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Fantasy Exam Room: RotoBaller & Inside Injuries


In our new weekly feature in collaboration with Inside Injuries, we take a comprehensive look into major injuries and their Fantasy implications.

The medical team at Inside Injuries breaks down each player’s outlook from physical perspectives. RotoBaller then provides in-depth fantasy recommendations based on the impact of every injury breakdown. It’s an unrivaled combination of medical and fantasy expertise, designed to help you gain a true advantage in your roster management.

Inside Injuries predicts the impact of injuries on player performance by using data analytics, medical expertise and statistical modeling.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Giancarlo Stanton (OF, NYY)

Stanton landed on the I.L. on Monday with a biceps strain. Many people think of Stanton as being injury-prone, but he has missed just seven games over the last two seasons. In 2018, he played through a hamstring strain for part of the season but hasn’t landed on the injured list since 2016. Now he is looking at a multi-week absence. A mild (grade 1) biceps strain comes with a two-week Optimal Recovery Time (ORT), but if it’s a more serious strain that jumps to a four-week ORT. Stanton said he suffered the injury on a “funky swing” but played the entire game on Sunday. His Injury Risk (IRC) now falls right on the border of Elevated and High at 23.33%.

Fantasy Spin:

Even though Stanton has not been on the injured list in two years, savvy fantasy players will always have the injury risk factor in mind with him. There is so much power upside with Stanton, but his health has been an obvious issue for most of his career. If you are going to try to trade him and get rid of the health headaches, you won’t get anywhere near the proper return. On the other side, if you want to deal for Stanton for his possible power production later in the season, you may be able to trade for him at a discounted price. In the meantime, with Aaron Hicks still out, Luke Voit and Greg Bird will still see a lot of at-bats between first base and DH, and Clint Frazier has been summoned from the minors. Frazier wants to stay in the majors and will be very focused to keep his roster spot, so he is worth the add for possible quality production if you need OF depth or help. He may not hit for a great average, but there is power and RBI potential as part of the Yankees lineup.

 

Francisco Lindor (SS, CLE)

Lindor entered Spring Training as one of the healthiest shortstops, but he quickly suffered a right calf strain that sidelined him over the last two months. He worked his way back and was cleared to play in minor league games, but he reportedly wasn’t running at full speed yet. That was a red flag, so it was no surprise when he went down with a new injury (Inside Injuries still had him listed as a High Injury Risk). Now Lindor is sidelined with a left ankle sprain and will get a second opinion this week. The minimum Optimal Recovery Time is two weeks. After he hits that mark he will need to go on a rehab assignment as he didn’t see very many at-bats yet this spring. Don’t be surprised if Lindor isn’t in the Indians lineup until sometime in May. If he returns too soon, he will be at a very HIgh Risk of aggravating one of his injuries or suffering another new, related injury as he tries to overcompensate. Right now he has a 25% IRC.

Fantasy Spin:

If you still drafted Lindor in the first round, you may have learned a lesson about picking a guy with his estimated return in mind. Many owners still drafted Lindor early figuring he would not miss much time in April. But any time a guy is recovering from an injury, there is often a danger regarding a setback. We have seen it too often, especially in baseball. A player will compensate physically and suffer another injury. There are no guarantees on a player’s return that he will make the exact predicted timetable. If you are drafting or acquiring an injured player you are assuming a risk that he does not return when expected. Everyone’s body responds uniquely to injuries and there is also no guarantee on how a guy performs when he does return. Whoever you drafted to replace Lindor while he is out now gets a possibly more extensive tenure in your starting lineup.

 

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, COL)

Murphy fractured the tip of his left index finger while making a diving stop on Friday. Right now there is no timetable for his return, but most players return in around 5-6 weeks if there is no additional damage such as a ligament tear. Unfortunately, Inside Injuries is showing a longer seven-week Optimal Recovery Time. Even when he is cleared to return it will take some time to get his power back.

Fantasy Spin:

Ryan McMahon was in a battle all spring with Garrett Hampson for playing time at second base, and seemed to win out to begin the season while Murphy started at first. Now with Murphy out, McMahon can play regularly in the infield, as he will take over for Murphy at first and Hampson can play some second as he did Monday. But Mark Reynolds was at DH in an American League ballpark, and when the Rockies play in NL parks regularly, McMahon appears to be the only one guaranteed regular playing time. He can play first or second base and seems to be the most preferred option of the three. Reynolds can play first with McMahon sliding over to second, still putting Hampson as an odd man out. The situation bears watching to see if Hampson can gain any more playing time with Murphy out, but his outlook is shaky at this time. Some potential waiver replacements for Murphy at first and second base include Christian Walker, Albert Pujols, Jeff McNeil and Yangervis Solarte.

 

Justin Upton (OF, LAA)

It’s been a rough spring for Justin Upton, who showed up at camp with tendonitis in his right knee then injured his toe. He is now expected to miss 8-12 weeks with a serious case of turf toe. This is essentially a sprain to the main joint in the big toe. Our algorithm is showing that he needs at least seven weeks for his toe to heal, then he will need to ramp up his activity level and eventually go on a rehab assignment if he doesn’t suffer a setback along the way. An injury like this seemed inevitable for Upton, as he has battled quite a few injuries over the last two seasons (concussion, back tightness, knee and forearm contusion, oblique strain) but missed just 27 total games. Recovery from turf toe is very slow because every movement a baseball player makes places a lot of stress on that joint. Pushing off when running is the toughest motion, and that impacts both running the bases and playing in the outfield. Upton comes with a very concerning IRC - 47%.

Fantasy Spin:

I have heard some Upton owners considering the possibility of cutting him. That would likely be a mistake at this point. You have to be patient if your league does not have a DL slot and he will occupy a bench space for many weeks. But when he returns, you know what you will be getting for your final fantasy push for a playoff spot or high finish in Rotisserie leagues. In the meantime, the only real way you can find that kind of production, or close to it, is in a trade. It does not have to be a blockbuster deal, you just need some good power in return. Kole Calhoun is worth an add off the waiver wire, though. There is now pressure on him to step into the power void with the Angels, and he is capable of doing it, as evidenced by his 10 HRs last July.

 

Clayton Kershaw (SP, LAD)

After throwing a successful simulated game over the weekend, the Dodgers have scheduled Kershaw for a minor league rehab start on Thursday. Kershaw missed most of Spring Training with soreness in his left shoulder. His injury history is no secret as he has landed on the DL in each of the last three seasons with various back injuries, and he also battled biceps tendinitis in 2018. Kershaw entered the 2019 season a High Injury Risk label, and that number jumped to 41% following his latest injury. That number won’t improve quickly, but his HPF (Health Performance Factor) is slowly improving. Right now it sits at 63%, which means he is about to cross from Below Average to Above Average. If he returns later this month he could pitch pretty well, but he is going to be at high risk of suffering another injury.

Fantasy Spin:

If you drafted Kershaw, there is nothing you can do but wait for his return. You drafted him at a discount and assumed the risk. Once he is back and pitching well, you should still consider dealing him.

 

Hunter Strickland (RP, SEA)

Strickland underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a grade 2 lat strain. This injury comes with a seven-week Optimal Recovery Time, but once he hits that mark he will need additional time to build up his arm strength, go on a rehab assignment and eventually return to the Mariners bullpen. We may not see him until after the All-Star break. This is a very slow injury to heal and many players experience a setback at some point in the rehab process.

Fantasy Spin:

You likely only spent a dollar on Strickland, so this is not a significant fantasy loss. Now it is just about speculating who will get the saves in Seattle, and that seems to be throwing darts. Anthony Swarzak is on the verge of returning from a shoulder injury and will certainly get an audition. Roenis Elias actually earned the most recent save chance for the Mariners and Chasen Bradford nailed down a save on Sunday. Cory Gearrin and Nick Rumbelow are also potentially in the mix. We will just have to wait and see how this plays out over the next week or two.

 

Jeremy Jeffress (RP, MIL)

Jeffress left a Cactus League appearance in early March with soreness in his pitching shoulder, and even before that his velocity was down early in the spring. While the team never indicated that there was a more serious cause of the soreness, it’s always a concern when a pitcher is out for a month with an injury to their throwing arm. Jeffress is progressing and could begin a rehab assignment later this week, but he remains a High Injury Risk (39%). His HPF is improving but still falls in the Below Average category (57%). That means our projections indicate he won’t pitch near his best just yet, but that number should improve over the next month.

Fantasy Spin:

If Jeffress is a free agent in your league, you consider adding him. Josh Hader has been the clear closer so far for Milwaukee, but it’s been apparent that they would like to use him more in a flexible role. They have not added another notable reliever since losing Corey Knebel and Jeffress could be given some frequent save opportunities when he returns and is in his better form.

 

Jimmy Nelson (SP, MIL)

After missing all of 2018 while he worked his way back from a very serious surgery to his pitching shoulder, Nelson was hoping to prove he could come back healthy in 2019. Unfortunately, he is battling pain in his elbow and forearm and received a cortisone injection last week. It’s pretty common for a pitcher to experience problems with other parts of the arm when coming back from a lengthy absence due to injury. He is a High Injury Risk and likely will be throughout the entire season. He resumed playing catch on Friday but is unlikely to return anytime in April. The Brewers need to be extra cautious as Nelson works his way back from his latest setback. His pitching arm has been through a lot over the last two years, and it won’t take much to aggravate something again.

Fantasy Spin:

There is no real true timetable for the return of Nelson. Unless you can stash him on a DL spot it seems to be a bad move to roster him. You don’t even know if you will get anything at all from him this season. The earlier optimism about a potential return seems to have faded away.

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