Not surprisingly, because it happens every year, many baseball players finished the 2010 season with injuries. 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.
We already looked at the status of key hitters coming off injury. Here is a look at some pitchers who lost time to injury last season and what we should expect for 2011.
Brandon Webb was one of the best pitchers in the game from 2006-2008, but had his 2009 season cut short after pitching four innings on Opening Day, sustaining a shoulder injury. Webb never saw the field in 2010. His target is to be on the Texas Rangers’ active roster for Opening Day this season, but the team is being cautious with him and that may not be realistic.
Regardless, assuming he is healthy and starting again before long, pitching in the American League in Texas is always a risk to your ratios. A late round pick could be rewarded with early-to-mid round performance considering Webb’s talent if he can recapture his old form.
Joe Nathan was considered an elite closer going into 2010 before he blew out his elbow during Spring Training last March. Nathan looks good to go this spring and should resume where he left off for the Minnesota Twins. He is likely to slide in your draft, so pounce when the time is right on a bargain top closer.
High Risk, High Reward
Florida Marlins’ Josh Johnson was shut down for the season in early September with back and shoulder problems. The back is a small reason for concern, but the shoulder is a major one. Johnson is one of baseball’s elite pitchers when health permits. Johnson indicated in early February that he, “feels great” physically, but one or both of these injuries may linger into this season. Considering that it will probably take a relatively high pick to land Johnson, let someone take on the downside risk and go with a more sure thing.
New York Mets’ Johan Santana had elbow surgery in September 2009 and shoulder surgery in September 2010. Santana was baseball’s best pitcher from 2004-06, but those days are behind him. Elbow injuries are not so worrisome these days, but shoulder problems are hard to shake and tend to spell the beginning of the end of careers. He will not pitch until June at the earliest. Let him take up room on someone else’s roster in 2011.
Josh Beckett had a very untypically poor 2010 season for the Boston Red Sox. He suffered a lower back injury and when he returned, he lived somewhere between awful and worse. Although many consider his down year a one-off and expect a big bounce back, I recently decided to take a more conservative approach by reducing my original projections for him. He is still worth a mid-round pick as he will be solid at the worst on the powerful BoSox, but Beckett’s best days may be behind him.
Jake Peavy didn’t pitch after July because of a shoulder injury that required surgery in September. Like Santana, Peavy’s shoulder woes are reason for concern, especially after only 33 starts in the last two seasons. Even though he’s ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, the White Sox have no timetable for his return. The White Sox were looking at Chris Sale as a possible starter until Peavy is healthy enough to return to the rotation, but the hope is Peavy is healthy with Sale slated for the bullpen. Peavy is worth a flier at the end of your draft, but don’t invest anything serious here. He could be dead weight on your roster for some time.
David Aardsma did a great job closing games for the Seattle Mariners during the last two seasons. Unfortunately, they didn’t give him a lot of save opportunities last year and likely won’t again this year. On the injury front, Aardsma had hip surgery in December and is still on crutches to help him get around.
He isn’t going to do much through Spring Training and is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. His hip injury is something that might linger, or there could be some rust just getting back into shape even if the rehab goes well. He might be a good late round source for saves, but you’ll need to be patient to see any production, and be ready to cut bait if Aardsma can’t shake the injury.
Erik Bedard should be ready to start the season following shoulder surgery. He threw his first bullpen session of the year a week ago and reported no issues. Bedard has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, so tread carefully. When healthy, Bedard is very good, but those days seem few and far between as Mariners fans know all too well. He has nice value if you can get him late in your draft, but it is still a risky pick because Bedard has a habit of coming up lame and disappointing.
Rich Harden was injured again last season. That line has been used almost every year of Harden’s eight year MLB career. He’s only started more than 26 games in a season once and the safe bet is that he never will again. No one doubts that Harden has elite talent when healthy, but those days are rarely seen and a dinged up Harden is not quite like the real thing. Harden is returning for a third stint with the Oakland Athletics. Spend a late round pick on him, but don’t invest anything significant. Also, if your league doesn’t have a DL slot on your roster, just avoid Harden all together.
Chris Young is somewhat of a reclamation project for the New York Mets. After battling injuries for the past three seasons, including shoulder problems most recently, he looks like a low-risk bet for the Mets and maybe for your fantasy squad. If he remains healthy and comes even close to his career ratios of 3.80 ERA, and 1.21 WHIP, he would be a steal. The big question is whether he can return to pre-injury form.
Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype by striking out 14 batters in his MLB debut. He went on to strike out 41 batters in his first four starts and the legend was being written. Then tragedy struck with an elbow injury that required elbow ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery that ended his 2010 season. He isn’t due back until late this season at the earliest. The Washington Nationals have a 12 to 18 month timetable on his rehabilitation, and expect them to take it easy on him once he does return. Expect nothing from Strasburg in 2011, but look for a great bounce back in 2012.
Chien-Ming Wang missed all of the 2010 season with an injured right shoulder. The Nationals would like nothing more than for Wang to return to the form that saw him post back-to-back 19-win seasons for the New York Yankees in 2006-07. The encouraging news is that Wang pitched in the Instructional League without any problems, but remember this is a pitcher on the wrong side of 30 that has shoulder problems. He’s worth a late flier, but nothing more.