Fantasy Baseball 2013: Players Returning from Injury Owners Must Target

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

Fantasy Baseball 2013: Players Returning from Injury Owners Must Target

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    There are certain players returning from injury that are so talented that fantasy players aren't hesitating to snag them off the board. I promise you, Troy Tulowitzki won't last past the second round in your draft.

    Then there are those players returning from injury that fantasy owners seem to have forgotten about—or are certainly undervaluing—even though those players have either produced in the past or have the potential to put up excellent numbers this season.

    It's those players that we're focused on here. These players may have a number of red flags, but given their potential and average draft position, they could end up being the selections that help you win your league this year. 

Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    I already know what you are thinking.

    Timothy, Chase Utley has missed 185 games in the past three seasons. He hasn't hit 20 home runs or more since 2009. His batting average has regressed every year since 2007, when he hit .332. He's 34 years old, for heaven's sake.

    First of all, call me Tim. Secondly, these are all extremely valid points and one of the reasons why he's currently being selected in the 14th round in ESPN drafts (in 10-team leagues).

    I can't dispute any of your concerns. I can only tell you that in the 14th round you could land a player that has the ability to hit .300 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI if he manages to stay fairly healthy (and he's said he feels healthier coming into this season than last).

    Look, you can't draft Utley and assume he'll stay healthy. He's way too risky. But if you miss out on the top second basemen, don't reach. Instead, wait to select Utley and pair him with another player that doesn't have an injury history. You might end up getting the steal of the draft if you do.

Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics

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    Like Utley, Brett Anderson has an injury history. Unlike Utley, he's just 25 years old.

    Anderson is an all-or-nothing prospect for your team; there's no two ways about that. But consider that his 162-game average is a 13-13 record with a 3.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 156 strikeouts. 

    Now consider that he feasibly should be in his prime as a pitcher and went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in six starts for the Athletics when he returned from Tommy John surgery in August.

    Oh, and he also pitched six scoreless innings and earned the win in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.

    Seeing as he's going in the 15th round of ESPN 10-team drafts, how much of a risk are you really taking by adding him to your team? If he gets hurt again, so what—he was only a 15th-round pick. But if he pitches up to his potential, you'll be getting a stud at an incredible bargain.

Victor Martinez, C, Detroit Tigers

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    Victor Martinez missed all of the 2012 season with knee issues and is 34 years old, so naturally there will be plenty of concerns about adding him to your team this year.

    But Martinez is a professional hitter, folks. Before last year he hit .300 or better in six of the last seven seasons, had at least 90 RBI in five of the last eight seasons (and 79 or more in seven of eight) and is a safe bet to hit at least 15 home runs and score 70 runs.

    Those are pretty good numbers for a player with eligibility at catcher that is currently going in the ninth round of ESPN 10-team league drafts. And considering he's hitting in a lineup with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, he may be a guy that ends up hitting .300 with 100 RBI and 20 home runs. 

    For a catcher, those would be amazing numbers. If you miss out on the top options at catcher, don't fret—just make sure you target Martinez.

Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    No, Roy Halladay didn't miss as much time as most of the other players on this list, missing two months of action while still accumulating 19 starts.

    But when you compare what Halladay did before his back injury to his numbers after it, you realize he was being hampered for most of last year.

    Before Halladay hit the DL last year, he was 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 11 starts. Opponents had a .252 batting average against him. After he returned from injury he went 7-3 with a 4.93 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 14 stars. Opponents had a .269 batting average against him.

    Halladay wasn't the pitcher of old for the entirety of the season, but he was definitely worse after returning from injury, despite the anomaly of his seven wins. I don't think he'll ever be in the running for the Cy Young Award again, but I also think he's a steal in the seventh round of your fantasy draft.

    And with an ADP of 63.6 in ESPN leagues, that's where you'll be able to draft him.

Carl Crawford, LF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Carl Crawford is currently being drafted in the 15th round of ESPN 10-team league drafts. Considering he was pretty terrible in 2011 and only played 31 games last year, that's hardly a surprise.

    But remember, this is a guy who hit .307 with 19 home runs, 110 runs scored, 90 RBI and 47 stolen bases in 2010. Oh, and now he'll now be hitting in a lineup that also includes Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier.

    I expect Crawford to bounce back in a big way this year. Don't be afraid to take a chance on the speedy left fielder.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Before missing half of last season after suffering a torn Achilles in the 2011 postseason, Ryan Howard hit at least 31 home runs, scored at least 81 runs and knocked in at least 108 RBI in six straight seasons. 

    No, he isn't going to do your batting average any favors, but Howard is healthy and is a very solid power producer, especially for a player being drafted in the 11th round in 10-team ESPN leagues.

    If he plays a full season, you'll get 35 home runs and 110 RBI. He's a steal that late in the draft.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox

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    Two years ago, Jacoby Ellsbury was arguably the most valuable player in fantasy after hitting .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored and 39 stolen bases.

    Last year he was one of the biggest busts in fantasy baseball, playing in only 74 games and hitting .279 with four home runs, 26 RBI, 43 runs scored and 14 stolen bases.

    This year, he has an ADP of 48.4 in ESPN drafts. If you believe he'll return to his 2011 form, that makes him one of the steals of the draft. If you believe he's an injury-prone player that can't be trusted, that makes him the riskiest player being selected in the first five rounds.

    I tend to believe the former, so I'll be snagging him in the fifth round without reservation if he's available. I suggest you do the same.