My roommate laughed at me when I told him risk management is one of the biggest factors to take into account in a fantasy draft.
“It’s impossible to predict injuries!” he argued.
Not so.Freak injuries, yes. But, then again, we all know some players are more likely to get themselves into those situations than others. (See: Eric Byrnes. He’s due for one.)
Fantasy stardom comes when managers pay attention to the little bits of news that most overlook. We have not played a single Spring Training game and there are already a handful of guys I am removing from my fantasy lists that most people are still high on.
Believe it or not, Albert Pujols is an easy one to avoid in 2008. The Cardinals are worried that his elbow will blow out this season, and he seems less optimistic than a first-round candidate should be.
"If it blows out, it blows out. You can't control that," Pujols said.
So, manage your risk. Stay away from Pujols.
Carlos Beltran played on two bad knees in 2007, battling patellar tendonitis. Beltran underwent offseason surgery but still has not fully recovered. The latest reports suggest that he is unable to sprint or even push off with his legs to round the bases.
Though he is usually a safe bet to be a solid fantasy contributor, a first-round draft pick in 2008 is definitely not worthwhile.
Another easy candidate to avoid this year is Brad Lidge, who recently underwent a second knee surgery after tweaking the same one he had cleaned up in the offseason. It looks like Tom Gordon will be taking on the closing role, and he is also a big risk as he is playing with pain in his shoulder—the same pain that knocked him out of the closer job last year.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Ray’s ace Scott Kazmir missed a scheduled intrasquad game due to discomfort in his pitching elbow.
“It was just a little scary because I never felt it before,” Kazmir said.
It may just be the normal aches and pains of Spring Training, but a risk-averse fantasy player knows he can likely capitalize on a solid, less risky player during the same round that Kazmir would be taken. His solid second half in 2007 has a lot of people predicting a big year from him, and if the Rays try to keep his elbow issues quiet, people will continue to pay a high price for him until he suddenly lands on the disabled list.
Milwaukee starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, who showed a great deal of promise in his 2007 rookie year (9-5, 3.67 ERA, 101 K, 110.1 IP), recently tore cartilage in his left knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery. Though the Brewers say he is only expecting to miss four weeks of spring training, it will take him time to develop his arm strength and he will only gradually slide into the rotation.
He could still be an exceptional fantasy pitcher in 2008, but don’t take him before the middle rounds are well underway.
So, there you have a good list of names to be cautious with in your drafts. My roommate can laugh all he wants, but it is possible to draft carefully in 2008 and reap the rewards of the multitude of low-risk, high-contributor players available.
Fantasy Diamond is an Internet radio broadcast offering fantasy baseball insights and analysis to propel your team to the top in 2008. Visit the blog at www.fantasy-diamond.com for more content or to listen to the radio broadcast, or e-mail Kenny at Kenny@fantasy-diamond.com.