There’s nothing like a week of high-profile starting pitcher injury concerns to make you re-think how you go after pitching in fantasy leagues. And no, I’m not talking about Chad Billingsley having Tommy John surgery, which was just about the most unsurprising news blurb I’ve seen in a long time. However, when you start seeing the names of Stephen Strasburg and Dylan Bundy thrown around with elbow/forearm issues, things get a little more real. But before we start freaking out and doing something we’ll potentially regret, let’s take a look at each player individually to see how this is potentially affecting their value.
The fear with Strasburg isn’t necessarily going to go the way of Mark Prior, but that he will have too many injuries to reach the lofty potential we’ve all anointed him with. And I say we, as I’m certainly guilty of this too–after all, he was the #2 starting pitcher in my off-season dynasty rankings (next to Clayton Kershaw). And while I still feel pretty confident about the ranking, I don’t feel great about it. But let’s be honest, there’s a reason to feel not so great about anyone you could slide into that spot (unless you want to dig down a little bit for someone like Adam Wainwright). Verlander has his velocity issues, which are worrying some. Price and Hamels have have pretty bad starts to the season. King Felix has the specter of the elbow injury. The list goes on.
I get the feeling that there are going to be a lot of trades involving Stephen Strasburg over the next few weeks, at least compared to other players of his stature. The owners who have him are likely getting a little nervous at the news of forearm tightness, and you can start to see the TOMMY JOHN ALERT going off in the back of their heads. Of course, he won’t actually miss a start right now, but this also isn’t Strasburg’s first rodeo. The comeback rate for a second Tommy John surgery is much lower than it is for the first. In all seriousness, I’m not writing this to sound alarmist. I think Strasburg is a nice pickup if his owner is freaking out a little more than necessary. Just be careful about giving up too much for him. At some point, he’s going to need to prove that he can be an ace over the course of a full season.
Now this one is worth worrying about a little more. News broke on Monday that Bundy will be shut down for at least six weeks after receiving a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his elbow. There’s really no way of knowing how much of this is the Orioles being cautious and how much his dynasty league owners should be panicking, but the only thing we know for sure is that this isn’t good news. As I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week, this news means that if you are in a redraft or a keeper league where he’s not going to reasonably be kept, he’s definitely droppable. Even if he comes back as soon as practically possible this season, he’s still unlikely to get more than around 6-8 starts in the majors before they shut him down anyway.
So what does this mean for Bundy’s dynasty league value? The simple answer is not a whole lot. Even if the worst case scenario is realized and he does have TJ, it does not impact his upside. He can still be the DYLAN BUNDY that we all think he can be — it’s just going to take an extra year. So while that does factor into his value, it’s much less of a factor than it is for someone like Lucas Giolito who is both younger and has a much less extensive professional track record. Don’t panic if you’re a Bundy owner, he will still be a top-20 prospect (and top-150 overall player for dynasty formats) in 2014, even if he’s in rehab mode.
You all know about my affection for Segura, so it’s been with much admiration that I’ve watched him absolutely tear it up so far this season as the #1 fantasy shortstop. Of course, he’s not going to hit above .360 all season (and he’s also not likely to actually top 15 homers), but the story his performance is telling is one of truth. Segura is a high contact hitter, as evidenced by his career 13.3% strikeout rate in just his first 264 plate appearances, along with his career 12.0% minor league rate. He’s also a speedster who stole 50 bases in 130 Low-A games and 37 bases in 102 Double-A games, so 40 steals is absolutely in play here.
There will be an adjustment period for Segura as pitchers start to figure him out (it happens to just about everybody), but with high-contact speedy hitters those adjustment periods tend to be shorter. I ranked Segura as my #14 shortstop heading into the season, and I’m wishing I had stuck to my guns to put him higher. Unless he starts to fall on his face, I have a hard time seeing Segura outside the top-10 at the position come the end of the season.
- Carlos Santana is getting on base at nearly a .500 clip so far this season, and would be getting a lot more attention if Wilin Rosario and John Buck weren’t having insane starts to the year. He’s finally catching up to his career plate discipline statistics and then some, and he could legitimately hit .300 with 30 homers this year.
- When Carlos Gomez owners anticipated their roster layout, the two things which they figured were stolen bases and a low batting average. And at .367, Gomez is hitting at least 100 points higher than expected — and maybe it’s less of a fluke than it seems. His 16% strikeout rate so far is significantly lower than his career 22% rate.
- I’ll be perfectly honest, my expectations were not high for Hyun-Jin Ryu. However, a 11.0 K/9 rate and a 3.35 ERA is a great start. I’m very skeptical that this will hold up over the rest of the season as the league gets a few more looks at him, as his stuff doesn’t look great when you watch him. The imports with non-elite stuff are more likely to wain in the summer months, and Ryu will test that. But clearly, my conservative ranking looks a little silly at this moment.
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