As usual, many pitchers finished the 2009 season with injuries. Injuries, particularly with pitchers, make fantasy owners question whether they should avoid the player at all costs or whether he represents a good buy low candidate.
Here is a recap of pitchers coming off injury, 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.
Tim Hudson, Braves—Hudson had elbow surgery, but returned at the end of 2009 to make seven starts, going 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Both of those ratios are higher than his career norms, but a full spring training should have him back in good form. He’ll miss a few starts as the Braves try to preserve him a little, but 30 outings is very realistic along with a dozen or so wins.
Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays—Marcum looks healthy following elbow surgery. He is expected to be the number one starter in the Toronto rotation. The Jays would be wise to hold Marcum back on a few cold days in April to preserve that elbow for the long haul, but close to 30 starts and a dozen wins are likely.
Jake Westbrook, Indians—Westbrook is another pitcher recovering from elbow surgery and will likely be the workhorse in the Indians rotation. He is quite possibly trade bait for the trade deadline, so look for Cleveland to try to showcase him as much as possible. Since the surgery was done in March of 2008, the elbow should hold up well.
Kevin Slowey, Twins—Slowey had wrist surgery in August and is a great draft day value pick. He is likely to fall to the middle rounds, but is a quality pitcher who should be at full health for the beginning of the season for the Minnesota Twins. A dozen or so wins are expected and he could do better than that.
Cliff Lee, Mariners—Lee will miss the beginning of spring training after requiring surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle. The injury could force him to miss a few starts at the beginning of his season with Seattle, but he should be just fine. Look for big numbers in a contract season while pitching in a pitchers park. Talk up his surgery at your draft then swoop in and get him.
Johan Santana, Mets—Santana had elbow surgery in September, but looks healthy. Unless you hear otherwise, expect the same guy who averaged 16+ wins and a sub-3.00 ERA over the last six seasons.
Aaron Harang, Reds—Harang is a candidate for a big comeback. He was a real workhorse for the Reds 2005-2007 then had two poor seasons and finished 2009 with an emergency appendectomy. The extra time off can only benefit Harang, and another 15 win season is possible.
Roy Oswalt, Astros—Oswalt’s back problems don’t seem to be much of a concern in Houston. He probably will slip a little bit in your draft, meaning a nice value if you can capitalize. Don’t be afraid of continued problems with the injury.
Jeff Francis, Rockies—Francis missed all of 2009 after shoulder surgery, but is well on his way to a full recovery. Assuming no setbacks, he should provide a nice source of wins and 100+ Ks. Grab him late in your draft and enjoy the ride.
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks—All you need to know about Webb regaining his dominant form is that this is a contract year. Webb was one of the best pitchers in the game from 2006-2008, but had his 2009 season cut short after pitching 4 innings on opening day before sustaining a shoulder injury. He’ll be back at full force, so bid with confidence.
High Risk, High Reward
Ben Sheets, Athletics—Sheets signed with Oakland with the obvious intent of showcasing his stuff in a cavernous pitchers park. Both parties know the intention is to trade Sheets to a contender at the trade deadline where the Athletics can pick up some young talent and then Sheets is guaranteed to be playing for a contender at the end of the season. Everybody wins, right?
Well, only if the big righty can stay healthy, which is a big if. Sheets missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery and has only started more than 25 games in a season in four of the nine years he’s been in the Majors. He’s a high risk, high reward kind of guy. He’ll be good when he’s out there, but don’t expect more than 25 starts in 2010.
Rich Harden, Rangers—Harden is a high risk, high reward guy who has battled injuries to his elbow and shoulder throughout his career. He’s a stud when he is able to take the mound at full health, but a dud when the injuries set in. If he falls to you in the late-middle rounds, grab him, but only do so when you know you can afford to take the risk.
Dallas Braden and Justin Duchscherer, Athletics—Braden (foot injury) and Duchcherer (elbow surgery) are trying to recover from injuries that will likely cause them to miss a number of starts in 2010. When able, Braden and Duchscherer will post good ratios, but only expect about 25 starts from Braden and less than 20 from Duchscherer.
Tim Wakefield, Red Sox—Boston’s ageless knuckleballer is coming back from off-season surgery on a herniated disc. This type of injury presents a problem when the player in question is 44 years old. Though the knuckler doesn’t take as much of a toll on the arm as most other pitches, Wakefield isn’t a spring chick any longer and Boston is trying to give the fifth rotation slot to Clay Buchholz. Stay away from Wakefield except in the deepest of leagues.
Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers—Reports out of Detroit are that Bonderman’s shoulder might finally be healed. The Detroit righty has had three straight years of injuries and ineffectiveness. If he can regain that arm strength and effectiveness, he might be a force again. But don’t count those chickens before they are hatched as he has been ineffective in years when no apparent injury was present. Grab him late in the draft or be prepared to pull him off the waiver wire if you see signs of early life but don’t use a pick of any value on him as he’s still a big question mark.
Gil Meche and Brian Bannister, Royals—Kansas City starters Meche and Bannister cannot be counted on for a lot in 2010. They are both dealing with shoulder woes that may hinder them for much of the season. Look for a couple dozen starts each, but they cannot be counted on for many quality outings.
Erik Bedard, Mariners—Lee’s new teammate in Seattle, Bedard, will miss at least the first two months of the season following shoulder surgery. Bedard has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, so tread carefully. He has nice value if you can get him late in your draft, but don’t pounce too early because Bedard has a habit of disappointing.
Oliver Perez, Fernando Nieve and Jonathan Niese, Mets—Beyond Santana, other Mets starters are also attempting to come back from injuries, but will have a remarkably different result. Perez (knee), Nieve (quadriceps) and Niese (hamstring) will all battle it out for the last two rotation spots, which will likely go to Perez and Nieve. But don’t expect anything that resembles quality innings from these three as they all might be shuffled in and out of the rotation all season.
Rich Hill, Cardinals—St. Louis just signed Hill to a free agent contract, despite the lefty coming off of shoulder surgery. Since pitching coach Dave Duncan has a good track record, Hill is likely to return with some decent outings, but expect less than 20 starts as he should be brought along slowly and carefully.
Manny Parra, Brewers—Parra’s shoulder shouldn’t be a big concern, but he just won’t live up to expectations in Milwaukee. Expect 100+ Ks again, but the ERA and WHIP probably aren’t worth the roster spot.
Ted Lilly, Cubs—Lilly is unsure when his shoulder will allow him to return. Lilly has quietly been consistent and effective, winning ten or more games and averaging 13+ wins in each of the last seven seasons. But don’t look for that to continue as 20 starts might be generous and eight wins a best case scenario.
Barry Zito, Giants—Zito left his last start of 2009 after taking a liner off his elbow. His elbow is alright, but this guy hasn’t done much good since he arrived in San Francisco other than taking the ball every fifth day. He’ll win 10-11 games, strikeout about 125, but can you stomach his ERA and WHIP?
Chris Young, Padres—Young is coming back from rotator cuff surgery and could be a nice source of stats if you can deal with him missing about a third of the season as the Padres won’t push him too hard during a campaign in which they aren’t going to compete.
Not With A Ten Foot Pole
Jamie Moyer, Phillies—Moyer is coming back from a knee injury and a sports hernia. Coming back from multiple injuries at age 47 doesn’t bode well, especially when the team is trying to replace you. This guy isn’t worth a roster spot in Philly or on your team.
Scott Olsen, Nationals—Olsen is recovering from a recurring shoulder injury and plays for the Washington Nationals. Stay away.
Kevin Hart, Pirates—Regardless of the status of Hart’s rib cage injury, pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates drops his fantasy value to next to nothing.