Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 MLB Preseason Injury Report by Payton Sanders

Welcome all to the 2015 fantasy baseball preseason injury report.  Waiting on baseball season always makes winter seem very long especially when we are getting crazy snow and freezing temperatures in most parts of the country.  Luckily pitchers and catchers have finally reported for spring training and the smell of pine tar is in the air.  Every year one of the hardest things to predict before your fantasy draft is how a player will respond after suffering a significant injury.  To help you sort through this process I will highlight some of the biggest names who are returning from injury that are projected to be ready for opening day.  Good luck to everyone on the year and remember if my advice is wrong it’s your fault for listening to me, but if I’m right you’re welcome. 

Miguel Cabrera- Right ankle surgery October 2014
ADP- 5   1b- #1
2014 Stats: GP- 159   AVG- .313   OBP- .371   OPS- .895   HR- 25   RBI- 109   Runs- 101
Arguably the best hitter in the big leagues led all hitters in extra base hits in 2014. The top first basement in the year’s draft should certainly be an early pick, but let me tell you why I would not waste a 1st rounder on him.  Last year Cabrera struck out 117 times while walking only 60 times, which were both his worst career numbers.  In 2015 Cabrera will only be 1b eligible which is very unfortunate considering it is by far the deepest position.  Good news for Miggy is that the Tigers' lineup is stacked with power assuming Victor Martinez returns healthy, and teams will have to pitch to the big man.  The off season surgery should relieve some discomfort he was facing but don’t expect him to start swiping bases any time soon.  I see another big year for Miggy, but in my mind not worth a 1st rounder when I can get someone comparable at 1b in the 3rd or 4th. 

Joey Votto- Distal quad strain July 2014
ADP- 72   1b- #17
2014 Stats: GP- 62   AVG- .255   OBP- .390   OPS- .799   HR- 6   RBI- 23   Runs- 32
Joey Votto is one of those picks that makes you look like a genius or ruins your entire team.  I could see him finishing the year as a top 10 first baseman but I could see him falling out of the top 25.  Votto is a guy who I think will benefit greatly from the extended rest after shutting it down in July.  A distal quad strain for a power hitter can be very detrimental and I believe it was for Votto last year.  I see only two scenarios where I would draft Votto.  The first is if I don’t get one of my top 6 first baseman and can get him in the 7th or 8th instead of somebody like Pujols in the 4th or 5th.  The second would be if he drops out of the first 12 rounds and I could pick him up for great value.  The smart move would be to downplay Votto to the rest of your league and try and pick him up after everybody has filled their 1b roster spot. 

Carlos Gonzalez- Left knee surgery August 2014
ADP- 44   OF- #13
2014 Stats: GP- 70   AVG- .238   OBP- .292   OPS- .723   HR- 11   RBI- 38   Runs- 35
I have never been one to not draft a guy who has a history of injuries, but Cargo’s last four years definitely raise some concerns.  In 2014 Cargo missed 92 games, 52 in 2013, 27 in 2012, and 35 in 2011.  There is no denying he is one of the most well rounded players in the game, not to mention he plays in the most hitter friendly park the league has ever seen.  If Cargo can make it through the year playing in 80% of the Rockies’ games he will be a top 10 outfielder and if his running mate Tulowitzki can stay healthy, Gonzalez has the potential to break into the top 5.  I believe he has the most upside of any 4th round projected player.   

Alex Gordon- Right wrist surgery December 2014
ADP- 100   OF- #25
2014 Stats: GP- 156   AVG- .266   OBP- .351   OPS- .783   HR- 19   RBI- 74   Runs- 87
I haven’t seen or read anyone who says Alex Gordon will be a top 20 outfielder this year and I have tried to find a reason to say otherwise, but I can’t.  Gordon has never broken 90 RBI's in a season, has batted over .300 just once (.303), and only eclipsed 20 HRs one time.  Gordon is a top tier glove in left field, but a common mistake fantasy owners make is looking at a player on their overall performance instead of just offense which is all that matters in the fantasy world.  Another factor that boosts a guys’ fantasy perception is the exposure he gets in the playoffs and especially the World Series.  Gordon will be a solid 3rd outfielder on any roster, but definitely not worth a guy you want to draft before the 10th round. 

Ryan Braun- Right thumb surgery October 2014
ADP- 33   OF- #10
2014 Stats: GP- 135   AVG- .266   OBP- .324   OPS- .777   HR- 19   RBI- 81   Runs- 68
Overrated, clap clap clap clap clap, Overrated, clap clap clap clap clap.  Ryan Braun ends up being a great player to talk about after Alex Gordon.  If you look through their stats they are very similar.  Granted Gordon played 21 more games than Braun, but it’s hard to not notice the similarity in their production.  It’s also hard not to notice that Braun is projected to be drafted 15 outfielders before Gordon.  In Braun’s first season back after his suspension for violating the league’s drug policy he produced his lowest totals in runs, Avg, RBIs, HRs, OPS, slugging, steals, total bases, and OBS.   Coincidence, I think not.  I personally like the Brewers as a team this year and having Carlos Gomez hitting in front of him definitely can’t hurt Braun’s stock.  Braun will be a solid performer this year especially with the off-season rest, but there is no way I am using one of my 1st 5 picks on him when I could get a guy like Gordon with my 10th.  

Brandon Moss- Right hip surgery October 2014
ADP- 176   1b- #26   OF- #53
2014 Stats: GP- 147   AVG- .234   OBP- .334   OPS- .772   HR- 25   RBI- 81   Runs- 70
A low batting average and high strike out rate are never good qualities for a hitter, but when you can hit 25 home runs with a .330 OBP and .770 OPS those weaknesses don’t seem to matter all that much.  Moss got off to a very hot start in 2014 and slowed down a bit in the last couple of months most likely due to this hip injury.  If you are a power hitter and have a lower leg injury you end up trying to compensate by changing your swing leading to more strike outs and a lower average.  There are three reasons why I love Brandon Moss this year.  First he had successful surgery and shouldn’t have to worry about a nagging injury affecting his swing.  Second, he gives you positional flexibility being OF and 1b eligible.  And lastly, He is now a part of one of my favorite lineups in baseball.  The Indians will trot out a lineup consisting of Kipnis, Brantley, Santana, Chisenhall, Bourne, Swisher, Gomes, and now Moss.  If Moss can consistently be in the top half of the lineup I expect him to have a much better season than the 176 ranking he is given right now. 

Jayson Werth- Right shoulder scope surgery January 2015
ADP- 125   OF- #28
2014 Stats: GP- 147   AVG- .292   OBP- .394   OPS- .849   HR- 16   RBI- 82   Runs- 85
If you think I liked Brandon Moss and the Indians lineup you will think I am absolutely gaga for Werth and the Nationals.  If you can find a better top half of an order than Span, Rendon, Werth, Harper, and Zimmerman please let me know because I can’t.  The Nationals were 9th in runs scored last year despite a plethora of injuries and Werth was a major contributing factor in that.  Over his last 6 full seasons Werth has averaged 25 HRs, 79 RBIs, and a .290 batting average.  All though we saw a dip in his power numbers last year, he maintained these averages in all other categories and ranked 5th in majors with a .394 OBP. Werth may slip in some drafts because it is unknown if he will be ready for opening day which in my eyes could not work out any better.  Mark my words, Jayson Werth will be one of the best value picks and a must start in 2015. 

Matt Wieters- Tommy John surgery June 2014
ADP- 158   C- #10  
2014 Stats: GP- 26   AVG- .308   OBP- .339   OPS- .839   HR- 5   RBI- 18   Runs- 13
Matt Wieters was on pace to being one of the top catchers last year before he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Although some regression was expected he was projected to finish with an above .300 average, 25+ HRs, and 85+ RBIs, which were well above his last 3 full year average of .249 BA, 22 HRs, and 76 RBIs.  Wieters will benefit from a very good lineup around him that was 8th in runs scored in 2014.  Although he is only catcher eligible I think he will finish in the top 5 at the position behind Posey, Lucroy, Mesoraco, and Santana. 

Manny Machado- Right knee surgery August 2014
ADP- 138   3b- #17  
2014 Stats: GP- 82   AVG- .278   OBP- .324   OPS- .755   HR- 12   RBI- 32   Runs- 38
I’m not going to lie here, Machado’s injury history definitely scare me due to the severity of the injuries.  Third base is one of the deeper positions this year and although I love Machado’s potential it’s hard to gamble on him considering the other options out there.  However Machado will bat near the top of a great lineup in the offensive heavy AL East.  With injuries aside, I will always draft a guy on a top offense who is above average in most categories over a guy who is better in those categories that doesn’t have help around him.  Machado should be drafted with a backup plan at third base.  If you get another solid third baseman and Machado does get off to a great start you will have a great trading piece to improve your roster elsewhere. 

Shin Soo Choo- Left ankle surgery September 2014
ADP- 167   OF- #52   DH- #11  
2014 Stats: GP- 123   AVG- .240   OBP- .338   OPS- .709   HR- 13   RBI- 40   Runs- 58
With the addition on Nate Schierholtz and the emergence of the younger Leonys Martin, Ryan Rua, and Jake Smolinski I could see the 32 year old Choo spending more time on the bench than the field in 2015.  The once consistent 20/20 guy had a miserable 2014 totaling only 13 home runs and 3 stolen bases.  All year he was hampered by injuries which hopefully won’t be the case this year after off-season ankle surgery.  If Choo can stay in the lineup he should rebound from a season where he had his lowest totals in every single major batting category in past years where he played at least 90 games.  Batting at the top of the Rangers order in front of Andrus, Fielder, and Beltre is a great spot to have; I just don’t think Choo will be the one occupying it for much of the year.   

Jason Kipnis- Left finger surgery December 2014
ADP- 81   2b- #7  
2014 Stats: GP- 129   AVG- .240   OBP- .310   OPS- .640   HR- 6   RBI- 41   Runs- 61
Kipnis had a string of nagging lower body injuries last year capped off by surgery on his left hand in December.  The injuries had a direct effect on Kipnis’ numbers that dipped drastically in 2014 from 2012 and 2013.  In the 2 previous years Kipnis racked up 31 HRs, 160 RBIs, 171 runs, and 61 stolen bases.  As I mentioned with Brandon Moss I love the Indians lineup and Kipnis is a big reason for that.  I think he will benefit greatly from a long off-season and will be the bounce back player of the year. 

David Wright- Left rotator cuff September 2014
ADP- 87   3b- #13  
2014 Stats: GP- 134   AVG- .269   OBP- .324   OPS- .698   HR- 8   RBI- 63   Runs- 54
From 2005 to 2010 David Wright was arguably the best hitting 3rd baseman in the entire MLB. During that time frame he averaged 156 games played, 26 HRs, 104 RBIs, 97 runs, and a .306 batting average.  Since 2010 his numbers have dropped significantly averaging 126 games played, 15 HRs, 67 RBIs, 67 runs, and a .284 average.  The injury to his rotator cuff could effect his ability to play third base and playing in the NL he doesn’t have the luxury of helping out at DH.  David Wright is no longer a top 15 third baseman and should not be treated like one. 

Nick Markakis- Neck fusion surgery (herniated disk) December 2014
ADP- 291   OF- #79  
2014 Stats: GP- 155   AVG- .276   OBP- .342   OPS- .728   HR- 14   RBI- 50   Runs- 81
The Braves feel the same way about Nick Markakis as I do, signing him to a 4 year 44 million dollar deal. If I had it my way Markakis would still be the leadoff man for the top notch Orioles’ offense instead of the Braves, but if Markakis has shown us one thing since entering the majors it’s that he is very consistent.   Since coming into the majors 9 years ago he has averaged 15+ home runs, 70+ RBIs, 80+ runs, .290 BA, .358 OBP, and .793 OPS.  His numbers were down a bit last year but your numbers would be down too if you were dealing with a herniated disk.  With a successful neck surgery in December we should see Markakis get his power back in 2015 and finish well above the 79th ranked outfielder. 

Victor Martinez- Left knee (meniscus) surgery January 2015
ADP- 39   1b- #8   DH- #4  
2014 Stats: GP- 151   AVG- .355   OBP- .409   OPS- .974   HR- 32   RBI- 103   Runs- 87
It’s hard to expect Martinez to duplicate is 2014 campaign where he finished 2nd in the MVP voting.  Even he can’t match last year’s numbers we can still accept him to hit 20 dingers, push across 90 RBIs, and hit for at least a .300 average. I don’t see the meniscus injury being much of a concern even if he isn’t ready for opening day.  Whenever Martinez is ready to play he will instantly be inserted into a power heavy lineup featuring Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and newly acquired Yoenis Cepedes.  My advice is to not let the first base eligible Martinez get out of the 3rd round this year. 

Garrett Richards- Left knee surgery (patellar tendon) August 2014
ADP- 147   SP- #40
2014 Stats: GS- 26   Wins- 13   Losses- 4   ERA- 2.61   WHIP- 1.04   Ks- 164
Garrett Richards will try to get back on track after one of the more brutal looking injuries last year.  Prior to the injury Richards was having a Cy Young caliber year.  Luckily Richards is only 27 years old and the injury was to his knee and not his prized arm.   However, there is some cause to be concerned as Richards has said publicly that he is having some trouble with planting on the injured leg.  We will have to monitor his progression closely throughout spring training to get a better idea of what to expect out of him.  Being drafted as the 40th starting pitcher Richards definitely has a lot of upside if he can return to his 2014 form when he was averaging a strikeout an inning.

Matt Cain- Right elbow surgery August 2014
ADP- 225   SP- #71
2014 Stats: GS- 15   Wins- 2   Losses- 7   ERA- 4.38   WHIP- 1.25   Ks- 70
Since coming into the big leagues full time Cain has averaged 209 innings a year between 2006 and 2013. Cain, who had pitched at least 180 innings in every season from 2006-2013, landed on the disabled list in July with an elbow injury before eventually getting surgery on that elbow in August. There is no question that all those innings caught up with this workhorse. Prior to the injury Cain had posted his highest ERA of his career and had his strike out to walk ratio shrink to 2.2. If Cain can’t return back to his pre 2012 form he may find himself without a spot in the very crowded Giants rotation.

Matt Harvey- Tommy John surgery October 2013
ADP- 70   SP- #17
2014 Stats: DNP
I am going to make some statements and I want you to stop me when you hear something that doesn’t make you love Matt Harvey this year.  In 36 starts he has a 2.39 ERA and .98 WHIP.  He averages 10 strikeouts per 9 innings.  He has had a year and a half off to recover from Tommy John Surgery.  The Mets will not put a pitch limit on him.  The Mets now have Michael Cuddyer and Lucas Duda giving Harvey run support.  He is only 25 years old.  I would not be surprised if we are talking about Harvey as a Cy Young candidate come the All-Star break.  

Cliff Lee- Left elbow strain August 2014
ADP- 155   SP- #35
2014 Stats: GS- 13   Wins- 4   Losses- 5   ERA- 3.65   WHIP- 1.38   Ks- 72
Cliff Lee is one of the more perplexing players going into 2015.  First of all we don’t even know if he will pitching for the Phillies this year, but for the sake of this piece let’s assume he will be.  The Phillies are going to be awful this year and you can’t expect Lee to get any run support, much like the previous 3 years.  Lee struggled with an elbow injury all season and his numbers reflected it.  After 6 straight seasons of at least 211 innings pitched and now being 36 years old, these nagging injuries may become much more frequent.  I’m going to take the Bill Belichick approach on Lee and sell his stock before it’s too late. 

CC Sabathia- Right knee surgery (arthroscopic debridement)July 2014
ADP- 363   SP- #110
2014 Stats: GS- 8   Wins- 3   Losses- 4   ERA- 5.28   WHIP- 1.48   Ks- 48
CC is another older pitcher who is finally feeling the repercussions of being a workhorse for the majority of his career.  Now 34 years old, CC averaged 230 innings pitched a year over the last 7 years.  After 4 dominate years in pinstripes CC watched is ERA sky rocket and has shown no signs of it coming back down to earth.  Sabathia is a last round stash pick at very best with an outside chance of returning to the dominate, commanding lefty we grew to love. 

Homer Bailey- Right forearm surgery (flexor mass tendon) September 2014
ADP- 180   SP- #47
2014 Stats: GS- 23   Wins- 9   Losses- 5   ERA- 3.71   WHIP- 1.23   Ks- 124
A year ago the Reds decided to invest 105 million dollars into Homer Bailey for reasons that are beyond me.  Bailey had never had a season with an ERA under 3.00 or a WHIP of 1.30, but still was able to get a big time deal.  The other mistake the Reds made was not increasing Bailey’s innings gradually.  From 2007 to 2011 Bailey never eclipsed 132 innings in a year.  Then in 2012 he pitched 208 innings, 209 in 2013, and was on pace for 202 last season.  And to no surprise Bailey injured his throwing arm ending his 2014 campaign early.   Don’t get me wrong, Bailey is a solid number 3 guy in most rotations but you do not want to fill your roster with a lot of number 3 guys.   
-See our 2015 Injury spreadsheet for players timelines and updates
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