Don’t shy from injured pitchers

Drafting injured players can be tricky. The success of the strategy is largely dependent on your league’s rules. In a single-year format, where all players are thrown back into the pool for next season’s draft, the room for error is much narrower. In a dynasty format, however, where players are kept for X number of years or at an additional premium to the player’s salary of Y dollars, it can be used much more effectively because the chances for success are spread distributed temporally.

For example: An owner in my primary 10-team standard rotisserie league with an auction draft purchased an injured Hanley Ramirez last year for $6. Had he been healthy, he probably would have gone for $25, but his estimated time of arrival in 2013 was uncertain; he actually played his first game April 1, 2013, but appeared in only three more games between then and June 4. This uncertainty greatly reduced his value.

I should re-phrase: the uncertainty greatly reduced his 2013 value. With four days until draft day, I’m realizing now that Ramirez’s value at $6, even in 2013, was immense for the format of our league, because now he will be owned for a measly $9 — all because the owner was willing to plug a hole with a replacement-level shortstop for two months. Now his team is poised to dominate this year with cheap retention prices for Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt to boot.

Breaking down the strategy, it makes a lot of sense. Stream someone like Stephen Drew, ESPN’s 18th best shortstop of 2013, for two months while Ramirez heals. Their patchwork stat line would have looked like this:

.302 BA, 80 R, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 12 SB

That is a solid line for a shortstop, regardless of whose name — or names — show up in the box score.

If you fancy yourself a bargain hunter or someone who can spot the late-round sleepers, this strategy makes even more sense: Draft a superstar for less than face value, stash him on the DL and fill the opening with whomever this year’s Jean Segura may be. Even if you can’t find this year’s breakout star, the replacement-level strategy still has the opportunity to be effective.

Upon further reflection, I may take a chance on players such as Cole Hamels and Hisashi Iwakuma whose draft stocks may take a hit. There’s enough pitching depth for me to make their absences painless, and I have a chance to retain them next year at a discount (relative to their expected salaries).

It’s important, though, that the player has already established a high benchmark for himself. In this case, Jurickson Profar wouldn’t be as smart a play here; he wasn’t going for a lot of money (or too quickly off draft boards) in the first place.

The best opportunities, therefore, are found in the best players who are out for two or three months. It’s important to wring out as much 2015 value as possible, but you don’t want to clog your DL all year and hamper your 2014 value too much, or it defeats the purpose. Clearly, one must strike a fine balance.

But, basically, if you see an injured player heavily discounted on draft day, and you’re  in a league that rewards bargain hunting, take a stab at him.

Here are some so-called “eligible” players for this injured-player strategy and what I predict their discounts might be:

Hamels, SP, expected to miss a month | $10, three to four rounds
Iwakuma, SP, expected to miss a month | $11, seven to eight rounds
Mike Minor, SP, expected to miss a month | $8, six to seven rounds
Aroldis Chapman, RP, expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks | $9, four to five rounds
Manny Machado, 3B, expected to miss a week, but could miss a month | $3, three rounds
Michael Bourn, OF, expected to miss a couple of weeks, but could be longer | $4, four rounds
Matt Harvey, SP, expected to miss entire year | $18, 12 to 15 rounds
Kris Medlen, PS, expected to miss entire year | $15, 10 to 12 rounds ***DISCLAIMER: may not return to form after second Tommy John surgery

Players for whom the strategy may not work so well:

Mat Latos, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Homer Bailey, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Profar, 2B, will miss 10 to 12 weeks but isn’t valuable enough
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, will miss two months but isn’t valuable enough
A.J. Griffin, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Jarrod Parker, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Brandon Beachy, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough

Players who are wild cards:

Matt Kemp, OF, depends on if you think he’ll return to form

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