Will Carroll: Injury concerns making for draft bargains - Sports Illustrated

Under The Knife: Injury concerns make for draft bargains

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With almost all drafts and auctions over, I had Dan Wade, my research assistant, dig into some of the results to see how or if injuries factored into players' Average Draft Positions. Some of his findings are pretty interesting and show that the market is still inefficient, a chance for you to jump in and find some opportunities.

Here's what Dan found:

• Even if Joe Nathan gives away a few save chances to Matt Capps, Nathan (ADP 233, courtesy of MockDraftCentral) is a relatively safe pick. He's healthy and he's only going to get better as the year progresses and he regains command of his slider. Andrew Bailey (ADP 157) might not be the worst gamble, but when you can get Nathan -- who doesn't have standing injury issues -- almost 80 picks later, that's the better play.

• Johan Santana (ADP 263) is going as a late-round gamble, and that's OK, especially if you have multiple DL slots and are willing to hope the Mets stay in the race long enough for him to reappear. However, Jake Peavy (ADP 357) is probably only going to miss 3-4 starts and is going 90 picks later.

• In OBP leagues, there's no reason to grab Kendrys Morales (ADP 73, more info below) and sweat out his lingering lower body issues when Carlos Pena (ADP 195) will give you good on-base percentage and a fair bit of pop 120 picks -- fully 10 to 12 rounds -- later.

Take a look to see if players drafted too low can be traded for at that lower value if you didn't get them the first time around. Conversely, you might be able to dump some overvalued picks now if you can find a partner who's not paying attention.

I want to go on record, letting you know that this is one place there aren't any April Fool's pranks. As much fun as they can be, injuries aren't a place where they work, and I simply don't do it. Powered by the start of the season, on to the injuries:

The Phillies haven't had a great spring when it comes to health. The news on Lidge is another hit, with an MRI showing a Grade II strain of his rotator cuff. Sources tell me that it's concerning, but that surgery "was never really considered. It's a strong spot and seems to already be healing up." It's hard to spin this as any kind of positive, but sometimes you take what you get. Cuff strains in isolation can heal up well and allow the pitcher to come back, but shoulders are very complex structures. Setbacks are common, and Lidge seems to be breaking down with multiple paths, often a sign of impending rapid decline or a massive cascade injury. The mid-May ERD is relatively optimistic. The bigger question is how Lidge will be throwing when he does return. We won't know that until early May at best.

I hate when real life intrudes on the escape that is fantasy sports. Luckily, Zito came away from a scary auto crash with nothing worse than soreness and an insurance claim. Zito was checked and released, though the Giants ordered some additional tests of their own, including an MRI. This is as much about protecting their investment (and possible non-baseball injury claims) as it is about any injury to Zito. Both Bruce Bochy and Zito believe the hurler will make his scheduled start on Sunday. We'll have to see if there's any discernible effect beyond the neck brace that Zito was wearing on Thursday. Zito is a key component of the Giants rotation, so a loss for any period of time would be a stressor.

The fluke injury to Morales didn't stop teams from the crazed walkoff celebrations. I watched Ramon Hernandez get mobbed at home plate Thursday, and while it was on my mind, it didn't look to be on anyone's in Cincinnati. Granted, they were happy, and I don't want to be that buzzkill guy either. But the ongoing issues that Morales is having need to serve as some kind of reminder. Morales has pain in his foot, likely a result of some kind of cascade as he continues to have issues with the ankle post-repair. Morales was shut down briefly because of this, but once images came back negative and doctors were able to reassure Morales and the Angels, he's back to the rehab grind. May 1 is a bit pessimistic here; it wouldn't surprise me if Morales' ERD shifts several times over the next few weeks based on how he tolerates ramping up his activity (and how Mark Trumbo hits.)

It doesn't sound as if Drew will be playing in the D'backs' opening game, due to an abdominal strain. The D'backs medical staff had phenomenal results last season, better than both the average and the best expectations. Given the team's results on the field, it's possible trainer Ken Crenshaw and his staff saved them from the 43-win fate of the 2003 Tigers. Drew has a lower abdominal strain, something that's not considered serious, but the team wants to make sure doesn't get worse. Teams regularly trade days to save weeks, a smart policy that's in play here. Drew could play as early as the weekend, so it's not a significant fantasy loss.

The Jays put Patterson on the DL with a concussion, but not on the new seven-day concussion DL. Manager John Farrell said this was because the injury was a head contusion, not a concussion. I'm not sure why Patterson's injury -- he was hit by a Daniel Bard pitch -- doesn't qualify, but we have to assume this was either a decision by the Jays medical staff or possibly a hard line stance by MLB. It seems more the former in the article linked there, but with the new concussion policy in place and baseball moving in the right direction, I'm curious why there's an issue here. Patterson is reportedly making progress and should come off the DL at or near the minimum.

The mechanical mavens of the Internet love to go back and forth on Sale. He's the current exemplar of the "Inverted W" style that some feel is problematic. (For me, I'm unconvinced without biomechanical data. There's also some counter-examples that I find interesting. It does worry me when pitchers -- especially young pitchers in new roles -- have neck issues. The neck can often be a referred site for pain from the shoulder, and considering the way Sale's shoulders move through his delivery, the chance for nerve issues is real. It appears that whatever it is this time is minor and that he'll be ready for the Sox opener out of the pen.

While Happ is yet another player dealing with a strained oblique this spring, he did make "huge leaps forward" during his last couple sessions. Happ spent Thursday throwing and getting treatment, and the Astros think they'll be able to schedule a start for him after his next workout. Oblique strains are always risky in terms of recurrence, so while this is a positive sign, it's not a 100 percent lock he'll be back on or around the middle of next week. Given the sheer number of injuries the Astros have had this spring, getting Happ back after missing only one start has to feel like a real positive.

Maybin introduced himself to the Padres faithful with a solid Opening Day performance, including a game-tying homer. By the end of the game, though, San Diego's newest hero came up lame. It turns out Maybin had some leg cramps, nothing more. It's not serious or long term, though it does bring up some questions about conditioning and hydration, questions for Maybin as much as the medical staff. The Padres need Maybin -- and the rest of their undermanned squad -- to stay healthy.

The Mets are going to take a scheduled approach to rest for Beltran. The off days won't be released publicly (thought I wouldn't count against a leak ...) so it's not going to be easy. There are some general rules, like no more than three games in a row, no day after night, and that the team will try to leverage rest by scheduling a game off before or after a day off. Knowing this isn't going to make Beltran more available or more valuable for fantasy players, but it does make him a bit more predictable. That alone is worth something as you're setting your lineups, but it's most valuable in weekly leagues, where a quick glance at the schedule should help you make the right roster decisions.

It wasn't too long ago that there was a media storm about the possibility of Santana being shut down for the season. Things are looking a lot more positive lately as Santana has had no setbacks, though he's still in the early stages of this rehab. The next key to look for is if he's up on a mound in early July. Some reports have that date as May 1, but that's a little aggressive given the timetable, so I expect that there's some slide there. It may well be the next date that we see some Mets fans angst, so you'll just have to listen for the collective groan to know when to flip your calendar. Throughout this process, they key for Santana is to build strength while maintaining the stability of the shoulder. Since team context is huge for pace of rehabs, I don't understand the fascination with having Santana back early. Sure, the team can't win without him in 2011, but they also can't win with him. Next season is the much bigger focus, as it should be.

Guess Curtis Granderson was healthy, huh? Nice opener for him ... John Axford looked very out of sorts. From his first pitch, Dan Wade and I were both looking at each other and saying "he's late."Ramon Hernandez deposited one in the seats on one of those offerings. I'm officially worried ... Control is always the last thing to come after Tommy John, but with Edinson Volquez, it didn't look like he'd found it during the spring, either. He was very shaky in the first couple innings of Opening Day, though he did have good velocity. He seemed to calm down in later innings, though inefficiency is going to be a real problem for him ... Brian Wilson made it through a side session and is on track to come off the DL at the minimum, next Wednesday ... James McDonald made it through a side session and is on track to get his first start on April 6 ... Continuing Side-o-palooza, Mat Latos had a side on flat ground that went well. He'll move to a mound this weekend, which will determine his return date ... The Jays think Octavio Dotel will be back mid-week from his hamstring strain ... This Bonds trial doesn't seem to be going so well for the prosecution. One of their own witnesses, Dr.Arthur Ting, gave a compelling alternate scenario to the jury on Thursday.

Follow Will Carroll on Twitter (@injuryexpert). He is a member of the BBWAA and PFWA.