Injured stars could be fantasy bargains


When it comes to dealing with injured players in fantasy drafts, it's safe to assume no two situations are exactly the same. Even with New York Yankees sluggers Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson expected to miss roughly the same amount of time (into May), there will be differing degrees of performance expectations after they return.

In ESPN standard drafts, owners should be willing to select the longer-term injury cases such as Teixeira, Granderson, Chase Headley and now, unfortunately, Hanley Ramirez, but know that it needs to come with patience. Don't draft them in March and then find in mid-April you need the bench spots and are willing to deal them for little -- or worse yet, simply send them to the waiver wire. Better to use your 11th-rounder on something you can use, even if it brings less upside.

However, both short- and long-term injury candidates often make for draft-day sleepers. It's about value, and the wise fantasy owner, assuming patience and willingness to follow a planned strategy, can combine an injured option with fill-in April numbers. In one of my leagues last, season I was able to stash away an undervalued Allen Craig for six weeks, yet accumulate more than 120 RBIs from that utility spot since I had added Cody Ross in the interim.

Regardless, here are my thoughts on some noteworthy injured folks. I can't discuss injuries with the depth and knowledge of colleague Stephania Bell, but here are statistical expectations and degree of interest. We'll start with the Yankees and, if there's any room left, deal with other players!

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: I jettisoned Jeter in a 16-team, 12-keeper league recently, tipping my hand on value there, and wouldn't be surprised if he sits most of April. Eduardo Nunez, incidentally, is a 30-steal threat with 400 at-bats this season, an outstanding $1 buy in deep auction formats. Jeter is going in the 16th round on average in ESPN live drafts, still optimistic unless you expect a .300 batting average and double digits in home runs and stolen bases, which I don't.

Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees: This is a straight-forward forearm fracture, not a hand or knee issue that deals with ligaments and can often linger for months. I really do expect Granderson to have a productive four months. My problem is I don't want the .240 batting average. A good value after the top 100, but I haven't drafted him anywhere.

Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: Wrist tendon injuries are no joke. In fact, the team even acknowledges season-ending surgery is possible. I once had a healthy Teixeira in my seventh round, since the 30-homer hitters don't grow on trees anymore, but now I wouldn't consider him in even the 20th round of a standard format.

Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: Don't blame the WBC. Players get hurt in spring games and even in their kitchens as well. Ramirez tore a thumb ligament. He's outside the top 100 in ESPN rankings, but I wouldn't let him drop further than Round 11. For one, he's a base stealer, and two, he's a shortstop. Six weeks of Yunel Escobar or Cliff Pennington really won't kill you. There's nice value to be had with Hanley.

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres: Surgery is not pending for the tip of his left thumb, as ligaments weren't involved, and it's possible he plays in April. He's fallen to the eighth round (from the fifth), but that's far enough for me. I'm not too worried about him hitting for power or running the final five months.

David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Frankly, it'd be easier if we knew how much time he'd miss. For now, he's expected to land on the DL through April as he deals with recovery from an Achilles injury. Is this another Ryan Howard situation? Absolutely not! He's not close to a top-100 option for drafts, but should be a top-100 performer upon his return, so the 15th round is nice value.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Strained rib muscles will land him on the DL -- when the team actually makes the transaction is anyone's guess -- and certainly Lawrie is starting to look like a brittle player. I'm not convinced yet, but then again, let's not be naive. He plays all-out, and there are consequences. Lawrie might miss only a week or two, strengthening value as a seventh-round choice, but one that should be expected to play no more than 140 games. At least Lawrie should hit and run when he's out there.

David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals: OK, so this position has turned from quietly deep into an injured mess. Freese's 2012 was a revelation. He played in 144 games and hit! I'm not as confident now. His back injury shouldn't keep him sidelined long, but it could certainly linger and affect production. This is yet another reason why Matt Carpenter deep-league owners should feel pretty good. He's going to play. As for Freese, depending on the construction of my team, I'm ready to go Mike Moustakas, Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier or Pedro Alvarez over him.

Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves: There is absolutely no reason to deal with this in any one-catcher league. For example, in a mock draft Monday, I had my choice of Jesus Montero and Jonathan Lucroy as my starter, with my 25th-rounder. In deeper leagues, I suppose McCann can be a sleeper when the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder heals, but there's batting average risk here. He's not among my top 15 catchers. Give me Montero, Lucroy, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski, Ryan Doumit or even Alex Avila.

It's not by accident that there were no pitchers listed above. In a standard 10-team league, I'll likely use bench spots for healthy pitchers, looking to activate them based on weekly matchups. I have taken shots in deeper leagues on a few Tommy John returnees, such as Brandon Beachy, Daniel Hudson and even Scott Baker, but expectations are low. While I'll never forget the Jason Schmidt season in 2003 when his stock plummeted due to a scheduled April DL stint and he still ended up fantasy's best pitcher, I don't see the same upside with Matt Garza, Johan Santana, Shaun Marcum or Phil Hughes, so I've been targeting healthier folks.

At closer, I'm far less concerned with Casey Janssen, Chris Perez and Jason Motte at this point, so I haven't been avoiding them as they slip in drafts or exalting their short-term (well, I believe) replacements in Sergio Santos, Vinnie Pestano and Mitchell Boggs. Then again, there are plenty of saves out there, and there will be a month from now as well.