Be Wary of These Injured Players
Josh Donaldson TOR
Donaldson struggled through the early portion of 2017, largely due to a calf injury that caused him to miss about six weeks. He was only able to play in 113 games because of it, but his production in the games he did play was on par with his top end play in recent years. That’s thanks to a massive second half that saw him post a 160 wRC+ and hit 24 home runs. If Donaldson can stay healthy all year, he should be a rock solid power option at third base. However, Donaldson has been struggling with another calf issue in camp and is now listed as a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries. Recent reports have claimed that Donaldson is simply suffering from calf cramps and that the issue isn’t serious, but it still has to be worrisome for Fantasy owners considering Donaldson with an early pick. Keep a close eye on Donaldson in Spring Training between now and your draft.
Nelson Cruz SEA
Cruz continues to be one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball, swatting 39 homers a year ago, falling just one shy of reaching 40 big flies for a fourth consecutive year. Even at age 37, injury issues haven’t been a big concern for Cruz as he almost exclusively a DH nowadays, sparing his body the wear and tear of playing the field every day. However, Cruz is currently dealing with a quad strain that has him listed as a High Injury Risk on Inside Injuries. He’s still expected to make the start of the season, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. Lower body issues for an older player can be tough to overcome, even for a player like Cruz who doesn’t have to do much moving other than his home run trot. If he struggles to get to 100 percent strength in his lower body for a good part of the season, that could sap some of his power. It’s hard to bet against Cruz putting up another Cruz-like season, but he’s at least worth monitoring.
Miguel Cabrera DET
Cabrera has been one of the preeminent hitters in the game for some time now, but 2017 was the first major sign of decline for the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer. He played in only 130 games, batting just .249 with 16 home runs, while seeing his strikeout percentage go way up and his walk percentage go way down. Health-wise, he was dealing with two herniated discs in his back and is currently a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries. He’s had a full season of rehab, but back injuries for older players, even those as great as Cabrera, don’t tend to go away. He’s a big name who still carries rather high upside in terms of Fantasy, but given his health problems and 2017 decline, it’s hard to believe that greatness is returning.
Robinson Cano SEA
After the biggest power output of his career in 2016, when he swatted 39 home runs, Cano’s power totals came back to earth last year as he logged only 23 round-trippers. Cano also played in *only* 150 games, the first time he hasn’t played in 156 or more since 2006. It may seem like an overreaction to be wary of a guy who played in 150 games, but Cano is 35 now, and durability quickly becomes an issue for older players. He’s currently a High Injury Risk as he deals with a hamstring strain that will keep him out for at least another week of Spring Training. Cano still remains one of the better second base hitters out there, but he should be treated with caution as he gets up there in age.
Chris Davis BAL
Davis, once one of the premier power hitters in Fantasy Baseball, has really fallen back to the pack as the rest of baseball has exploded from a power perspective. Davis has never been one to post a high batting average, but his .210 mark last year was ghastly, especially when he was only able to put up 26 homers in 128 games. His inability to hit left-handers in recent seasons has really dampened his numbers and may cause him to slip into a platoon in Baltimore. Davis is also dealing with a forearm issue, causing him to miss time in Spring Training. After a 2017 season that saw him miss time with multiple ailments, he’s listed as an Elevated Injury Risk on Inside Injuries. At this point, it seems likely that Davis’ run as a big time power hitter is just about over.
Jean Segura SEA
Segura fell back to the pack a bit in 2017 after a career year in 2016, in part because of an ankle injury that cost him a good chunk of June. He played in just 128 games and his numbers fell off across the board, including steals, as he swiped 22 bases, compared to 33 the year before. Now, Segura is a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries due to a hamstring strain he suffered earlier in the week. The Mariners are saying it was a precaution, but it’s worth keeping your eye on. If Segura continues to struggle with lower body injuries, we could see his stolen base totals continue to decline, as well as his numbers at the plate. He’s still a solid shortstop option, but go after him with caution.
Elvis Andrus TEX
Andrus was a top end Fantasy asset at the shortstop position last year because of an uptick in power, as he hit 20 home runs to go along with the more customary 25 steals. However, the steals might come into question as he advances with age. Andrus will be 30 this season, and given that he is already struggling with a bad back in Spring Training, it might be more likely that his stolen base numbers fall than anything else. If he transitions to be more of a home run hitter than a base stealer, his value deteriorates a bit, as the former is much more common in this day and age. Should his stolen base numbers fall off and his power numbers regress, Andrus could wind up being a very average Fantasy shortstop this season, which is not what he’s being drafted as.
Tommy Pham STL
Pham had a breakout season in 2017, but he did have some injury issues throughout the year that caused him to miss time. He was only able to suit up for 128 games and is now a High Injury Risk in Spring Training according to Inside Injuries. Pham was as big a surprise 20-20 player as you could have last season, as he hit 23 homers and swiped 25 bags. But remain cautious when assessing whether he can back it up. On top of the injuries, it’s tough to bank on a player like Pham who breaks out of nowhere at age 29. St. Louis should have an improved lineup, but Pham still seems like a bit of a wildcard at this point.
A.J. Pollock ARI
After a monster 2015, nothing has gone right for Pollock since. He missed almost all of 2016, then he missed a big chunk of time with a groin strain in 2017. He stole 20 bases in 112 games but was definitely less aggressive as the season wore on, likely due to the groin issues. He enters 2018 as High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he cuts back on running even more this year to try and avoid any more lower body injuries. Considering his numbers at the plate were also down across the board last year, it’s probably best to steer clear of Pollock unless you can get him for a bargain.
Adam Eaton WAS
Eaton was hot out of the gates last year, his first in Washington, before tearing his ACL after 23 games. Eaton still has not played in a Major League game in Spring Training and is an Elevated Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries. The Nationals are still very optimistic that he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but he’s running out of time with the season starting earlier than normal this year. When Eaton does return, it remains to see if he’ll run as much, especially early on, as he has in the past. As he enters his age 30 season, coming off a major knee injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the stolen base total dry up from their normal mid-teen levels. Eaton should still be in a good position in Washington, hitting near the top of the lineup, but his health is a question mark, especially for his work on the base paths.
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Nelson Cruz Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson