Yesterday, I discussed five players that aren’t generally thought of as gaining value due to the delayed start to the season. Today, I want to discuss players that stand to lose value because they were originally expected to enjoy a playing time boost replacing an injured player, but might no longer do so.
Josh James/Austin Pruitt
Justin Verlander was expected to open the season on the DL and perhaps miss a couple of weeks. James and Pruitt had been battling it out for the fifth spot in the rotation, with the loser likely being banished to the bullpen. But Verlander’s injury essentially guaranteed that both would land a rotation spot initially. That is likely no longer the case. Though Verlander has now elected to have surgery, he probably did so knowing he’d return in time for Opening Day. Now we’re back to only one spot being open for James and Pruitt. Since we don’t know who will win that spot, they both lose value.
Yeah, none of you were excited to draft either one of them once Stephen Piscotty went down, but hey, someone had to man right field in Oakland until he returned from injury. That figured to be a combination of Pinder and Grossman, but they will likely not be needed early on, pushing them back to worthless in all but the deepest of leagues.
All of these names could have potentially replaced Cole Hamels‘ innings in the Braves rotation, as he recovered from a shoulder injury. While we still don’t have any updates on Hamels’ health since the beginning of March, obviously the additional time to rest should help his ability to get back on the field.
While he has been pretty terrible for the Brewers, Arcia hasn’t always been a complete zero for fantasy leaguers, though his batting average freefall was no fun. Luis Urias should be back in full swing after recovering from surgery to repair a broken hamate bone, relagting Arcia to the bench for the entire season, rather than after the first month or so.
Mitch Haniger is the Mariners’ best offensive outfielder, perhaps best hitter at any position, and maybe even best player. He has suffered through a litany of injuries since last year, plus surgeries to recover from. As a result, we really have no idea when he is healthy enough to return. However, assuming he returns at all, he’ll miss far less of the season than originally expected, which means that depending on how each are performing when he’s ready to return, one of these three names could lose his job more quickly than originally anticipated.
Solak was originally expected to enter the season as a super utility player with no real position. He figured to play enough to accumulate fantasy value, though, depending on your league’s depth. Then Willie Calhoun got hit in the face with a pitch and had to undergo surgery. Solak would have been Calhoun’s replacement for at least a couple of weeks, and if he hit, he could have earned a starting job somewhere for the rest of the season. Now, Calhoun should be back in time for Opening Day, pushing Solak back into a sort of utility role.
Alex Verdugo figures to miss time at the beginning of the season due to a back injury, so the recently signed Pillar figured to start until Verdugo’s return. Though Pillar is as boring as could be, he’s annually undervalued and still contributes power and speed. So he would have made a nice short-term asset for fantasy teams in the early going. Now, though, he’ll likely be relegated to starting only against lefties, which is what he was originally signed to do. That won’t result in much fantasy value outside of AL-Only leagues.
All of these hitters would have seen an uptick in playing time heading into a season with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge on the shelf. While we still don’t know the status of Judge, who might need surgery, Stanton will most certainly be healthy when the season ultimately begins. Judge could too, if he doesn’t need surgery. When Aaron Hicks eventually returns, he could add another wrinkle to the playing time situation.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.