Well…..The answer is ‘yes but’…… First make sure you are completely on top of the injury status of all top 200-300 players prior to the draft. It may take a little homework but you’ll be glad you expended the effort. Being uninformed about injuries will severely handicap your draft.
Speaking of handicapping the draft, how many times have you seen another owner select an injured player too early? How many pitchers ‘strain their arm’ in spring training and yet are selected as if they were fully healthy? When you get the injury report, always add a month to whatever time is offered as the recovery time frame for pitchers. If the team is saying May 1st, plan for June 1st.
Personally, this is a weakness of mine. I have certain pitchers that I like and will blow off my own advice – assuming the best in terms of recovery. This strategy has worked for me approximately zero times.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with picking “mildly injured players” – if you do it at the right time in the draft. Focus on what the player will most likely contribute to your team – not on what he is capable to do if everything goes right. If the team is saying the player will be available for five months, plan on four.
OK, if that’s the scenario, how can you correctly rate what an injured player might bring to your team? The guidelines below are derived from my years in the fantasy baseball arena.
First, as stated earlier, always allow an extra 30 rehab days for a pitcher who incurs a shoulder, arm or elbow injury in spring training. Double or triple that time frame for pitchers who have off-season surgery. Pitchers in the game today always come back later than the initial estimate.
Second, beware of shoulder injuries for power hitters. Be very aware. A power hitter who hurts his shoulder could be in for a serious delay or may never fully recover. Remember Morgan Ensberg? One dive for a ball out of his reach and he never recovered. Promising career – gone. One all-star appearance - then gone.
Third, typically hamstring, quad, and groin injuries are less of an issue unless your name is Jose Reyes. Lower body injuries will decrease the effectiveness of your base stealers but it is unusual for them to miss significant (more than 30 days) time from these injuries. A speed merchant who finished the prior season with a lower body injury should be OK to go for your upcoming campaign. But be sure to confirm before your draft.
What about the nagging problems? A player who strains his oblique muscle should be OK to draft as originally projected. Players with sprains – ankle, wrist, etc. – should be OK. Players with contusions should be OK.
In summary, here is the injury cheat sheet for your drafting purposes.
- Pitchers: Add 30 days to team estimate for spring training ‘strained arms’
- Pitchers: Add 60 days to team estimate for off-season surgery
- Power Hitters: Beware of shoulder injuries. Draft only if player is on the board for an extra two, maybe three, rounds.
- Power Hitters: Oblige strain, various sprains, contusions. Draft as normal
- Speed Merchants: Calf, hamstring, ankle, etc. Draft as normal unless the reports out of spring training are a concern.