Following up our injured pitchers analysis, here is a recap of hitters coming off injury in 2009, and whether they are worth the risk fantasy-wise or not for the 2010 season.
We’re giving the Green Light to players not expected to be negatively impacted by their most recent injury woes. There are some big names in the High Risk, High Reward category but they have some injury risk you need to be aware of.
Tread Carefully is akin to saying, let someone else take the leap of faith, and Not With A Ten Foot Pool should be pretty self-explanatory.
Kyle Blanks, Padres—Blanks’ foot injury should be a non-factor in 2010. He’ll have to move out to left field to get playing time, but the pop in his bat makes him worth a draft pick. You’ll likely get him in the mid to late rounds and is a great guy to stash on your bench and watch him flourish.
Jeff Francoeur, Mets—Francoeur might be ready to break out. His thumb looks good and he’s now playing for the Mets and out of his hometown’s spotlight. If he can lay off the breaking balls and the outside pitches, he could be special this season. Wait until the middle rounds and see if he can give you the numbers we all expected from him a few years ago.
Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks—Jackson is a great comeback candidate. He seems to be over the valley fever that destroyed his 2009 season and should be back in 15 homer and 85 RBI territory. Draft him in the middle rounds and enjoy the ride.
Grady Sizemore, Indians—Sizemore was a 30-30 man in 2008 but suffered a rash of injuries that seriously hampered his 2009 season. If he slides at all in your draft, jump on him because he’s a stud. He will reward you with a strong 2010 season.
Jose Guillen, Royals—Guillen will become Kansas City’s full time DH this season, which will help to keep him healthy without the everyday wear and tear in the outfield. The hamstring injury looks to be fine so don’t shy away from him.
Nyjer Morgan, Nationals—Morgan won’t be too affected by his wrist injury. Since his game is based on his legs, the wrist will be little more than an annoyance in 2010, even though it has been proclaimed to be at 100%. He’s a great source of steals and runs, but little else past a decent average.
Carlos Pena, Rays—Pena missed last September because of two broken fingers. He was healthy enough to take batting practice in the Dominican Republic in January, so draft with confidence and expect more of his usual ‘swing hard in case you hit it’ routine.
Ryan Sweeney, Athletics—Sweeney might finally be ready to show what he’s got. His 2009 was marred by sore knees, but he finished strong, posting a .360 average with 19 runs and 16 RBI in September. Despite playing in a very crowded Oakland outfield, he will likely approach 500 AB. Buy Sweeney late in your draft and see what he can do for your squad.
High Risk, High Reward
Troy Glaus, Braves—Atlanta landed a new first baseman in Glaus and hope he can regain his old form. Unfortunately, he is an injury waiting to happen. Shoulder problems caused him to miss most of 2009. If he can put up 500 AB, he’ll reward you with 25+ homers and 80+ RBI, but make sure you have an adequate backup on your bench.
Josh Hamilton, Rangers—Hamilton has all the tools (see his 2008 All-Star Game display of power) to be a superstar in baseball, but he just can’t stay healthy. His 2009 season was slowed by a back injury and he is always a hangnail away from the disabled list. Don’t spend too much on him on draft day, but he is capable of rewarding his owner with some huge numbers.
Matt LaPorta, Indians—LaPorta is expected to be Cleveland’s starting first baseman, but toe and hip injuries may slow the beginning of the season. He may not be ready to go in April, but he’ll be there and will recover to have a good season. If he gets off to a slow start, offer to take him off his owner’s hands and reap the benefits. An added bonus is that he qualifies at OF from his 2009 play.
Mike Lowell, Red Sox—Lowell has always been good with the lumber, he’s just been awfully bad at staying away from the injury bug. The thumb injury that limited him to 445 AB in 2009 will likely reduce his 2010 season as well. If/when he gets healthy, look for his usual numbers to resume, but just temper your expectations as to how many AB he’ll get this season.
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays—A wrist injury slowed him during the 2009 season, despite going up to bat 630 times last year. He batted poorly with little power, all of which can be attributed to his ailing wrist. Can he recover the magic that led him to average 29 HR per season from 2003-2006? He can if he is over the injury and he can stay healthy or the whole season. Two big “ifs”, but he’ll be a great bargain if he does.
Justin Morneau, Twins—Morneau suffered wrist and back injuries that ended his 2009 season early. He is still young enough to come back as a fantasy force, but be ready to dump him if the power doesn’t seem to materialize in April. If the wrist isn’t healthy, he could be in for a long season, like Wells was last year.
Albert Pujols, Cardinals—Pujols’ elbow woes aren’t going away. The injury popped up during the winter before the 2009 season and Phat Albert did just fine. There is concern that he needs elbow ligament replacement surgery and he will always be a risk until he finally goes under the knife. He will miss half a season after surgery, so you hope he’s not on your team when he finally gets the procedure done. But he’s well worth the risk until it finally happens.
Jose Reyes, Mets—Reyes is back and ready to run for the Mets, but a guy who relies on speed better have healthy legs and he is recovering from that problem. He still has a little pop in his bat, but his days as a 60+ steal guy are probably over.
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs—Soriano is the definition of high risk, high return. He has a reputation of being a power-speed guy who leads you to a fantasy championship. But he also has a reputation as a major injury risk. He will likely command a high draft pick to acquire him, and could give you a heck of a season. Or he could give you squat. I’d let someone else take the risk while settling on a safer bet with a high round pick.
Rickie Weeks, Brewers—Weeks may not fit into the high risk category because his reputation is becoming one of a bust and a full time DL’er, so he probably won’t cost you a bunch on draft day. But if he ever figures it out, he could finally put all that potential together into a huge season. His wrist is supposedly better, but using anything more than a mid-to-late round pick on him is a risk to your team.
Carlos Beltran, Mets—Beltran will miss at least the first month of the season while recovering from knee surgery. He is unhappy with the Mets right now and it wouldn’t be surprising if he doesn’t give his all on the field this season when he is out there. This guy would fall into the “Not With A Ten Foot Pole” category if he didn’t have so much talent.
Coco Crisp, Athletics—Oakland acquired Crisp with the intention of getting a solid leadoff hitter. He had surgery on both shoulders last summer and should be healthy, but is in a very crowded outfield. He probably won’t post 400 AB, but will likely get more than 20 steals and should be available late in your draft.
Mark DeRosa, Giants—DeRosa is the poster boy for, “let someone else waste their draft pick him”. His wrist injury isn’t fully healed yet, he’ll be 35 before the season begins and his position is uncertain with the Giants. Yes he qualifies at 3B and OF (and 1B in some leagues), but he’s not worth the risk.
Raul Ibanez, Phillies—Did Ibanez benefit from going to a hitters park in 2009? How else to explain how a 37-year old has a career high in home runs (unless you think he visited Barry Bonds’ chemist)? Even though he had surgery to repair his sports hernia, he is still unlikely to have the same power surge he enjoyed in 2009.
Brandon Inge, Tigers—Inge will continue as Detroit’s starting third baseman, but his power numbers don’t have a lot of punch to them without much of a batting average or on base percentage to back them up. If your league doesn’t use these averages, then Inge is a decent option, but stay away in all roto formats.
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs—Ramirez should be over his shoulder injury in 2010, but he seems to be getting past his prime. He’s still going to put up nice numbers as the Cubs third baseman, but the days of 30 homers and 100 RBI seem to be long gone.
Marco Scutaro, Red Sox—Boston’s newest answer to their glaring hole at shortstop is Scutaro. He finished 2009 with a plantar fascia injury, the kind of thing that recurs often. Even if he is over the heel injury, he has never produced at a high enough level to make one think that 2009 was anything but a mirage. To have career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, runs, homers and steals is unusual and would be a surprise to see him come anywhere close to those numbers again.
Not With A Ten Foot Pole
Ronny Cedeno, Pirates—Cedeno should be okay with the hamstring, but is this the guy you really want at shortstop? The Pirates may be foolish enough to start him, but hopefully you are not. He has decent numbers and makes a good backup for an elite performer, but don’t count on much more than ten homers and a .250 average.
Eric Chavez, Athletics—The best of Oakland’s Eric Chavez’ career is behind him. He’s now relegated to the bad side of a first base platoon and an occasional DH gig. His back looks good for 2010, but don’t expect anything of quality from this once formidable hitter.
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays—Everyone knows that children should not play with fireworks, but someone forgot to let Encarnacion know that before he almost blew his face off. The injuries incurred from the poor judgment on New Year’s will not have any lingering effects, but the wrist injury likely will. He’ll be Toronto’s starting 3B, but will find an outage in his power supply as these wrist injuries often do. Let someone else waste their auction dollars here.
Ken Griffey, Jr., Marines—Griffey made a reunion tour with Seattle last year with the intent of playing right field. But the 40-year old couldn’t handle the rigors and found himself locked into the DH role, where he will be again this season. The knee injury seems to be okay, but don’t look for much other than a dozen homers and maybe 50 RBI. Otherwise, he’ll be a liability to his Major League team and your fantasy team.
Brendan Ryan, Cardinals—Ryan is the same as Ronny Cedeno, except he has less pop and a better batting average. He’s not worth your while, even when his wrist finally heals.
Scott Sizemore, Tigers—It looks like Sizemore is over the broken ankle he sustained in the Arizona Fall League and that he’ll be installed as Detroit’s starting second baseman. But don’t get caught up in the hype. He’s being thrown into a sink-or-swim situation and most players of his age and ability sink, even the ones not coming off a serious ankle injury. Stay away.
Jack Wilson, Mariners—Griffey’s teammate Wilson is not someone you draft for his bat. He’s a capable fantasy backup, but not much more than that, even with a healthy heel.