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Top injury risks for season ahead

A few injuries can quickly derail an entire season for a fantasy owner, but avoiding an injury-prone player altogether can be foolhardy. Many players who enter the upcoming season with injuries can be had for a good value. It's a balancing act between the risk, the reward, and how well your team has already been assembled.

The disabled list is something that few owners think about using to their advantage during the draft. Selecting a DL-eligible player is risky, but the compensation is essentially a bonus draft pick. At the conclusion of the draft, immediately stash your damaged goods and claim the best undrafted player on waivers. This is a two-for-one opportunity many fantasy owners ignore.

Let's take a look at some fantasy cogs who are heading into the 2010 season with injury concerns or possibly starting the season on the disabled list.

Johan Santana (NYM) elbowRoy Oswalt (HOU) back Rich Harden (TEX) shoulder Brandon Webb (ARZ) shoulder Kevin Slowey (MIN) wrist Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS) groin Gil Meche (KAN) shoulder Ben Sheets (OAK) elbow Justin Duchscherer (OAK) elbow, shoulder Tim Wakefield (BOS) back Shaun Marcum (TOR) elbow ChrisYoung (SDG) shoulder Kevin Slowey (MIN) wrist Brett Myers (HOU) hip Brian Bannister (KAN) shoulder Chris Capuano (MIL) two Tommy Johns

• Coming off minor elbow surgery to remove bone chips, Santana is a risky No. 1 SP selection. To reduce wear, he has been throwing the slider less and the changeup more, but contact rates have increased. Santana's caution signs include a decline in strikeouts per nine innings (K/9), walks per nine innings (BB/9), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP), and Batting Average Against (BAA) over the past several years.

• Oswalt missed the last two weeks of 2009 with back problems. He has since changed his conditioning and reports no discomfort. Oswalt could return to No. 1 SP form at the price of a No. 2 or 3.

• Over the last two seasons, Harden has averaged 25.5 starts per year with a 10.96 K/9. In addition to his shoulder woes, Harden is moving to a hitter's park after a career high HR/9 of 1.47 last year. He'll still have value, but fantasy owners may have to pick and choose when to use him.

• From 2004-08, Webb made 33.8 starts per season but was limited to one disaster of an outing last year. He's a risky dude to scoop up coming off shoulder surgery. Monitor his early results this spring. If all goes well, he'll prove to be a cheap alternative to the more expensive No. 1 starters.

• Slowey won 12 games in 2008 with a 3.99 ERA; he won 10 of 16 starts last year before being lost for the season to wrist surgery. Despite last year's shaky 1.41 WHIP, Slowey should be of help in that category while adding solid strikeout numbers.

DL-bound

Ted Lilly (CHC) shoulder Erik Bedard (FA) shoulder Edinson Volquez (CIN) elbow Jesse Litsch (TOR) elbow Dustin McGowan (TOR) shoulder

Free agents

Erik Bedard shoulder

• The Cubs believe Lilly could be back as early as the third week of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery to clean out debris and repair a frayed labrum. He posted solid numbers last year: career low WHIP (1.06) and BAA (2.32), but is certainly a risk heading into draft day.

• Last year, Volquez needed Tommy John surgery after only nine last starts; and he may not pitch at all this season.

• Bedard made only 30 starts in the last two seasons before being diagnosed with a torn labrum. He's certainly a fantasy ace when he's able to take the mound, but at this point it appears that he may not pitch until May.

Closers

Billy Wagner (ATL) elbowBrad Lidge (PHI) knee

Setup

J.J. Putz (CHW) elbow Joel Zumaya (DET) shoulder Kelvim Escobar (NYM) shoulder

• Coming off Tommy John surgery, Wagner looked rusty at times, but looked as good as old in 15 late season innings. If his shoulder holds up he could be a steal as a late-round closer.

• Lidge may miss a few games to start 2010 after minor elbow surgery (if there is such a thing). Last year, Lidge somehow got 31 saves (11 blown) with a horrifying 7.21 ERA and .303 BAA. If his knee and elbow issues are resolved, Lidge could be a bargain. That said, he'll need to get off to a good start to keep his job. Great potential value, but don't pay for it.

Injury risks

Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) wrist Troy Glaus (ATL) shoulderBrandon Inge (DET) kneesMark DeRosa (SF) wristNick Johnson (NYY) hamstringMike Lowell (BOS) thumb

Free agents

Carlos Delgado (FA) hipJoe Crede (FA) backHank Blalock (FA) shoulder

• A shoulder injury limited Glaus to only 14 games last year, but he hit 27 home runs as recently as 2008. He makes a nice end game pick for his 30-HR potential.

• Inge hit .268 with 21 homers before the break, but the real Inge showed up in the second half as he hit .186 with six homers afterward. He's no longer catcher eligible, which takes him out of the conversation for mixed league owners.

• Check your league settings for DeRosa's positional eligibility; he's a Swiss Army knife in daily league formats. He's had 20-plus bombs in consecutive seasons, and 70-plus RBIs for four straight years.

• Sure, Johnson has been injured about as much as he's been productive throughout his career. Nevertheless, he will see a lot of DH action in a potent Yankees lineup and he has always found his way on base (.402 on base percentage for his career). If healthy, a career year is in store.

Shortstops

Jose Reyes (NYM) hamstringMike Aviles (KAN) elbow Khalil Greene (TEX) anxiety

Second basemen

Rickie Weeks (MIL) wrist Freddy Sanchez (SF) knee, shoulder

• After playing in only 36 games last year, Reyes says he'll be 100 percent for spring training. He's a rare mix of speed and pop that keeps him among the top selections at shortstop. He averaged 13.5 HRs and 64.5 stolen bases per season from 2005-08.

• Weeks can provide cheap power and speed, but he's never had a 500 at-bat season. This perennial sleeper has a lot to prove heading into 2010.

Grady Sizemore (CLE) elbow, sports herniaCarlos Beltran (NYM) knee Josh Hamilton (TEX) back Alfonso Soriano (CHC) kneeMilton Bradley (SEA) shoulder Coco Crisp (OAK) shoulderJose Guillen (KAN) hamstringXavier Nady (CHC) elbow, second Tommy John

• A 30/30 talent when healthy, Sizemore is a lifetime .275 hitter and offers No. 1 OF value at a potential discount because he's coming off multiple injuries.

• Out until at least May following knee surgery, Beltran has played in 145 or more games in only two of the last five years. He still averaged 25.4 HRs and 18.8 SBs in that span. The power may return, but there is a real question whether the SBs will.

• Hamilton was limited to 89 games last year with a myriad of injuries. The talent is obvious, but questions abound with injury concerns as well as further off the field controversy.

• Soriano always posts an awful walk rate and a streaky batting average. Worse yet, his home runs have declined over the last four seasons. There's still production in his bat, but season ending knee surgery says the speed may be a thing of the past.

Vladimir Guerrero (TEX) knee Hideki Matsui (ANA) knee Travis Hafner (CLE) shoulder

• Guerrero's career numbers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington are: .394 AVG, 14 HRs, 33 RBIs, .705 slugger percentage in 50 games. Bad knees will limit him to full-time DH, but he gains value if he still qualifies in the outfield in your league.

Jesus Flores (WAS) shoulder Jarrod Saltalamacchia (TEX) shoulder

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