Some of the best draft day values can be injured arms who missed all or most of the previous season, taking them off the radar of many fantasy mangers. Some of these guys will fly up draft boards with a strong spring, but others will remain afterthoughts throughout draft season. Here are 10 injured arms to keep in mind for 2020:
Lance McCullers Jr. | Tommy John surgery (Nov ’18)
By having his TJ in November of 2018, McCullers will get the extended 16-month recovery time before returning. This will give him a chance at a full season in 2020, though it’s worth noting that his MLB-high is 128.3 innings so he has to show that he can make it through a full 30 starts in the first place. His #TooEarlyMock (TEM) price was 253 on average (71st among SPs), but it will rise quite a bit with a healthy spring. McCullers is a great target for early drafters on price alone.
Michael Kopech | Tommy John surgery (Sept ’18)
Kopech had a scintillating late-August debut last year, allowing just one run in 11 innings across three starts with nine strikeouts and a walk (also 5 HBP). Panic set in after a disastrous 3.3 IP/7 ER meltdown against the Tigers that included a sharp dip in velocity. Fears were confirmed a day later and TJ was on the docket. Like McCullers, the timing of his surgery is the silver lining in a bad situation as he gets well over a year off. He could get 150-170 innings in 2020 after throwing 141 in 2018 assuming he stays healthy. He was taken at 358 on average (98th SP) in the TEMs, a price that will no doubt soar in the spring, but I think he’ll remain outside the top 50 SPs meaning he’ll be a post-200 pick in most drafts.
Garrett Richards | Returned from Tommy John (8.7 IP in Sept)
I have a hard time quitting Richards despite the seemingly constant disappointment. The 32-year old didn’t do much in his 8.7 innings of work across three late-September starts, allowing 16 base runners and eight runs. He did fan 11 (27% K rate), but that was the lone highlight. I’m not particularly concerned with the performance in these samples, though, whether good or bad. Getting back on the mound, showing all their pitches, and velocity in line with previous levels is what I care about most. Richards was down a tick at 95 mph on average, but he worked his way up to 96 in the last start. He went at pick 382 on average in the TEMs as the 103rd pitcher off the board. His price could rise with a big spring, but I don’t see him becoming cost prohibitive even with a surge.
Johnny Cueto | Returned from Tommy John (16 IP in Sept)
It’s been quite a while since Cueto was Johnny Cueto. His debut season with the Giants back in 2016 saw him post a 2.79 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 219.7 innings. Since then he has been essentially average with a 4.24 ERA and 1.35 WHIP but in just 216.3 innings spread out over three years. The elbow has been the problem throughout, limiting him to just 25 starts in 2017 and 9 in 2018 before eventually resulting in Tommy John surgery that he returned from late this year for 4 September starts.
The soon-to-be 34-year-old regained his 2016 velocity (91.3 mph) and limited batters to just a .190 AVG, but struggled with his control in the short stint (13% BB). He’ll have a normal offseason for the first time in a while and will almost certainly be guaranteed a rotation spot for 2020. While I wouldn’t expect a return to the sub-3.00 ERAs of his peak, he could be a solid bet for a mid-3.00s in 175 innings of work. He’ll certainly be priced to buy, too, as I can’t really see him going north of pick 250 which places him outside the top 70 pitchers.
Jordan Montgomery | Returned from Tommy John (4 IP in Sept)
Montgomery had his TJ in early-May of 2018, essentially costing him two seasons. His profile before the surgery probably wasn’t high enough before to keep him firmly on the radar of many. The 27-year old returned in September with his velo intact (92 mph) and looked pretty sharp in a pair of 2-inning outings. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training and taking the $1 flyer with regularity. He only went in two of the TEMs with a high of pick 391.
Taijuan Walker | Returned from Tommy John (1 IP in Sept)
Walker has TJ surgery all the way back in April of 2018, but then suffered a capsule strain in his right shoulder while working his way back, costing him two seasons just like Montgomery (14 IP since 2018). This is such an unfortunate derailment because Walker had a solid breakout in 2017 and seemed poised to finally take off after some false starts in Seattle. He did throw an inning in the final game of the season (no minor league rehab) so at least we’ve seen him on a mound. He wasn’t taken in any TEM so he’s a total afterthought right now, but he’ll be in the mix for the fifth starter’s role and worth a look in deeper leagues.
Alex Wood | Back issues (36 IP)
Wood only got a taste of 2019 with seven mid-summer starts that he’d like to forget as the home run ball absolutely sunk him. He allowed 2.8 HR/9 en route to a 5.80 ERA in 35.7 innings before his balky back once again returned him to the shelf. Stay tuned for offseason news about the 29-year old southpaw as he is a free agent and could wind up in a new home.
Alex Reyes | Strained Pec (Jun ’19)
I included him to cut off all the comments asking about him, but it’s hard to have any real confidence about him as a starter at this point. He’s thrown just 67 innings between the majors and minors since 2017 and the Cards might just consider making him a reliever at this point. Relieving doesn’t automatically keep you healthier, but I still think the Cards will decide he shouldn’t start. He is still just 25 years old and could be worth a deep league dollar, but that’s about it at this point.
Michael Fulmer | Tommy John surgery (Mar ’19)
His stock tumbled a bit with a rough 2018, but he still had believers in a bounce back before succumbing to TJ in late-March just ahead of the season opener. He likely won’t return until June or July of 2020 making him someone to keep in the back of your mind as opposed to drafting him unless your league has a lot of IL spots.
Danny Salazar | Shoulder, Elbow, Groin (Season ended Sep ’19 in minors)
Salazar had almost as many injuries (3) as MLB innings this year (4) and that’s after missing all of 2018. He threw 20 innings across four minor league levels, too, but it was essentially another lost season. It’s a full wait-and-see approach with him at this point as I just can’t see drafting him without some concrete news regarding his status.