Two of fantasy's biggest names -- Giancarlo Stanton and Stephen Strasburg -- are dealing with injures. Which owners should be more worried? Who can fill in for Stanton? Which injured players are coming back soon? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack have answers, along with some reflection on the NFL Draft.
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Beller: The list of recent injuries looks like it could be the National League All-Star roster. Luckily for their owners, not to mention Rockies and Mets fans, both Troy Tulowitzki and David Wright appear to have skirted serious damage. Wright didn't start Monday because of a sore neck, but he was able to pinch hit in the ninth inning and returned to the lineup Tuesday. Tulowitzki is expected to miss a couple games with a shoulder injury, but the Rockies think he'll be back for their weekend series against the Rays.
The news isn't quite as good for Giancarlo Stanton or, perhaps, Stephen Strasburg. Stanton finally found his power stroke against the Cubs over the weekend, blasting three homers, all of the tape-measure variety. Unfortunately, he strained his hamstring running to first base against the Mets Monday, and was immediately placed on the 15-day DL. Strasburg, meanwhile, dealt with tightness in his right forearm during his start Monday against the Braves. He made it through six innings and struck out eight, but allowed two runs on six hits and four walks. His numbers thus far this season would be fine for a mere mortal, but they fall short of the lofty expectations the baseball world has for Strasburg. His fastball has topped 95 MPH in all of his starts, so it's not a velocity issue. Perhaps these forearm issues had been building up over his last few starts.
My question to you, Mack, is should Stanton or Strasburg owners be more worried right now? My inclination is Stanton owners. We already know his injury is serious enough to warrant a DL stint, and hamstring problems have a way of lingering. But if Strasburg truly does have arm issues at the end of April, it could be a long season for people who invested a high pick in him.
Mack: I have to admit, I'm nervous at the Strasburg news. Shaking his arm to loosen it has always been a habit of his, but the words 'sore forearm' tend to bring about the name Dr. James Andrews. The usually overly cautious Nationals seemed convinced Tuesday the issue is minor, maybe even related to the electronic therapy Strasburg gets before starts.
Fantasy owners have to be more concerned with Stanton, though, because their slugger finally looked like he was going to bust out of his early season slump. Now, they will be without him for about two to three weeks.
Stanton's fantasy owners should turn to Marcell Ozuna, who's filling in for Stanton in the meantime. The 22-year-old Dominican is a poor man's Stanton right now. Ozuna had five homers and 15 RBI in his first 15 Double-A games, hitting .333 (14-for-42). It's possible he might not stick around once Stanton is ready again, but that prospect can at least give you what a struggling Stanton has to date.
"I want to stay the whole season and make a whole career here," Ozuna told me after getting his first major-league hit Tuesday night in Miami. "I don't want to go down any more because the minor leagues are hard."
In response, wily 16-year veteran Placido Polanco joked, "He's getting sent down tomorrow."
He's not, at least not until Stanton returns -- but Mr. Ozuna, you haven't seen anything yet.
As for the other injured All-Stars, at least Hanley Ramirez (thumb surgery) and Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) are returning this week, and Curtis Granderson (broken forearm) might not be too far behind.
It will be interesting to see which of the big spring training injuries have the best fantasy value here on out. Among them: Ramirez, Granderson, Mark Teixeira (wrist), Brian McCann (shoulder), Corey Hart (knee), Adam Eaton (elbow) and Matt Garza (shoulder).
Beller: As long as he's back in the not-too-distant future, Granderson is the safest bet of the bunch. He has remade himself into an elite power hitter in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium. Should he remain healthy the rest of the season and keep up his 2011-12 home-run pace, we're looking at a guy who will hit 25-30 homers through the rest of the season.
As for the rest of them, I'm buying Ramirez, Hart and Eaton, selling Teixeira and McCann, and holding on Garza, at least as far as meeting their preseason expectations is concerned. Hanley had a nice WBC for the Dominican Republic before injuring his thumb. He's not the deadly power-speed threat he once was, but he's certainly at the top tier at both third base and shortstop. Eaton's an on-base machine and a speedster, and I'm not worried about any lingering effects of an elbow injury slowing him down. Power hitters and wrist injuries just don't mix, which means I can't be far enough away from Teixeira. And I know McCann hit two homers in his first rehab start, but shoulder injuries are almost as troubling as ones to the wrist.
Are there any players you refuse to sell supposedly high on? One guy who won't be leaving my team any time soon is Wilin Rosario. You know well the love I had for both him and the Rockies during draft season, and they're both making me look pretty smart right now. Yeah, Rosario's got a .389 BABIP and a 3.6 percent walk rate. He also has a .300 isolated slugging percentage and 24.6 percent line-drive rate. Unless your last name is Posey, you have no chance of finishing ahead of Rosario among the catcher ranks this season.
Mack: You do love your catchers! Rosario is far easier to love than your man crush Jonathan Lucroy because of his 30-homer potential. Catchers just don't hit 30-plus homers, but Rosario looks well on his way -- more so than John Buck. I led the Weekly Planner with five guys we should sell high on, Buck included.
Players you absolutely should not sell high on right now are Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Clay Buchholz and Adam Wainwright. Their hot starts are legitimate signals of a career year and they will still be fantasy monsters once everyone in your league turns their attention to fantasy football drafts.
Speaking of which, from the NFL Draft this weekend, which rookies do you like best after seeing where they landed?
I don't think any of the quarterbacks are draftable in a fantasy league -- only E.J. Manuel might start at this point -- and the two top tight ends, Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz, went to places where they will be the second part of timeshares. Eddie Lacy (Packers), Montee Ball (Broncos) and Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) could each start and star among backs, but they could also be backups, too. Tavon Austin (Rams), DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) and Keenan Allen (Chargers) might start for their teams, but they won't be drafted as fantasy starters; they are mere reserves, if they are even drafted at all in a standard two-wide receiver, no-flex format.
After two legendary rookie seasons for fantasy players back-to-back -- Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson -- it looks like a lean year for rookies.
Are you going to remind everyone I said the same things each of the past two years? I hope so. I really want some rookie sleepers to tout here.
Beller:Hey everyone, Mack said the exact same thing each of the past two years.
I agree, this will be a thin year for rookies in the fantasy game, as is to be expected when only five skill position players get selected in the first round. I won't be taking any of the receivers. It's hard enough for a Calvin Johnson or Justin Blackmon to come in and make an impact as a rookie receiver, let alone someone like Austin or Allen. I might throw a late-round pick or $1 at Eifert. No doubt Cincinnati will try to duplicate what the Patriots do with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez now that Eifert is in the fold alongside Jermaine Gresham, and I think Cincy has enough of an offense to make their new tight end a fantasy starter by time it's all said and done. But that's still a long shot.
However, I think at least one of the three backs you mentioned will end up being a weekly starter in fantasy leagues, and if I can only have one of them, I want Ball. Yes, he ran behind a dominant line in college, especially in his junior year when he was a Heisman finalist and shared the backfield with Russell Wilson. Still, you don't become the NCAA's all-time touchdown leader without a little bit of talent. As a Wisconsin alum, I've watched pretty much every carry Ball had in college, and it always seemed to me there were few backs in the NCAA that could match his patience. He understands how to set up blocks and has the burst to get through the hole quickly once it presents itself. We saw how Peyton Manning turned Willis McGahee, and then Knowshon Moreno, into fantasy mainstays last year. I'd be shocked if he doesn't help do the same for Ball.