“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been a ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one.”
I am a fantasy optimist; the Sleepless in Seattle of player evaluation. I really can’t help it, nor do I think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I will always live and die by the theory that once a professional baseball player exhibits a skill set he can always return to that skill set. Now, there are several other factors like age, environment, or mechanical flaws that play into the equation, but no matter how you mask it, the skill set remains. There is no place that this rings more true than on the disabled list.
Give me your wounded, your weary, your downtrodden. Chew on this number: 468. Dustin Pedroia (97), Jacoby Ellsbury (158), Kendry Morales (126), and Justin Morneau (87) spent a combined 468 days on the DL. They undoubtedly dashed dreams of 2010 championships for their managers along the way. If you are like myself and hold a grudge against any of these guys, I totally understand. You may stop reading here. I would click on an advertiser and help support The Hardball Times.
If you’re still with me, I implore you to run the names Vladimir Guerrero, Rickie Weeks, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton through your head. These DL All Stars spent over 270 days on the pine in ‘09. In 2010, they were all integral fixtures for the managers who had the fortitude to take the risk on them.
I think I like working the injured guys the most because they will always yield the highest return on investment. Ron Shandler in his 2011 Fantasy Forecaster showed that an “end gamer” or late-round pick who was injured in ‘09 actually yielded a greater profit that any other projection indicator. There is always a warning label. Even though injured players yield high rates of return, they can be highly volatile and can fade into the forest of Ian Kinsler. Remember for every Adrian Beltre there is an Aramis Ramirez.
I absolutely love Dustin Pedroia for an injury rebound in 2011. He now sits atop the best lineup in all of baseball, a lineup that could easily create runs at an historic clip. He was well on his way to another great Pedroia season when his injuries derailed him. All the fantasy gurus love to throw around the term positional scarcity. Normally I would tell them to take a hike, but Dustin has now perennially exhibited a strong skill set and will deliver a 120+/18/20/.315 line in 2011. The 120+ is a number I left for extreme growth.
With Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis batting behind him and Ellsbury batting before him possibly from the nine hole, I think I could lose some credibility if I said he could approach Jeff Bagwell runs scored levels (143 in 1999 and 152 in 2000), but I just did, bad boy.
My favorite deuce bagger is another wounded warrior in Chase Utley. I refuse to believe that a thumb injury will keep this first-round talent from recapturing his 110/30/15/.295 skill set. Utley has to get better protection from Ryan Howard, and the absence of Jayson Werth could send some shock waves up and down the Phillies’ lineup until Domonic Brown discovers his inner Jason Heyward. Utley’s injuries are starting to accumulate as ol’ Father Time sets in, but if you can stomach the risk, there isn’t a more talented player you can get at his current market value. Our lovely Oliver isn’t nearly as optimistic, projecting a line of 85/24/12/.278. So be diligent to yourself and do your research, but if Mr. Utley can be had in the second, there’s no way I could pass on him.
Without further ado, the winner of the 2011 Josh Hamilton Look-alike Contest hails from La La Land, and I’m not talking about the Cuban Morales Crisis. We’re talking the other Dodger outfielder, Andre Ethier. Before his pinkie boo boo, there was no player better in the game. He was hitting .392 with 11 homers through just 125 at-bats. His power has been quietly ticking upwards over the past couple of years, and he gives me Ryan Braun-like goosebumps with his lunch pail approach. According to Mock Draft Central, he is averaging in as a 36.9 pick. That’s a third- to fourth-round selection for those of you keeping count. Without a doubt this guy will hit around .310 and eclipse the 100 RBI mark in 2011. His home runs are probably the most intriguing stat for next year. Assuming that as he reaches 28 years old he will be able to better handle left-handers, he should be a lock for 30 home runs and has potential for 40+.
Most of all, always remember that I am a firm believer in drafting players that you like. Ben Pritchett doesn’t manage your team. You manage your team. If you really like Kendry Morales then you should intelligently spend to get him. Now don’t go crazy, but I will always overspend for a guy that I like. Stay tuned and we’ll have my list of guys on whom to overspend.