Fantasy Baseball 2012: Players on the DL It's Time to Dump for Good

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJune 5, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Players on the DL It's Time to Dump for Good

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    Forgive any fantasy baseball players currently confusing the disabled list for an All-Star ballot.

    The big-name injuries just keep coming.

    ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that while total DL placements aren't higher this year than last year at this point in the season, total time on the DL has increased significantly.

    The names landing on the list are even more stunning. Down with every top-dollar MLB casualty in real life goes a player that cost either a high draft pick or lots of fake money in Fantasyland.

    Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury and Roy Halladay were all first-round selections in fantasy drafts this spring.

    Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee were both ranked among the top five options at starting pitcher. Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Zimmerman drew similar rankings among third basemen.

    Mariano Rivera is considered the greatest closer of all time. Drew Storen, Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson, Brian Wilson and Huston Street all entered the season as solid options for fantasy owners at the position as well.

    Ryan Howard and Chase Utley would have been ranked highly at first and second base if not for their injuries heading into the year.

    All this doesn't even mention high-caliber players such as Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Brett Gardner, Michael Morse, Allen Craig, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and Jayson Werth.

    Unfortunately for fantasy owners, their disabled list is much shorter and more limited than the real-life version. Many leagues offer only one or two DL spots, if any at all. The superstar injury epidemic thus leaves tough decisions on which players to keep in those spots and which players to drop.

    Here are a few injured stars you can dump if you need that precious roster space.

Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Cutting a player you drafted in the first or second round is tough.

    This is a case where it must be done.

    Roy Halladay's nickname of "Doc" now seems rather appropriate considering that he has visited two doctors since leaving his May 27 start in St. Louis with a right latissimus dorsi strain. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks and won't be back until July at the earliest.

    Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock says Halladay will be shut down with no throwing for a minimum of three weeks. The former Cy Young Award winner will then gradually work his way back to the mound. According to ESPN's Stephania Bell, this timetable suggests Halladay will not return until after the All-Star break.

    If Halladay avoids any set backs and does return on schedule, he certainly can still make an impact for the stretch run of both the fantasy and real-life seasons. That kind of hope will likely keep him on most fake rosters.

    It shouldn't.

    Even before the injury, Halladay's velocity was down on both his fastball and cutter. According to ESPN's Stephania Bell, he averaged 91.7 mph on his fastball in 2011, but only 90.7 mph in 2012. She also reports that he has decreased his reliance on his fastball this year (down 23 percent in terms of types of pitches thrown from 2011) and increased the usage of his cutter (up 17 percent when compared to last year), which has dropped 1.6 mph in average velocity.

    While Halladay's overall numbers (4-5, 3.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) aren't terrible, they are far from what was expected and paid for by his fantasy owners. A horrific month of May is even more worrisome.

    Doc initially calmed any fears from a shaky spring with a typically dominant April (3-2, 1.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP). He then blew a six-run lead on May 2 before surrendering eight total earned runs over 14 innings in consecutive appearances against the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. His May then ended with a first-inning grand slam to St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina before he left the game after the second inning with shoulder soreness.

    Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it's Halladay's failure to consistently execute pitches that is at fault, not his dip in velocity.

    "There might be a tick difference in his velocity but it's the consistent execution of the pitches," Dubee said. "He is just not completing his delivery as he has in the past for whatever reason."

    We already know Halladay probably won't pitch again until after the All-Star break. He may be out longer. When he does come back, there's no telling how well he will pitch. Even if he returns to pre-injury form, you won't be missing much.

    Fantasy baseball is a game played with numbers, not names. Whatever it took for you to acquire Halladay needs to be seen as a sunk cost. Don't keep spending by burning a valuable roster spot.

    Bench and DL spots are precious commodities in fantasy baseball. Because starting pitchers only give you stats once every five games, they shouldn't be owned on their off days unless they are an elite, Top 25-30 arm. Halladay no longer qualifies in that group with this injury.

    Available players more valuable than Halladay for the rest of the season: Chris Sale, James McDonald, RA Dickey and daily streaming options with good matchups.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    If you still own Ryan Howard at this point then you're probably in it for the long haul.

    But his prognosis just keeps getting worse. At first he was expected back before June 1. Now MLB.com reports that he won't play before July 1. Beyond that, there is still no timetable.

    Howard is still only hitting in simulated games and doing light running. The key for him will be progressing to sprints. Before anyone sees how he responds to that, it's hard to say when he will be playing again.

    Howard did hit 33 home runs last season but the power came at the cost of a .256 batting average. He struck out 172 times, which wasn't even a career high. That kind of a whiff rate makes him prone to devastating slumps. The rust from all this time off certainly won't help that matter.

    The only situation where Howard is worth the stash is a team desperate for power in a deep league (NL only or 14-team mixed). Anything friendlier than that provides low-average, high-strikeout hitters on the waiver wire.

    Available players more valuable than Howard for the rest of the season: Luke Scott, Justin Smoak and Chris Davis

Drew Storen, RP, Washington Nationals

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    Drew Storen may have been worth keeping around while Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge battled in a war of attrition to replace him.

    Now that Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson has finally waved the white flag and moved Tyler Clippard into the ninth inning, it's time to move on.

    MLB.com reports that Storen threw 100 pitches on flat ground without feeling any pain on May 16 and was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 3. He is not expected to pitch for the Nationals until after the All-Star break.

    Since taking over the closer's role, Clippard has converted saves in all four of his outings. He has yet to surrender a hit or walk in 3.2 innings pitched with six strikeouts.

    The problem with keeping injured closers in fantasy is that they don't always return to their role when they return to the team. This is especially true when the injury—like Storen's—requires a long recovery. If a new pitcher comes into the role and succeeds, managers are often reluctant to break that groove.

    There is no question that Clippard has the skills and stuff to close. If this were another team, Storen wouldn't have much hope of pitching the ninth inning for the rest of 2012.

    What still gives Storen owners hope, however, is that Johnson loves Clippard in his former set-up role. Normally a pitcher like Clippard would be elevated into the closer role immediately after Storen's injury. But Johnson didn't want to lock him into the ninth so he could use him in high-leverage situations earlier in games. Johnson was so determined to keep Clippard in a set-up role that he let Rodriguez and Lidge flail around at the end of games before he just couldn't take it anymore.

    The question fantasy owners must ponder now is whether or not Johnson will move Clippard back to the eighth inning when Storen is ready to go. While the eighth inning is where Johnson wanted Clippard to stay, that was mostly a desire to avoid messing with a good thing—not a lack of confidence in his pitcher. Now that Clippard is showing even more success in the ninth, Johnson may be even more reluctant to move him again—especially for a pitcher coming off an injury that cost him half the season.

    The uncertainty here is overwhelming. Storen has no timetable for his return. When he does return it is even less clear if he will even sniff saves, much less a significant bullpen role. How he is even able to perform after this injury remains in doubt.

    Don't waste half a season on a player guaranteed nothing.

    Other injured closers to cut because of similar uncertainty: Andrew Bailey and Kyle Farnsworth

    Available relief pitchers more valuable than Storen, Bailey and Farnsworth for the rest of the season: Ernesto Frieri, Casey Janssen and Brian Fuentes

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox

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    Don't drop Jacoby Ellsbury.

    His name is included here only to suggest him as trade bait.

    MLB.com reports that Ellsbury began playing catch on May 28, marking his first baseball activity of any kind since separating his right shoulder on April 13. Use this hint of good news to your advantage.

    Ellsbury is still not due back from his injury until July at the earliest. Like many of today's injured stars, his timetable is unknown. But perhaps seeing him return to baseball activity—and knowing that you consumed the bulk of his DL stint—will be enough to entice opposing fantasy owners.

    Ellsbury will still have plenty of value when he comes back. A separated shoulder won't slow down the legs of a player that stole 39, 70 and 50 bases respectively in each of his last three full seasons. Runs will also be plentiful if he returns to the top of Boston's lineup.

    What made Ellsbury a first-round draft pick this spring, however, was his sudden outburst of power in 2011. He blasted 32 home runs last year to go along with those 39 steals. A power and speed combo like that sent all of Fantasyland flocking.

    There was legitimate concern about Ellsbury's ability to repeat those power numbers—or even approach them—before his injury. His career high for home runs in a season before 2011 was nine. Recovering from a separated shoulder could make hitting home runs at a double-digit pace even less likely.

    If you can find a trade partner willing to pay for both speed and power from Ellsbury, don't hesitate to ship him away. Many owners will see his name and assume they are acquiring an elite player for the stretch run with a production line just shy of Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun or Carlos Gonzalez. Without an ability to consistently hit home runs, however, Ellsbury is nowhere near that category.

    Cheap speed is all over the waiver wires. Value from the top half of drafts is not. Sell Ellsbury if you can find a good price.

    Players to trade Ellsbury for in a one-for-one deal: Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Matt Wieters or better.

    Players to trade Ellsbury and another player for in a two-for-one deal: Matt Holliday, Justin Upton, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez or better. Example: Josh Willingham and Jacoby Ellsbury for Matt Holliday.

    Cheap speed on the waiver wire: Tony Campana, Jordan Schafer, Jarrod Dyson, Gerardo Parra and Michael Brantley.