My philosophy has always been to not pick a player who is not ready for the beginning of the Fantasy Baseball Season unless he falls so far down that you think he’s a bargain. Sometimes, small injuries turn in to bigger injuries, especially to pitchers, and hitters, although in the lineup, can experience continued nagging injuries that hurt production. Let’s take a look at some of the injuries you’ll want to consider in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft.
Moises Alou, OF, Mets — Alou needed a hernia operation and he’s out for at least a month. At 41, you have to wonder how much longer Alou can keep it up, but he continues to be a reliable .300 hitter, hitting .341 last year in only 84 games. FBD expects Alou to spend some time on the DL this season, but you can bet he’ll still be productive when he’s on the field. And, the Mets will want him out in LF as his replacements, Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez, and Carlos Gomez are hardly ready for prime time.
Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers — Gallardo is a promising young pitcher for the Brewers, but he has a lateral miniscus injury that will keep him on the shelf for about his first two starts. Don’t move him too far down your list; he’s going to have a solid season for the Brew Crew.
Shawn Hill, SP, Nationals — Hill is a solid performer when he’s healthy. He had a 1.14 WHIP, .235 opponent average, and 3.42 ERA last year. Unfortunately, he missed three weeks on the DL last year and he’s likely out again for the start of the ’08 season. If you can get Hill in a late round, he’s worth the risk so long as you have an adaquete backup.
Scott Kazmir, SP, Rays — Kazmir has reported elbow pain and some tendinitis, but that’s common for starting pitchers. This guy is too young and too good to be sitting down yet. The Jays say he’ll pitch later this week and he keeps telling reporters he’ll be ready for opening day. Expect him to be there. Kazmir is not well known and will be a solid pitcher for years to come on an improving Rays team.
Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers — LaRoche is out 8-10 weeks with a thumb injury. He hit .309 iwth 18 HR’s last year at Las Vegas and was expected to split time at the hot corner with Nomar Garciaparra. The job appears to be all Nomar’s now. Still, Garciaparra is likely overrated by many managers based on his past success, but the 34-year-old is clearly on a downward slope at this point in his career.
Brad Lidge, RP, Phillies — Lidge was a major off-season acquisition of the Phillies and hurt his knee on his first pitch of batting practice! The injury is on the other side of the knee from when he previously hurt it. Lidge is expected to be out until mid-April.
Expect Tom “Flash” Gordon to be the Phillies early season closer. Gordon is a veteran and will get the job done for a notoriously slow starting Philadelphia team that may not give Flash many games to save early on.
Noah Lowry, SP, Giants – Lowry won 14 last year, but he has nerve pressure in his hand that may require surgery. Last year, he suffered from stiffness in his forearm. He’ll miss about 4 starts and be back in late April. This has to be Lowry down a little bit in your draft order.
Troy Patton, SP, Orioles — Fantasy Baseball Dugout was high on Patton and he nearly made its Top Ten American Newcomers list. Unfortunately, Patton has suffered a torn labrum–the same injury that has recently shelved BallparkBob. The difference is that Patton is out for the season while Ballpark Bob is hoping to be the Bulldogs’ opening day shorstop in the Main Line Softball League in mid-May.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals — Pujols needs Tommy John surgery and he has bone chips in his elbow. He opted to do nothing in the off season figuring that since he really isn’t in a throwing position, he could get by. The bottom line is that Pujols is going to get rest this year when the elbow flares up. He may take more than one stint on the DL. You can’t take a chance on a first round pick so you have to pass on Pujols until at least the third round this season.
BJ Ryan, RP, Blue Jays — Ryan had season ending Tommy John surgery in May last season. Usually, that puts a pitcher on the shelf for 12 months, but Ryan is attempting to be back by opening day which is only 10 months. He’s a risk, but when he’s healthy, Ryan can rack up a lot of strikeouts and has saved 38 and 36 games in ’06 and ’05. Keep a close eye on Ryan. He should be a draft day decision and is a solid #2 closer for your club.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs — Soriano had a broken finger this year and this is after injuries to his quads and hamstrings from last year. He’ll be back mid-March. At FBD, we don’t expect this injury to slow down the multi-talented Soriano who remains a sold second round pick.
Omar Vizquel, SS, Giants — Vizquel needs knee surgery and this is going to keep him out for at least a month. Vizquel will be 41 in April and these things just don’t heal as fast at that age.
Manager Bruch Bochy has indicated that Brian Bocock is going to get the opening day nod at shortstop, but if you’re looking for a sleeper here, keep looking. Bocock is outstanding defensively, but that does you little good in fantasy baseball. He hit just .220 with 105 k’s in 398 AB’s last year in the California League, although he did steal 45 bases with two Class A teams. Perhaps this is just a vote of confidence for Bocock from his manager. I’d look for the Giants to make a late March veteran pickup to start at SS. If you need stolen bases and are willing to put up with his anemic offensive production, Bocock could make you look like you know what you are doing in a supplemental round pickup.