2021 Injury Risks for Starters & Hitters

And the 2021 draft prep data dumps continue. Today, the injury chances for hitters and starters take center stage. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around injuries since I’ve started writing about baseball. The reason it’s a difficult subject to nail down is that the information is spotty.

Also, if a player checks all the factors to head to the IL (Injured List), he could have that one magical season (i.e Stephen Strasburg in 2019) when he never gets hurt. Adding to the mess is that the league moved from the 15-day IL to the 10-day IL, back to the 15-day IL (for only pitchers), and then just started making up rules for 2020. Through it all, the following risk assessments cut through a lot of the narratives and are solid going into next season.

Starting Pitchers

During the extended offseason, started reinvestigating my analysis of pitcher injury chances with a literature review, injury chances, and how injuries lead to increase aging. While age and fastball velocity are still factors, career IL days and arm injuries are most likely to point to future injuries and degraded performance. The simple thresholds were 120 career IL days and three or more arm injuries. Here is a list of the starters (min 10 IPin 2020) who meet both criteria (full list).

Starters With High Injury Risks
Pitcher Age Avg FB Velo Total IL Days IL Days (last 2 seasons) Total Arm Injuries
Homer Bailey 34 91.0 677 51 8
Danny Duffy 31 92.2 414 60 7
Brett Anderson 32 89.8 932 14 6
Rich Hill 40 87.7 682 133 6
Johnny Cueto 34 91.3 536 169 6
Stephen Strasburg 31 91.7 464 43 6
Michael Pineda 31 92.1 511 22 5
Yu Darvish 33 95.5 492 0 5
Nathan Eovaldi 30 97.4 484 107 5
Zack Wheeler 30 96.9 460 14 5
Carlos Carrasco 33 93.6 432 88 5
Anibal Sanchez 36 89.6 427 12 5
Martin Perez 29 92.1 377 0 5
Steven Matz 29 94.5 258 27 5
Garrett Richards 32 95.2 653 175 4
Adam Wainwright 38 89.3 618 10 4
Charlie Morton 36 93.3 574 23 4
Hyun-Jin Ryu 33 89.6 558 21 4
Matt Harvey 31 94.1 444 60 4
Andrew Heaney 29 91.5 419 86 4
Lance McCullers Jr. 26 93.8 402 199 4
Carlos Rodon 27 92.9 390 202 4
Kendall Graveman 29 94.8 370 217 4
Ivan Nova 33 92.2 342 43 4
Cole Hamels 36 88.2 243 96 4
Sean Manaea 28 90.4 230 160 4
Vince Velasquez 28 93.8 144 17 4
Gerrit Cole 29 96.7 143 0 4
Taijuan Walker 27 93.2 543 188 3
Tyler Chatwood 30 94.3 461 35 3
Mike Minor 32 90.6 397 0 3
Drew Smyly 31 93.8 394 54 3
Jordan Zimmermann 34 89.5 343 120 3
Jhoulys Chacin 32 91.2 300 48 3
Alex Wood 29 91.2 241 93 3
Clayton Kershaw 32 91.6 227 31 3
Tommy Milone 33 86.1 163 17 3
Carlos Martinez 28 92.9 151 91 3
Jake Arrieta 34 92.1 151 60 3

Notes

  • The one name that sticks out is Gerritt Cole. Back in 2016, Cole had several arm related injuries but he hasn’t had one for a few years (h/t to Derek Rhodes for the graphic).

  • Yu Darvish is likely the next pitcher on the list to be drafted next season The 33-year-old has found a way to stay off the IL the past two seasons. Maybe he can keep it up.
  • Carlos Carrasco, Charlie Morton, and Clayton Kershaw continue to go early in drafts and continue to keep getting hurt. At some point, fantasy managers need to start getting a discount on them.
  • I’m likely to just stay away from the high-risk pitchers and focus more on those in the other two groups.

Hitters

It’s always been harder to know what injury will be the one that begins a hitter’s spiral downward. This past summer, I examined several factors and found that a hitter may start seeing a decline around 200 IL days. Once he hits 300 IL days, the injury-related decline accelerates. Knowing those thresholds, here are the 2020 hitters who have accumulated at IL days (full list).

Batters With High Injury Risks
Batter Age Total IL Days
Francisco Cervelli 34 522
Travis d’Arnaud 31 501
Howie Kendrick 36 498
Yoenis Cespedes 34 458
Pablo Sandoval 33 436
A.J. Pollock 32 409
Jason Castro 33 408
Alex Dickerson 30 396
Giancarlo Stanton 30 387
Steven Souza Jr. 31 385
Wilson Ramos 32 369
Jurickson Profar 27 364
Franchy Cordero 25 361
Adam Eaton 31 356
Salvador Perez 30 350
Cameron Maybin 33 342
Hunter Pence 37 341
Shin-Soo Choo 37 338
Jon Jay 35 322
Matt Wieters 34 300
Daniel Murphy 35 296
Robinson Chirinos 36 291
Tommy Pham 32 288
Matt Kemp 35 287
Aaron Hicks 30 282
Michael Brantley 33 281
Wil Myers 29 273
Jorge Soler 28 271
Avisail Garcia 29 267
Max Stassi 29 267
Ehire Adrianza 30 258
Garrett Cooper 29 257
Eric Sogard 34 257
David Dahl 26 256
Logan Forsythe 33 256
David Peralta 32 254
Edwin Encarnacion 37 252
Christian Vazquez 29 249
Brandon Nimmo 27 248
Jose Iglesias 30 246
Jake Lamb 29 243
Mitch Moreland 34 240
Nelson Cruz 39 240
Corey Dickerson 31 239
Tommy La Stella 31 238
Alex Avila 33 236
Yadier Molina 37 230
Elias Diaz 29 230
Dexter Fowler 34 228
Evan Longoria 34 226
Alex Gordon 36 225
Brock Holt 32 220
Stephen Vogt 35 219
Chris Owings 28 215
Brett Gardner 36 215
Kevan Smith 32 213
Jay Bruce 33 213
Joey Votto 36 211
Matt Joyce 35 210
Robinson Cano 37 208
Josh Harrison 32 204
Byron Buxton 26 204
Brandon Belt 32 204
Matt Adams 31 202

Notes

  • The list is basically a list of old players with the average age being 32.2 years old.
  • While several hitters under-30 populate the list, the youngest is a complete shock to absolutely no one … Byron Buxton.
  • In the early mock drafts, the hitter being taken first is Nelson Cruz (65 ADP) with the next two, Tommy Pham and Giancarlo Stanton going back-to-back just after pick 100.
  • Many make this a complete do not draft list, but I don’t go that far with hitters. For me, the player must be easily replaceable. Take Travis d’Arnaund. In last year’s NFBC drafts, he was going on average at pick 246 after breaking out with the Rays the previous season (.792 OPS with 16 HR). At pick 250, why not take a chance on d’Araund who I had ranked as the 111th player based on a full catcher season of at-bats. Drafting him over 100 picks later was a no brainer.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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If Buxton is the youngest of the group, what gives with Franchy Cordero ?