Managing Injured Players

Managing injured players is a real nuisance. There are two scenarios I’d like to discuss today – fantasy injury stacks and nagging injuries. Each offers distinct challenges based on league type, depth, and settings.

Fantasy Injury Stacks

It happens to all of us eventually. Our roster includes two DL slots, so what do we do? Say hello Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb. Or maybe you didn’t even stash anybody. You may still have the misfortune of losing four key, uncuttable players in a week.

At some point in the season, you’ll probably have more injured players than DL spots. Here are five factors you’ll need to consider before making your next move:

  • Type of injury
  • Expected length of DL trip
  • Roster composition/redundancy (i.e. do you have an empty active roster spot)
  • The player’s expected production when he returns relative to waiver wire replacements
  • Keeper status

The first two bullets may seem related, but they’re distinct points of analysis. Andrew Miller missed a month last season with a forearm strain. In a pitcher, this injury often leads to Tommy John surgery. Carter Capps is the latest victim. I actually cut Miller in a few leagues (luckily I got him back before he returned) specifically because of the risks involved with this particular injury. Had he been set to miss a month after an appendectomy, I would have held onto him.

Obviously, long term injuries make it easier to cut a player. When Giancarlo Stanton hit the skids last season, he left his owners with a tough decision. He was expected to return, but it would have been late in the season. Since he had a hand injury, his power would have been affected too. I hung onto him in a keeper league while cutting him loose in a shallow bench redraft.

Another obvious point relates to your roster composition. If you’re seriously competing, sometimes you have to make painful cuts. While it’s possible to get away with leaving the catcher spot unattended, you generally want to make sure you’re accruing stats at all positions at all times. Sometimes, the player you’re forced to cut isn’t even the injured guy. If it turned out A.J. Pollock was going to miss 25 instead of five games, you may be forced into cutting a prospect like A.J. Reed or an upside gamble like Cody Anderson.

When Joe Panik was shelved last season, second base had plenty of decent replacements. Cesar Hernandez and Ryan Goins come to mind as two examples. Let’s say both players projected to offer 80 percent of Panik’s production. And let’s say Panik was expected to miss half the remaining season. In this case, unless your roster was already very deep at second base, the math easily supports replacing Panik with a free agent.

When keeper status is relevant, it’s important to measure with a dispassionate eye. In general, if you’re getting the chance to keep a player at cost, you can safely turn to the waiver wire. If you’d be getting a steep discount, the decision will be difficult. Heading into 2015, I kept Jose Fernandez for $14. When he went under the knife, I stashed him for the entire season and kept him for $21. If he stays healthy, he’ll be kept for $28 next spring.

With the exception of Miller, the examples I used serve to reinforce an important point – injuries often take longer to rehab than initial projections. Be ready.

Nagging Injuries

The toughest injury scenario is the nagging injury. We learned Michael Brantley was playing hurt early last season. He still had a good season. Some of his owners sold short when they heard the news while others simply hoped for the best. In this case, the patient owners won. The sellers frequently come out ahead in these scenarios. We didn’t know Carlos Santana was also playing hurt. If we had, the sellers would have won that exchange.

Again, type of injury is an important factor to consider. For example, recurring lower back spasms are a more serious problem than a contusion – unless that contusion is really a broken bone (oh hi there Mark Teixeira). Most injuries have the potential to seriously sap a player’s value.

We entered draft season knowing David Wright would battle through spinal stenosis this season. We’ve learned only recently that Miguel Cabrera will be fighting the same condition. In both cases, they will top out around 130 games played. There will be days when they’re last minute scratches from the lineup, making them extremely difficult to micromanage. My recommendation for Wright is to sell, sell, sell. Hide him as a lesser component of a blockbuster trade. You may want to be patient with Miggy until more news emerges.

For players like Russell Martin and Yasmani Grandal, both of whom suffered miserable slumps in 2015 while playing through injury, your course of action will be decided by the clarity of news and quality of replacements. If Derek Norris was on the wire, you could make a swap without a second thought. If your alternative was Cameron Rupp, you might find yourself praying Martin or Grandal recover.


You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kalines Ghost
6 years ago

“We’ve learned only recently that Miguel Cabrera will be fighting the same condition.”

We have? Source?

6 years ago
Reply to  Kalines Ghost

Doesn’t seem to be sourced from any website that google knows about.

Brad you gotta clarify this statement, please.

SF Draft Talk
6 years ago
Reply to  descender


6 years ago
Reply to  Kalines Ghost

it’s a joke. If miggy had spinal stenosis you wouldnt hear about it for the first time as a side note in the middle of an article. It would be a headline.

Baller McCheesemember
6 years ago
Reply to  Kalines Ghost

There’s a wide range for spinal stenosis. Wright has a REALLY bad case. It’s not quite typical. But you can also have it and not even know. So while Miggy may have found out he has it, it shouldn’t be something to really worry about. Typically people aren’t affect by it until they get much older (like their 60’s).

EDIT: Yup. He talks about it a bit here –