fantasy value would take a hit with a move back into the bullpen. I don't think I would stash any of these three Rangers, but I'd prefer Lewis over the other two given his role and playing time certainty.



Top Injured Players

Charles T. asks:

As the season starts, could you do the readers a solid and give us a snapshot of all the top fantasy players that are starting the season injured, dinged up or otherwise hurting in some way? And also, maybe some thought on when to expect they'll be back and/or how their season may turn out. I think it would help a lot.

Agreed.  It may be useful now, but it will also be interesting to look back after the season and see whether any of these injuries mattered.

1.  Hanley Ramirez - Tendinitis in right rotator cuff.  Hanley has had shoulder issues for years now, but they never affected his performance.

7.  Ryan Braun - Bruised thumb, strained oblique.  The oblique thing worries me, given how Braun played while dealing with a similar injury at the end of the '08 season.  A down year from Braun would be a big blow to his owners.

14.  Lance Berkman - Biceps tendinitis.  I'm concerned, after paying $35 for Berkman in my keeper auction league.

15.  Chase Utley - November hip surgery.  At one point we thought Utley would miss a month or more, but he's expected to be ready for Opening Day.  I think he will be fine and was probably a bargain in early drafts.

16.  Alex Rodriguez - If you got A-Rod as a third round pick, it might really pay off.  He had hip surgery this month and reports are optimistic.  He could be back before May.

17.  B.J. Upton - He's expected to return April 13th.  Upton had shoulder surgery in November.  He's being drafted as if he'll return to 20 HR power.

18.  Johan Santana - Quickly overcame early March elbow tightness.  We've seen many times with pitchers where a small injury leads to a big one.  Still, Johan's been dominant and healthy for a long time.

20.  Manny Ramirez - He signed late and missed time with a sore hamstring.  With the opt-out carrot dangling, it seems that Manny will manage 500 ABs.

23.  Ichirio Suzuki.  This was way too early to be drafting Ichiro in my opinion.  He's headed to the DL for the first time in his career with a bleeding ulcer.  He doesn't have a timetable yet.

27.  Carlos Lee.  Fractured his pinkie in August.  Seemingly had more than enough time to be back at 100%.

35.  Brian Roberts.  Back spasms and a respiratory infection.  So far, the ailments seem minor.

38. Kevin Youkilis.  Sprained ankle during WBC.  Seems minor.  Still too early to draft him.

41.  Carlos Quentin.  Wrist surgery in September.  If this leads to a slow first half, this pick will look even worse.

43.  Cole Hamels.  Scheduled to make first appearance April 10th after getting an anti-inflammatory injection for a sore elbow.  Hamels threw more pitches than anyone in baseball last year.

49.  Alexei Ramirez.  Deep cut on his knee during spring game; not a big deal.

50.  Chipper Jones.  Withdrew from WBC with a strained right oblique.  As long as he manages 400 elite ABs it'll be worth it.

Other top 100 considerations: Garrett Atkins, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Chad Billingsley, Joe Mauer


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Injuries

Alex Rodriguez May Miss Quarter Of Season

12:54pm: I am starting to think that the risk involved makes A-Rod a pretty bad late first/early second round pick.  ESPN's Stephania Bell suggests his recovery time could be longer than ten weeks depending on the details of the injury.  You have to have certainty with your first-round pick.

10:48am: Got a fantasy draft today?  You might want to hold off on that A-Rod pick - Rodriguez's brother told ESPN's Enrique Rojas he'll miss about 10 weeks due to hip surgery.  That'd put his return date around May 15th, so he'd miss a quarter of the season.

Now if we simply multiply A-Rod's projected stats by 3/4, his value goes from $32.04 (fifth overall) to $16.43 (41st among position players).  So if you got the $16.43 and nothing else you'd probably want to draft him around the 4th round.  And even then you'd be taking a risk that he does make it back by May 15th.

However, you would have A-Rod in the DL slot and would conceivably be able to get replacement level production from another third baseman.  For this example we'll use Mike Lowell (ironic, kind of).   Let's combine 139 ABs of Lowell with 417 of A-Rod.

This A-Rod/Lowell hybrid would be projected to hit .287-33-108-104-14 in 556 ABs.  Don't worry about Lowell and his own health issues specifically - use Melvin Mora or some other replacement-level 3B if you want.

Anyway, this hybrid player is worth $25.19, valued at 10th among position players and worthy of late first round consideration.

Problems with this approach: there is a negative value to clogging up a DL spot for a quarter of the year, and we don't know exactly when A-Rod will return or if he'll be 100% when he does.  But in my mind, a late first round/early second round pick of A-Rod is justified if he is indeed to return in mid-May.



How About Chris Carpenter?

I'm liking the idea of taking a late-round flier on Chris Carpenter this year.  Carp's going at 302.35 (26th round).  We all know what he's capable of, but he hardly pitched in 2007 or 2008.

Carpenter's first outing of the year was strong, and he's bounced back from injury before.  This pick is pure upside despite the tricky nerve condition.




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