In the RotoExperts mixed league roto draft this week, I took Evan Longoria with my 2nd round pick (15th overall) because I was fearful. No, I didn’t need my teddy bear and my Mommy to tuck me in, but I was wary about third base. It’s been a spring full of injuries at the hot corner – Chase Headley, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, David Freese, and Brett Lawrie among them. And I knew from the ADPs that seven of the top third basemen are being drafted among the Top 50 players. So I wanted a great one, a healthy one. A healthy great one.
Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre were gone; I don’t love Aramis Ramirez (especially inside the Top 50 this year) and as a Mets fan, I hate taking guys on my team if I can avoid it, so I passed on (the nicked up) David Wright. I couldn’t assume that Ryan Zimmerman was falling to me at #34, especially with the spate of injured third basemen this spring and the menacing lineup of 11 experts, eight of whom picked twice before me in that span.
After the draft I thought to myself: “Self – am I overthinking this? Freese and Lawrie and Wright aren’t really hurt that bad, right? What’s the harm in missing a little bit of time?”
So I Scratched the Surface to find out.
If you’ve been eyeing an injured player for a “sleeper” in your draft – or you drafted before they sustained their injury — what are their prospects for returning and contributing to your roster?
We went back a couple of seasons to see. First we looked at the number of players who opened the year on the disabled list. Here is what our search yielded:
|Year||# of Players|
Of those numbers, 37 of 80 players were activated before June 1 in 2011; a year later 27 of the 86 Opening Day DL group played in April or May. We took those players who did return and who we generously deemed “Fantasy relevant,” that is ranked in the top 600 players (remember the deeper AL- and NL-only drafts) to assess their preseason and end-of-season values, to try to determine if the injury and/or late start hurt their expectations.
2011 Opening Day Disabled List Players, with preseason ranks, dollar values, return date and end-of-season ranks/values:
|Name||PreRank||Pre-$||Injury||Return Date||End Season Rank||End Value|
|Casey Blake||346||$0||Lower back||4/6||NR||NR|
|Chris Snyder||464||$0||Lower back||4/13||NR||NR|
Cueto and Wilson played themselves into Fantasy relevance, while Barmes, Lucroy and Bailey managed to sneak inside the margins. But with only five of 22 players improving value after returning, it doesn’t seem a wise bet to gamble on an injured player out of the gate. And, remember, 43 other players returned later than June 1, if at all. You would have been hedging your bets on 80 players on draft day, not just those who ultimately returned within weeks.
Let’s take a look at 2012, again taking players inside that top 600 range:
*Comparable $ values not available
Last season, six of the 12 names on the injured list increased in value after returning from injury, and Quentin and Lowrie were essentially the same value. Remember that 59 of the 86 Opening Day DL players did NOT return by June 1 so that 50 percent ratio is a bit misleading.
But looking closer, over the last two seasons, only three players – Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Allen Craig – improved value when returning later than May 1, and they each returned within about a week of that date.
Here are the “draft relevant” players of 2012 who will or could begin the 2013 season on the disabled list and their pre-season rankings. (The rankings, in some cases, have factored the injuries; but the more recent injuries have not been factored. And I don’t necessarily agree with the ranks, but it gives us a base of reference, at least.)
|Ryan Madson||244||TJ Surgery|
|Brandon Beachy||546||TJ Surgery|
*Denotes rankings clearly compiled by Red Sox fan **Denotes that I told you last week to never draft a rookie because they never return value; you get what you deserve ***Denotes shoulder injury for the sake of the sanity of an entire organization and its fan base. ^Denotes it’s about time to wrap up a list of “relevant” players when his name appears
This is a list of 30 names, or about 0.5 percent of that Top 600 universe of players. Obviously, they won’t all be back before June (we’re looking at you Hanley), and we take some minor assumptions (such as that David Wright will not be put on the disabled list), but this gives you a look at the players who should be sidelined for at least the opening of the season.
Treat the above list as “the risk list.” The only name on the list that I’d draft with any confidence is Darvish, and that’s only because I’ve drafted him twice already and I need him to anchor two of my Fantasy staffs.
But enough about me.
What does all this mean for my Fantasy team?
It means you should be careful, in general. Specifically:
- Do not draft any of the above players (2013 list) as the first player at their position. You’d be assuming unnecessary risk;
- Assume all the injured players will not perform above their ranking and don’t try to read the crystal ball by guessing about which three or four will — because they won’t;
- As a rule of thumb, take their preseason rank and add 50 percent. So if Jason Motte is ranked 84, take 50 percent of that (42) and add it to 84: 126. When pick 126 rolls by and he’s still on the board, THEN you can begin to think about him (as long as you followed the above rule and have a closer that is). This ensures you’ve considered the risk and if it doesn’t work out, it’s not because you reached for the player;
- Don’t trust a quote in the paper or on the ‘Net. Yes, his manager says he’s a gamer, and yes he says he is working hard to be in the Opening Day lineup. Don’t believe any of it and assume they are just saying the “right things”;
- If a player is not fully on track after injury, perhaps he was bothered by it for a significant portion of the season. Looking at 2011, Latos, Peavy, Lucroy and Homer Bailey bounced back the following season, so maybe Hudson, Carp, Quentin and Lowrie surprise in 2013? Might be better bets than players who start the year with an injury, no?
- Sometimes it’s just worth the risk. If you drafted solidly and safely (avoid the rookies!), you might take an educated risk on one of the above injured players. I happen to love Corey Hart as a perennial underrated player. On the above list, he and Logan Morrison should be drafted according to their rank – in the final third of the draft there is much more to gain than there is to lose.
- Likewise, Santana, Danks, Baker, A-Rod and Francisco can still produce something of value for a well-timed waiver wire acquisition this season. Follow their progress and check their rehab numbers. If their return date doesn’t get pushed further back, they might help you for at least a portion of the season.
Best of luck to you in your draft, or your draft repair. Break a leg this season. No, wait, I didn’t mean that! It’s just an expression!
Tom once said “I’ve never broken a bone in my body.” Guess what happened three days later. Next week, read Scratching the Surface to find out how Tom broke his leg three days from now. Or hit him up on Twitter (@TomMcFeeley) or email: t.mcfeeley (at) rotoexperts (dot) com.