Often times, fantasy baseball is a game of attrition more than anything; with the healthiest team, not necessarily the most talented, taking home the championship.
Take my long-time (this is our 10th year to be exact), ten-team keeper league for example.
The six teams that aren’t in the playoffs? That’s where you’ll find: Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper (healthy at the moment but has played in just 86 games this year), Manny Machado, Masahiro Tanaka, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Cain, Wil Myers (again, healthy now but has played in just 74 games), Prince Fielder and Joey Votto. That’s not including Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters, Cliff Lee or Matt Moore, all players who are sitting on free agency after being dropped by frustrated owners of non-playoff teams.
Your stars can’t help you if they aren’t on the field.
In this article I’ll talk about two of the aforementioned stars above (Cliff Lee and Yu Darvish) and discuss their early 2015 fantasy value.
Lee suffered a strained flexor-pronator tendon in his pitching elbow back in May. The injury forced him to originally miss two months but when he came back in July he re-aggravated the same injury, causing him to be shut down for the entire season.
The pronators in your elbow are muscles which help your rotate your forearm from a palm-up to a palm-down position; they provide protection to your elbow joint by countering the torque produced during pitching. In layman’s terms, it’s an important part of your elbow and when it’s injured the rest of your elbow is in significantly greater risk of suffering a significantly more devastating injury. Treatment is typically rest followed by rehab exercises to rebuild your strength.
Well, Lee has received plenty of rest and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that Phillies general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr. is confident that Lee will be back for 2015. The plan is to have Lee start throwing in November and if all goes well he could be ready to go by spring training.
Obviously, there is still an awful lot of time between now and when you’re likely going to have your 2015 fantasy baseball draft. Any news that comes out between now and then could change Lee’s future outlook (glowing reports will likely coincide with him shooting up preseason ranks; a major setback could make him virtually un-draftable). As of now though lets operate under the assumption that Lee has a smooth recovery and is good to go by spring.
Heading into 2014, Lee was a consensus top-10 starting pitcher and according to ESPN’s ADP he was the fifth pitcher off of most draft boards. Not only was he one of the best pitchers in baseball, he had been as reliable as they come. Since 2008 he hadn’t had a season in which his ERA was higher than 3.22 and he had made at least 28 starts and pitched at least 211 innings in each of those previous six years.
So, when Lee regains his health, should he also regain his status as a top-10 starting pitcher?
Short answer, no.
I have very few doubts that Lee will pitch effectively when he comes back next season. I have a ton of doubts though regarding his ability to stay healthy from here on out. He’s 36 years old, has 2156.2 major-league innings under his belt and sat out nearly two-thirds of a season with an injury in his pitching elbow. If he were younger and had fewer miles on that left elbow I’d feel much more confident in his ability to stay healthy. But he’s not; and as a result I’d feel terrified about drafting him to be my team’s ace next year.
If Lee has a successful rehab and is ready to go by spring training he’ll likely be a fringe top-20 pitcher in my preseason ranks.
Darvish is a bit of a different story, the Rangers ace was shut down in August with elbow inflammation. Many have speculated that if the Rangers had meaningful games to play for the last month, Darvish would be part of them, but because they’re so far out of contention they decided to take the cautious route and shut him down.
Darvish’s elbow injury is another one that is best cured by rest and rehab but his circumstances are a bit different than Lee’s.
Yu is just 28 years old and including his years pitching professionally in Japan, he has 1,669.1 innings to his name. He may not be a spring-chicken and I do think his past workload along with his pitching style makes him a risk to be injured again; but many pitchers, even ones who have never suffered an injury in their life, are one awkward throw away from getting hurt.
The big difference between Darvish and Lee is that if Darvish suffers the same injury next year I have faith that some rest will be all he needs to be back out on the mound in a reasonable amount of time. If Lee has a repeat of his injury, my fear is it could cost him the entire season.
Darvish, like Lee, was a consensus fantasy ace heading into 2014. In fact, according to ESPN’s ADP he was the second pitcher taken in drafts and to acquire him you likely had to use a second round pick.
Unlike Lee though, I do believe Darvish regains his top-10 status as we head into 2014. I don’t think he’s back to being the best pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw though. As of now, I can definitively say that I’d prefer Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and David Price over him, Darvish is in the mix with a handful of other guys to fill out the bottom half of the top-10.
Go Packers! 🙂