Remember investing in the fantasy prospects of Chase Utley, Justin Morneau, Kendry Morales, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Reyes last year? How did that turn out? I know, I know, it was not good. Injuries derailed potential fantasy studs on draft day to a season of fantasy frustration for their owners.
Injuries are tough to predict. Sure, some players give off red flags like Reyes did last spring, but they can also fell previously reliable studs like Utley, who had only missed a handful of games in 2008 and 2009.
Well, we might not be able to predict injuries, but at a minimum we should assess the current status of who was injured last year, to see if a rebound is likely this season. Players coming off injury will generally make fantasy owners question whether they should stay away or not, which could result in us finding a great buy low candidate, assuming we read the tea leaves correct, and they don’t get injured again in 2011, of course.
Here is a look at some key hitters who lost time to injury last season.
Carlos Beltran battled knee injuries each of the last two seasons. He missed the first half of 2010 due to off-season knee surgery, returned to the active roster but then went out in September with more knee issues. Playing center field at age 33 is perhaps not a recipe for keeping Beltran on the field.
Manager Terry Collins has indicated Beltran is their starting center fielder, but really the New York Mets will be testing to see who has more range between him and Angel Pagan, with the lesser of the two manning right field. By all accounts, Beltran is healthy and in a contract season. Those two points alone, and his extremely low average draft position, make him a good draft day target. If he ends up playing right field, then all the better.
Jimmy Rollins suffered calf and quad injuries that kept recurring which saw him in and out of the lineup last season. Talk about fantasy frustration. He is in a similar situation as Beltran, in that he’s healthy again and entering a contract year for the National League favored Philadelphia Phillies. If you miss out on one of the top SS, put Rollins on your short list.
Grady Sizemore was a 30-30 man in 2008 but suffered a rash of injuries that seriously hampered his 2009 and 2010 seasons. If he slides in your draft, jump on him because he’s a stud when healthy. The knee injury may have sapped his speed and the stolen bases might not return in big numbers like the past, but more than a dozen is still likely. Sizemore should give Cleveland Indian fans something to cheer about, and fantasy owners who have some faith in him with be rewarded with a strong season.
Derrek Lee has fallen out of favor with fantasy players. He’s not much of a base stealing threat any more, but he still has power. Lee is healthy again after off-season surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, something that bothered him through 2010. He is determined to prove that he hasn’t lost it and he could pay off fantasy-wise as he found a nice fit in the Baltimore Orioles lineup.
Good to Go
Jose Reyes is back after dealing with an oblique injury in 2010. The injury didn’t affect his base running directly, but the injury affected his ability to get on base which lowered his stolen base totals. Word out of New York says he is healthy, and he is also in a contract season (a recurring theme for the Mets). Watch him in spring training to make sure he is back to his old self before investing.
Ryan Howard’s ankle sprain did little to his game after he returned from two weeks off in August. Howard’s game isn’t speed and he was still able to swing the bat just fine last fall. Look for more of the same this season.
Chase Utley had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb last July. After nearly two months out, Utley returned with limited power and a batting average that suffered. He’s had the winter to rest and rehabilitate the thumb and he should be back to his old ways again in 2011. He likely won’t fall too far in your draft, so a bargain isn’t likely, but bid with confidence in the same guy who averaged 29 homers and 101 RBI a season from 2005-2009.
Dustin Pedroia returned from his foot injury for just two games before re-injuring it in August after getting hit in the foot with a pitch. Pedroia looks healthy and should be back to his old self for spring 2011. He will probably slide a bit in your draft, so a small bargain might be had here. He should still be drafted amongst the top second basemen for fantasy. The Boston Red Sox added some impressive bats to their lineup in the off-season which should help Pedroia increase his runs and RBI.
Ian Kinsler is yet another top performing 2B who found significant time on the disabled list in 2010. Kinsler missed 55 games with ankle and groin sprains. Like Utley, he shouldn’t go much later in your draft than usual, but you can count on him for his usual production.
Brian Roberts has built a strong reputation that fantasy players will remember on draft day, even as his production declines. He missed a lot of time in 2010 rehabbing back injuries. He’s still a good fantasy producer, but he now falls into a very large group of players who will give you similar numbers at a cheaper price. Unless he falls in your draft, don’t spend a lot on him.
Kurt Suzuki is a steady producer when healthy. Unfortunately, he missed three weeks last season and didn’t get 500 at-bats for the first time since his rookie year. Suzuki doesn’t put up huge numbers, but because he normally gets a lot of at-bats, the stats pile up for him more than most catchers. Assuming he can stay healthy, he should reward you.
High Risk, High Reward
Troy Tulowitzki spent an extended stay on the DL two of the last three years and there are serious concerns about his durability. When he plays, he’s the second best shortstop in fantasy baseball. But it’s hard to get stats for your squad when you’re not on the field. If you draft Tulo, make sure you have an adequate backup ready to slide into place should you need it.
Texas’ Josh Hamilton has all the tools to be a superstar in baseball. Check the 2008 All-Star Game for a display of his power. The problem: he just can’t stay healthy. His 2009 and 2010 seasons were slowed by back and rib injuries and he is always a hangnail away from the disabled list. Don’t spend too much on him on draft day, but the 2010 A.L. MVP is always capable of rewarding his owner with some huge numbers.
Justin Morneau suffered a concussion in early July that ended his 2010 season. He is still young enough to come back as a fantasy force, but the Twins have been extremely cautious with this particular injury. Watch him closely in spring training before investing in your draft.
Like Morneau, Jason Bay’s 2010 season ended after a July concussion caused from running into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium. Early reports are very positive, so look for Bay to come back at full strength, and hopefully return closer to his total of 36 homers from 2009, rather than the 6 he managed in 2010.
Kendry Morales lost four months of the season after he fractured his leg in the celebration following a walk-off grand slam. Since a power hitter like Morales derives his power from his legs, he is likely to have a few problems in 2011. At this point it isn’t even certain he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Temper your expectations a bit. If he’s in your keeper league, grab him with the intention of a big 2012 season.
Chipper Jones is a walking injury these days. He has only amassed 500 at-bats once in the last seven seasons. He will start the season off under the dark cloud of the knee surgery that ended his 2010 season in August. He should find around 500 at-bats this season, but beware, this isn’t the Chipper of old any longer, this is just old Chipper who will hit for about .275 with modest power and a high OBP. Jones is 38 and considered retirement last season, so his Major League playing days are numbered.