Good luck going through an entire draft without hearing the following statement ... "Wait, he's hurt? Is it bad?" Those two sentences usually follow two occurrences ... 1. The selection of a player who is limping coming out of spring training, and 2. Chuckles and exasperations from the other drafters in the room.
With just over one week to go until the start of the season (hip, hip, hooray!) there are still some relatively big names dealing with setbacks. In nearly all cases, the limping players' current ADP mark is not a true reflection of their current value. Remember, we're dealing with well over 400 drafts for our numbers. Even a big move in 20 of them will not alter things too much.
Furthermore, it's a systematic truism that fantasy owners and drafters are much too optimistic when it comes to injuries. They buy what the team is telling them. They buy 'the best case scenario.' They buy that the hitter or pitcher can come back and immediately be in tip-top shape. That's just not how it works. Instead, teams don't tell you the entire truth, 'best case scenario's' have a 20% chance of happening, and coming back from a month away rarely leads to immediate success.
It is totally fine to draft an injured player or two, but everything must be done in moderation. If you already have the constantly banged-up Yoenis Cespedes, you cannot also have guys like A.J. Pollock, Lorenzo Cain, or Dexter Fowler, taking up roster space. Soon enough, you'll have nothing more than an All-Star level team of DL'd players.
Below is a pre-draft run-down of where we stand with current injuries, where you should be targeting a wincing player, plus a realistic look at what the player will be when he's back on the diamond.
(Reminder: Each player is followed by his current NFBC ADP marks. The other two numbers next to a player's name are the highest the player has been selected in an NFBC draft and then the lowest that a player has been selected in an NFBC draft. Entering the final week of February, the NFBC numbers come from a collection of more than 430 drafts.)
Justin Turner (ADP #80, 48/121) - Broken wrist
Turner's injury isn't a matter of age. It isn't a matter of a body breaking down. And, it isn't a follow-up to the balky hamstring that sidelined him for a time last year. It's just bad luck. A too-tight Kendall Graveman pitch caused the damage and Turner is expected to miss all of April and a portion of May.
The broken bone is non-displaced which is a positive. But, the wrist is a tricky species with all of its various bones, hinges, and mechanics. Plus, Turner is 33 ... the body naturally heals a bit slower.
This marks another run of missed games for the third baseman. He's not even reached an average of 130 games in his four seasons with the Dodgers. This wrist injury will ensure that he falls under that mark, yet again.
We know that he can hit. He has a 'plus' hard-hit mark, hits a lot of fly balls, and has shown an improving, more discriminating eye. I think there will be some rust when coming back from this particular injury. Be patient ... a slow first half should pick up in the second half. At the same time, I could see him with another DL stint or two. I think getting 110 games from him could be a battle. In a league where I can stick him in a DL spot for a month-plus, I'd take a stab around 120 ... that's a solid three-to-four round discount.
Daniel Murphy (ADP #73, 42/176) - Knee surgery
Seeing Murphy's ADP has me wondering if anyone is even following baseball anymore. Murphy has literally done NOTHING since undergoing micro-fracture knee surgery following last season. Just like Turner, Murphy is an aging (he turns 33 in a week), upper-end hitter (an OPS+ standing over 140 in two seasons with Washington). But, unlike Turner, Murphy's injury is a not a 'heal-and-go' situation. This is a severe surgery and usually does not cure the pain or limitation. It only should improve it.
I'm shocked that fantasy players are still interested in Murphy inside the top-75. It makes absolutely no sense. In the National League, he is unable to hide at the DH spot. Playing anywhere in the field (except for 1B) forces your knees to do a lot of work. Lateral movement is a big concern right now with Murphy. You may see him in the lineup at some point in April, but I really think it will be an 80% version of Murphy.
And the sooner he's back, the sooner the wear-down begins. I feel confident that Murphy will struggle to handle 100 games and struggle to find an OPS over .850 (he's been over .920 in each of the past two years). My recommendation is that you just let him be someone else's problem.
Zack Greinke (ADP #45, 27/111) - Groin/'Dead-arm'
Taken at face value, Greinke's minor groin strain doesn't appear to be a long-term concern. It will cause him to miss the Opening Day call for Arizona, but the team thinks he might have a chance at still making a start in week one of the season.
Greinke has been a picture of health throughout his career, but (are you noticing a trend here??) he's on the back-end of that career. He's nearing 35 and is getting buy on spotting and throwing off the balance and timing of hitters. It's all impressive, but it leaves little room for error. He has to be sharp and 'on his game' every time out.
Beyond the immediate issue of the groin, Greinke has expressed personal concerns about the lack of life on his fastball this spring. It was termed 'dead-arm' earlier this month, but now with the time away because of the groin, will the 'dead-arm' find a chance to become 'live' again?
For fantasy purposes, the veteran is being selected as an SP2. He fits much better as an SP3. That means you can drop him into the 90-110 range, alongside other SPs like Masahiro Tanaka (ADP #96, 58/194), Jake Arrieta (ADP #99, 62/171), and Jose Berrios (ADP #102, 63/228). It's a significant and warranted 5-round discount.
Drew Pomeranz (ADP #183, 99/285) - Forearm
I had very little interest in this 17-game winner coming into to camp. It was next-to-nil after he left a spring start early on March 2 with a tight forearm. We're told that the MRI came back negative, but we've yet to see the lefty in an exhibition game since. The Red Sox want him to make an appearance in the next week, but his availability is in question.
Pomeranz is a two-pitch hurler. He has a plus-curveball that has to be set up by an effective fastball. Last September his fastball lost 2 mph. Let me just say it here ... that dip and his current injury are related. Boston isn't saying that. Pomeranz isn't saying that. But, I am.
I do expect him to try and pitch through this. Heck, the payroll-heavy Sox somehow built a team that has no pitching depth ... he has to try and pitch! But, I would be quite surprised if Pomeranz makes even 20 starts this year. I'd slot his ADP more into the 250s. Believe me, some sucker will go after him before that.
Felix Hernandez (ADP #273, 149/441) - Forearm
Supposedly, the King's injury occurred on a comebacker early in spring camp. Really?! A 'bruise' has kept him from pitching for a month? Color me skeptical.
I love Felix. He's a near-certain Hall of Famer. But, I think he's due a significant stint on the DL. Again, he'll likely pitch in April, but when I consider the entirety of the season, I just don't think the numbers are there. We saw a wearing-down throughout '17 and that will continue - health or not - in '18. The former-royalty is little more than back-end roster dart throw, right now.
Mark Trumbo (ADP #256, 169/372) - Quad
If this slugger falls in your draft, go ahead and catch him. The current injury could possibly stretch into May, but that's not being considered, as of now. Even if the muscle takes longer than expected, Trumbo's ability to make use of his skill set will be unchanged. He's a full-time slugger ... that's it. He hits baseballs over the wall (to the tune of over 200 in less than 1,000 MLB games). He's cheap power. If you pass on the big-time crushers early, Trumbo makes for an excellent value pick once he slides into the 300s.
Zach Britton (ADP #289, 94/449) - Achilles
We all know that when Britton is on the hill he's usually a powerhouse of saves and ratio's. He seemed to never be fully healthy last season (forearm and knee issues) and struggled to find the strike zone when he was on the hump (falling whiffs and rising walks throughout the year).
This particular injury occurred in the offseason and its timing means that we know Britton won't be on the hill for the O's in either April or May. Even if he's back on a big league mound by June, you have to wonder if he returns to the closer gig. By then Baltimore will likely have sifted through their other possibilities (Brad Brach, Mychel Givens, Darren O'Day, etc.). I'm not confident enough in the saves stash to make it. Holding on to a set-up guy for three months shouldn't be in the game plan.
Michael Conforto (ADP #198, 59/314) - Shoulder
How many of you have been burned by the Mets and their ignorance of injuries? You? Oh, and you over there? Oh, wow, you, too? Wait, wait ... everyone! Slow down! There are too many hands being raised! I can't keep track of everyone.
Usually, of course, the injuries are in the Mets' rotation ... well, them and Cespedes. Conforto ripped his shoulder up on a swing last year. Not a slide. Not a dive. A swing. Something seemingly normal for a ballplayer. His road back has been full of minor accomplishments ... dry swings, tee swings, soft toss swings, BP swings, his first minor league game cuts, etc. He will be back and folks will get excited. But, figuring shoulder injuries for hitters proves quite challenging. Many of them struggle with power for months after their return.
I understand the attraction to this All-Star. He's been good in the early portion of his MLB career and he's considered a centerpiece of any New York return to glory in the NL. But, top-200 is a hefty price to pay for a guy who is hoping for 120 games this year. Think of it this way ... he played 109 last year and popped 27 HRs. But, that was the ONLY category in a 5x5 that moved the needle. He didn't hit .280. He didn't drive in 70. He didn't score 75 times. He didn't steal even five bases. Of late, he's been making rapid progress and seems to be a month ahead of schedule. I'd rather he take his time and get fully healthy ... considering the injury and considering how wrong the Mets' medical staff has been over the years.
Mallex Smith (ADP #316, 144, 477) - Hamstring
Tampa's speedster is everyone's late-round speed gem. So, when you've been dealing with a bum hamstring throughout the spring, it's issue. The hamstring should eventually come around and heal, but Smith's opportunity to win a job might not. At the start of camp, he could have earned his way into an everyday gig. Now, he's back to being a 4th outfielder. That won't eliminate him from the possibility of 20 steals, but you're going to have to wait for it. It may take until mid-summer to get the gift that Smith can provide.
History shows that many fantasy players draft in March with the plan to hold, but those plans get trashed by mid-April. If Smith isn't playing or hitting, you really think you're going to keep him on your roster instead of going after the 3-0 SP, the guy who just took over the 9th inning, or the hitter who suddenly leveraged his swing into eight homeruns in the first 25 games??? Of course, not. Smith will probably earn money this year ... eventually. I could stomach the #316 if I had deep rosters in that particular league (at least 30 rounds). If not, Smith sounds good on draft day, but I just feel you'll be moving on from him by May 1. Mid-season? He should be a certain target.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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