Opening Day of the 2013 MLB season is right around the corner, but there are quite a few players who won’t be available to help your fantasy team from the outset. For some, their season debuts should only be delayed while others will be on the disabled list for a little longer. Here are some of the key hitters and pitchers who are dealing with injuries headed into Opening Day and how you should handle them during your draft.
Carlos Beltran, OF, STL
Injury: Fractured right toe after being hit by a pitch on Feb. 28.
Time frame: Returned to the lineup and field on Tuesday. He could be ready for Opening Day, miss the first game or two or even start the season on the DL. His situation should become clearer by the end of this week.
Should you draft him? There is no reason to not draft him even if he misses the first week or so. I just would caution against drafting him expecting a repeat of his 2011 numbers (.269-32-97, 13 SB), considering he will turn 36 in late April and his batting average dropped more than 30 points from ’11 (.300) to last season (.269).
Adam Eaton, OF, ARI
Injury: Sprained left UCL in his elbow.
Time frame: Projection was 6-8 weeks at the time the injury was discovered on March 22. A conservative estimate would be a mid-May return.
Should you draft him? Even if Eaton misses the first two months of the season, there should be enough games left for the Diamondbacks’ leadoff man to make an impact, especially in the runs and stolen bases departments. That said, the injury and the uncertainty surrounding his return dampers the buzz the 24-year-old was getting during spring training. If he’s sitting there in the middle or late rounds of your draft, by all means take him, but let someone else “reach” for a guy who has less than 100 at-bats in the majors and could potentially be affected by his elbow issue all season.
Curtis Granderson, OF, NYY
Injury: Fractured right forearm after being hit by a pitch on Feb. 24.
Time frame: Out until at least early May.
Should you draft him? Yes, as long as you are not banking on another 40-home run, 100-RBI season. Even if Granderson is back by the first of May, he will have missed at least 30 games or so. The problem with Granderson is that he has become power-hungry in recent years, as his batting average dropped to just .232 last season and he stole a total of 10 bases. Granderson still has value, but let someone else overpay based on the 84 total home runs he’s hit the past two seasons.
Zack Greinke, SP, LAD
Injury: Right elbow inflammation.
Time frame: Missed several weeks of spring training following the discovery of the inflammation. Returned to the mound on Monday for his first action since March 1. At this point he is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
Should you draft him? Greinke was a top-25 fantasy SP last year, but don’t let the biggest deal (six year, $142 million) ever signed by a right-handed pitcher over-inflate his value. Pitching in Dodger Stadium should help, but Greinke has never won more than 16 games in a season and has posted an ERA of less than 3.47 once (2.16 in 2009 with KC). At minimum, he should be good for strikeouts, but even that production slipped a little bit last season. There’s no reason to move Greinke ahead of where he finished the 2012 season, as a top-25 SP, that’s for sure.
Chase Headley, 3B, SD
Injury: Broken right thumb sustained sliding into second on March 17.
Time frame: Could possibly return mid-April, but more likely will miss at least the first three weeks or so.
Should you draft him? Headley is still one of the top 10 third base options out there, but the injury pushes him to the outer edge of this range in my opinion. Before the injury, the chances of him repeating last season’s production (.286-31-115, 95 runs scored) were slim considering his numbers were fueled in large part by an insane second half (.308-23-73, 56 runs scored). Now that he’s dealing with an early thumb injury, it would be wise to temper expectations even further.
Derek Jeter, SS, NYY
Injury: Recovery from fractured left ankle sustained in Game 1 of 2012 ALDS against Detroit
Time frame: Jeter himself acknowledged on Tuesday that he won't be ready to go on Opening Day as he has been limited in spring training by ongoing soreness and stiffness in his ankle. The Yankee captain will start the season on the DL, but because the team can backdate the start of the 15-day period, he is expected to be eligible for activation on April 6.
Should you draft him? Only if you are a big Jeter/Yankee fan or for sentimentality. The reality is that Jeter will turn 39 in June and clearly is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. As far as 2013 goes you are better off taking your chances with another shortstop.
Brett Lawire, 3B, TOR
Injury: Strained left rib cage.
Time frame: Will open season on the DL, but stint will be backdated so he could return as early as April 6.
Should you draft him? Absolutely, but with the caveat that there’s a good chance this will not be his only DL stint this season. Remember, the 23-year-old played in just 125 games last season because of various injuries, but the talent and potential is still too tantalizing to pass up. I wouldn’t let Lawrie slide too far down your draft board especially once Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, David Wright (see below), Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman are taken.
Hanley Ramirez, 3B/SS, LAD
Injury: Torn right thumb ligament sustained in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic on March 19.
Time frame: Underwent surgery on March 22, expected to be out at least eight weeks, if not longer.
Should you draft him? Yes, but be sure you are covered while he is out and don’t be surprised if it takes him a few weeks to get his timing and rhythm back at the plate once he returns. Ramirez is still one of the top fantasy options at shortstop (provided he’s still eligible there), but there’s no reason to take him over Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro or potentially even Ian Desmond and Elvis Andrus with HanRam expected to be out until the latter part of May, at the earliest. Yes, Ramirez went 20-20 again in 2012, but he needed 157 games to get there. At best, he may play in 110 games this season.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY
Injury: Partially torn tendon in his right wrist.
Time frame: Not expected to return until some point in May, but strong possibility he could miss all of first two months.
Should you draft him? I would not unless you have already covered yourself at first base or are big on risks. Teixeira is sure to miss even more games than either of his Yankee teammates Jeter or Granderson, and even once he returns he’s no sure thing. For one, his batting average, on-base percentage and OPS have all declined over each of the past four seasons and he only played in 123 games in 2012. The power may still be there, but this also becomes a concern any time you are dealing with a wrist injury. There are too many other first base options out there for me to even consider taking a chance on the Yankee switch-hitter.
David Wright, 3B, NYM
Injury: Intercostal strain sustained while playing for team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Time frame: He served as the DH in minor-league games on Tuesday. He is hoping to be ready by Opening Day, but it's safer to assume he will miss at least the first few games. The Mets will probably keep him out of spring training games so they can backdate his DL stint, if it comes to that.
Should you draft him? Without hesitation, unless something happens in the next few days that sets him back even further. He was participating in infield drills and batting practice the beginning of this week and will probably be eased back into spring training action. The problem is that there are just a few exhibition games left and the team has to decide if they think he’s ready to go or not. Still, at this point there’s no reason to not draft him as one of the top third basemen available.
Other injury situations:
David Freese, 3B, STL – A nagging back issue means Freese will start the season on the DL. A productive player (.293-20-79) when he’s in the lineup, Freese’s injury history and documented back troubles make him hard to trust. Freese is a classic risk-vs.-reward case and it’s possible his reputation could cause him to fall far enough in your draft to negate the former.
Matt Garza, SP, CHC – Garza can’t seem to shake the injury bug as he sustained a strained left lat muscle in spring training while continuing his recovery from last season’s elbow issue. Garza could be back on the mound in the first part of May, but between his injury history and the fact he plays for a Cubs team not expected to contend, he shouldn’t even be on your radar until the middle to late rounds of your draft.
Roy Halladay, SP, PHI – If he’s injured, neither he nor the Phillies are saying, but what’s clear is that the two-time Cy Young winner is not his old self. After dealing with shoulder issues last season, Halladay has been ineffective to say the least during spring training with reports of diminished velocity, a lack of movement and inability to locate. Put it all together and it’s a recipe for disaster and why you should stay far away from the former fantasy ace.
Corey Hart, 1B/OF, MIL – Hart is expected back sometime in May after undergoing knee surgery in January. Even with the missed time, Hart could be an intriguing late-round option considering he will get his starting job back at first base upon his return and he hit 30 home runs with 83 RBIs and 91 runs scored last season.
Ryan Madson, RP, LAA – Madson is still making his way back from last April’s Tommy John surgery. He could make his return to the mound by the end of the opening month of the season, but that’s not a guarantee. The Angels have a reliable closer option in Ernesto Frieri while Madson is out, so be wary of drafting him as a sure-fire ninth-inning option when he does finally return.
Brian McCann, C, ATL – McCann is progressing in his recovery from the shoulder surgery he underwent in October and could be back behind the plate as early as late April. If you are one of the last to grab a catcher in your league, McCann may be worth a look as a late-round pick too. Don’t forget he’s produced at least 20 home runs in each of the past five season and his .230 batting average in 2012 was the first sub-.269 mark of his career.
Jason Motte, RP, STL – Motte is dealing with what the team is calling a mild strain in his right elbow and is pretty much guaranteed of starting the season on the DL. The Cardinals have yet to announce any sort of timeline for his return, which only adds to the uncertainty surrounding his status. I would still keep him in mind on draft day, but he probably should drop several slots down your board, at minimum.
David Ortiz, 1B/DH, BOS – Big Papi has yet to see any spring training action because of right heel inflammation. Even if Ortiz carries 1B-eligibility in your league, his age (37), injury history (90 G in 2012) and decreasing production are enough reasons to move him down your draft board.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF – Sandoval is dealing with some nerve irritation in his right elbow. At this time, the Giants have not expressed any real concern he won’t be ready come Opening Day, but it’s not like the Kung Fu Panda is a stranger to the DL (117 G in 2011, 108 in ’12) either.
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