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Valuing Injured Players Returning In 2022

ronald acuna fantasy baseball rankings MLB Injury news DFS lineup picks

Last year's season-ending injury list is an All-Star team. It holds three of the best players in the game and plenty of other superstar adjacent players.

Now, heading into the 2022 fantasy baseball season, we have to evaluate the value of these injured players. Should we be concerned about Ronald Acuna Jr? Is Jacob deGrom starting to age? What about Dustin May?

It's time to figure out where we should be taking these guys in our fantasy baseball drafts.

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Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the most dynamic players in baseball when healthy. Unfortunately, in July of 2021, he suffered a complete ACL tear in his right leg. This is Acuna's first ACL tear which means he should be able to return to full strength. Furthermore, Acuna is only 23 years old so he has the age factor on his side. Unfortunately, early reports from this offseason stated that Acuna could miss part of the season.

Steamer projections gives Acuna 557 plate appearances, .285 average, 35 home run(s), 99 run(s) scored, 78 run(s) batted in, 25 stolen base(s), and a 4.2 fWAR. There should be concerns that Acuna runs significantly less than before following a leg injury. The projection, based on the number of plate appearances, seems to assume a full, normal season from Acuna which should be in serious doubt. Furthermore, Acuna's NFC ADP sits at 12.12 which has him going at the end of the first round.

There are so many ways this could go wrong and the projection/ADP has Acuna playing through a full season. If Acuna slips past his ADP feel free to pick him up but do not draft Acuna at his current ADP.

 

 

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

The greatest player of this generation and possibly the greatest player of all time will be returning from his first season-ending injury in 2022. In May of 2021, Trout suffered a right calf strain and he was unable to return. This could be worrisome as Trout, 30, is no longer the young kid we all remember.

There is always inherent injury risk with any player that is 30 plus years old. Yet, Trout is expected to be a full go for 2022 and has had no setbacks following his injury. The legend is projected for 649 PA, .271 AVG, 37 HRs, 102 R, 102 RBIs, seven SB, and a 6.1 fWAR. There should be much more certainty involving Trout than there should be with Acuna. Trout's injury was relatively minor and halted a 2021 comeback due to the Angels' contention status. Furthermore, Trout's NFC ADP sits at 15.24 which is three selections behind Acuna and leaks into the second round.

Trout should be the selection over Acuna at this moment as the certainty with Trout is much better. That said if news breaks that Acuna will be healthy and ready for the 2022 season then Acuna should be the selection.

 

 

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Jacob deGrom was the best pitcher in baseball when healthy last year. He produced a 1.08 ERA and a 4.9 fWAR across 92 IP. Unfortunately, deGrom left a start in July and never returned to the mound. There were contradicting reports about what exactly the damage was to deGrom's elbow. However, it has been confirmed that there was only a partial UCL tear. A complete UCL tear would have resulted in Tommy John surgery. deGrom is now expected to be ready for the 2022 season.

There is concern that the issue with deGrom's elbow could return and at his age, 33, there is always room for other issues. That said, deGrom is by far the best pitcher in baseball when he's on the mound. Furthermore, nearly every top pitcher has similar issues. Steamer projections have deGrom pitching 152 IP, 2.32 ERA, 228 strikeouts, and a 6.1 fWAR. That is a perfect middle ground as deGrom topped 200 IP in his last two healthy seasons but finished at 68 IP and 98 IP in each of the last two.

Currently, deGrom has an NFBC ADP of 22.27 which has him going before Zack Wheeler and after Brandon Woodruff which is the perfect spot for him to land. The valuation of deGrom by the fantasy baseball community seems spot on.

 

 

Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels

Anthony Rendon makes the second Angel on this list. Rendon was a perennial MVP candidate from 2017 - 2020 when he produced a 6.0 fWAR or higher every full season and was on pace for a similar number in the shortened 2020 campaign. However, the 2021 season brought on the first signs of decline.

Rendon struggled mightily across 249 PA producing a .240 AVG, six HRs, 24 R, 34 RBIs, zero SBs, and a .7 fWAR before succumbing to a right hip impingement. The season from Rendon prior to the season-ending hip surgery is worrisome on its own. Now, hip surgery could mean one of two things: Rendon is now completely healthy or this is the beginning of the end. Steamer projections split the middle giving Rendon 575 PA, .271 AVG, 21 HRs, 76 R, 79 RBIs, two SBs, and a 4.3 fWAR. That puts Rendon in the "still very productive but not what he once was" category. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training and he should get ample playing time to prove that 2021 was a fluke.

Rendon's current ADP sits at 113.33 which has him going behind Alex Bregman and in front of D.J. LeMahieu. This is another case of the fantasy baseball community properly evaluating an injured player. That said, there is some serious risk in Rendon's profile considering his recent injury history and his advanced age (31).

 

Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners

Kyle Lewis is the epitome of a player with every tool in the toolbox if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately, he has failed to top 300 PA in each of his first three seasons. He suffered a bone bruise on his right knee in June and was unable to return from the injury. The 26-year-old Lewis has been extremely productive when on the field managing a career 121 wRC+ across 464 PA. Furthermore, the reports have been favorable as he is expected to be ready for Spring Training and he could spend more time at DH in an attempt to keep him healthy in 2022.

That said, current Steamer projections give Lewis 571 PA, .238 AVG, 20 HR, 64 R, 69 RBI, 5 SB, and a 1.3 fWAR. The projection for Lewis is extremely strange. It gives him a full season of PA but keeps his production level down far below what you would expect in that scenario. For example, Lewis managed a .262 AVG, 11 HR, 37 R, 28 RBIs, 5 SB, and a 1.7 fWAR across only 242 PA in 2020. His current ADP sits at 276.27 which has him going after Julio Rodriguez and before Wil Myers. Lewis's projection is close to what you would expect from Lewis if he only managed 350 PA. Yet, if he manages a full season he could be a top 100 player by the end of the year. Don't rely on Lewis but understand his possible outcomes.

 

Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels

Noah Syndergaard, a.k.a Thor, is the third Halo listed but the first one on this list to finish the 2021 season on the diamond. However, Syndergaard managed only two IP as he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery and various setbacks. On the bright side, Syndergaard is still just 29 years old and signed a one-year, $21 million contract with the Angels this free agency.

The change in teams is notable for multiple reasons. First, the Mets are notorious for having one of the worst medical staffs in baseball and have shown time and time again that they can not keep players healthy. Secondly, Syndergaard had to pass a physical in order to sign his deal with the Angels. Syndergaard is expected to be ready for 2022 with the biggest question being workload.

Steamer projections have Thor with 163 IP, 4.53 ERA, 133 SO, and a 2.3 fWAR. The IP is a perfect medium between his last two healthy seasons (154.1, 197.2) and the last two seasons (0, 2). However, the ERA feels a bit high and the strikeouts a bit low. Syndergaard's highest ERA to date is 4.28 in 2019 and prior to that, he had never topped 3.24. Furthermore, he has topped 155 SO in every full season. His current NFC ADP sits at 191.94 which has him going before Hyun Jin Ryu and after Tarik Skubal. There should be a lot of love for Syndergaard at his current ADP as it seems many have forgotten how dominant he was before his injury. There will always be injury concern in a profile like Syndergaard's but the upside is astronomical at his ADP.

 

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Strasburg could become one of the biggest "what ifs" in MLB history. The former 1st overall selection has had brilliant seasons but his entire career has been plagued by injuries. Strasburg has managed only 5 and 21.2 IPs in each of the last two seasons. In 2021, he suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and has surgery to replace the issue in July. The 33-year-old should be ready for Spring Training in 2022 but what will we be getting?

Steamer projections give Strasburg 153 IP, 4.15 ERA, 154 SO, and a 2.6 fWAR. That projection screams the best-case scenario. Strasburg has topped 150 IP only five times across 12 seasons and only once since 2018. That said, he has never produced an ERA above 4 or had less than 150 SO in any season with at least 100 IP (8/12 seasons). Strasburg's NFC ADP currently sits at 366.47 which has him going after Dinelson Lamet and before Chris Paddack. Lamet and Paddack would both be preferable to the aging Strasburg but if his ADP starts to slip more then interest should pique. Strasburg around picks 380 where Patrick Corbin and Anthony Bender are going feels much better.

 

Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers

Dustin May is the only player on this list that we know won't get a full 2022. May was preparing for a bigger role in the Dodgers' rotation before having to undergo Tommy John surgery in May of 2021. Outside of the Tommy John surgery, May has not suffered from a wide array of injuries. Furthermore, he is only 24 years old implying he should be able to return from surgery with any issues. However, the Dodgers have stated that May will not return until after the all-star break which suggests he will miss the first half of the season. The Steamer projections give May 51 IP, 3.16 ERA, 61 SO, and a 1.0 fWAR. We should expect May to have wonderful ratios when he is on the mound but we shouldn't expect that to occur frequently.

May's current NFBC ADP sits at 571.94 which has him going before Reiver Sanmartin and after Cade Cavalli. May is being taken next to prospects who have no guarantee to see big league time this season. At his current ADP May is still valuable and should be taken as the final pitcher on your roster. There's a case to be made to take May as much as 20-30 picks earlier considering what we know about his abilities when he is healthy.

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Is Christian McCaffrey Healthy? Is McCaffrey Worth Drafting Early for Fantasy Football

After an incredible 2019 season, Christian McCaffrey has dealt with injuries both of the past two seasons. This was further amplified by the draft capital fantasy managers spent on him, which was in many cases the No. 1 overall pick. The disappointment these injuries created is hard to forgive and forget but 2022 is a... Read More


Wan'Dale Robinson - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

Wan'Dale Robinson - 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Sleeper and Undervalued Wide Receiver

It can sometimes be tricky trying to decipher whether or not a certain rookie player is going to be worth taking in fantasy football drafts. There aren't numbers to go off from a previous season in the NFL and some teams choose to deploy rookies differently than others. Amid all the uncertainty, Wan'Dale Robinson of... Read More