Zach Greinke’s Injury: A Fantastic Fantasy Opportunity

If you own Zack Greinke, you probably cried in your Cheerios (or kicked your dog) on Friday morning, as you saw Carlos Quentin break your pitcher’s collarbone. We know, you went on Twitter and cursed out Quentin, and then you lamented your own Fantasy Baseball fate for 2013.

I have one thing to say to you: Put on your big boy pants. It’s time to get to work.

The Greinke injury is actually lucky for you. Okay, not lucky in the traditional sense. But if he had twirled a two-hit shutout you’d be trash-talking to your entire league this morning. At the same time a resourceful owner was making his team better by snatching up A.J. Griffin off of the waiver wire.

I’ve been playing this game a long time and I can tell you two things. 1. The teams that suffer early injuries are better because of them later in the season about 80 percent of the time; and 2. The most active waiver wire owners win. Let’s break this down:

Early injuries make you better.

This is NOT the same thing as drafting an injured player, which I urged you not to do. (Jason Motte and Corey Hart owners, I’m looking at you.). I own Greinke in one of my leagues. So the first thing I did this morning was scan the waiver wire for another pitcher to replace him (well, his roster spot for when I put him on my league’s disabled list). A.J. Griffin was at the top of the list.

Griffin, as you might know, went 7-1 last season, with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He struck out 64 batters in 82 IPs, a ratio that probably left him on the waiver wire early this season. It was only 82 innings at the major league level, but those numbers were better than Greinke’s 3.48 ERA and 1.20 WHIP last season. Now do me a favor: stop comparing them and imagine owning both of them.

That’s what I’m about to do. Sure, Greinke will be out for some time, and a collarbone is a particularly tough injury. But I’m not replacing him with a Bruce Chen. I snagged a young, live arm who is already 2-0 with an ERA under 2.00 so far this season. So when Greinke returns, my staff is not only deeper than it was yesterday, Griffin will remain good insurance in case Greinke struggles.

I scanned my league’s 2012 transactions report and I found these injury-related moves:

  • Move Andrew Bailey to DL ; claim Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Move OF Chris Young to DL; claim Josh Reddick
  • Move Scott Baker to DL; claim Tommy Milone

None of those guys are a top-tier/MVP types, but a lot of people won Fantasy leagues last year, in part because they grabbed Wilhelmsen, Reddick and Milone early on. And these owners may not have even looked on the waiver wire if the injury news wasn’t so dire for their other players. The same owner made the first two moves above. He scrambled all season long and climbed into the final “money spot” in the season’s final days.

If your league has a DL (most do now, between one and three spots), you essentially get to expand your roster and delay dropping a player until the injured players return.

If Greinke never got hurt, I wouldn’t have scoured the waiver wire to find Griffin. Perhaps I should though, which brings me to my second point:

The most active waiver wire owners win

This is not to say panic now and pick up the hot hand and everything will be fine. But if you know the true potential of each free agent, compared to that of the players on your roster, do not be afraid to upgrade, even if doing so is essentially an admission of a poor draft day choice.

The team that won my “hometown” league last year dropped Mitch Moreland on April 16. Wait, you just said, don’t make silly moves, and Moreland had a decent year last year. True, but the owner dropped Moreland for….wait for it….Mike Trout.

And Trout was available because only days earlier another owner cut him to pick up…..wait for it…..Kyle Drabek. Drabek, by the way, pitched that owner to a 7th place finish.

Obviously you are going to make mistakes along the way by being aggressive and there are panicky owners in every one of our leagues. But if you constantly churn at the waiver wire, at the end of the season, more of your decisions will pan out than don’t. You’re building depth on your roster. I grabbed Jed Lowrie the other day and I don’t have a spot for him on my active linuep – yet. But someone will get hurt; I may trade a middle infielder; someone will inevitably slump.

Last season in that same league, owners picked up Carlos Ruiz, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Ludwick, Dillon Gee and Barry Zito in April. Again, not MVP players, but helpful in building a deeper, championship roster.

There’s a Tom Wilhelmsen or Josh Reddick out there for the taking. If you had the guy who tossed a gem last night, you can kick the Greinke owner while he’s down. Otherwise, you’ll be asking him for a starter in July – he’ll be loaded.

Photo via