If you knew that you could add any player, could draft whoever you want, and no one would get injured, no time would ever be lost, what would be different about how you ran your team?
Well, for starters, Wally Pipp might have gone down as the greatest fantasy player ever, but whatever. Alex Rodriguez would likely still be widely owned. Tony Saunders might be rocking it out on some rosters. Tommy John, James Andrews, Lewis Yocum would be infinitely less famous.
And you'd take more shots on the guys like Andrew Cashner.
If we were guaranteed that Cashner would never spend a day on the DL, would never miss a start with a nagging issue, wouldn't we be all over him? Just like the point I made in my preseason Brian Roberts post, Cashner is a guy who, when healthy, is good, and there's no reason not to capitalize on that health just because it might not be long-term. That is why we have waiver wires.
Cashner was good enough as a reliever at TCU to be a first-round draft pick. He was good enough in the Cubs' system (only three home runs allowed in three minor-league seasons) to be the key part of the Anthony Rizzo-to-Chicago trade. He is good enough that both the Cubs and the Padres decided that "good" needed to be utilized in the starting rotation, not in the bullpen.
Unfortunately, a rotator cuff injury, a lat strain, even a hunting accident have slowed his development and kept him from getting as much big-league time and, as such, he's a 26-year-old with only 142 career innings. Through 30.2 innings spread across nine appearances and four starts this year, he's sporting a 3.23 ERA with 24 strikeouts.
It's too early to draw any concrete conclusions as to the influence of the fences moving in at Petco Park, but the early numbers indicate that it is still a pitchers' park, albeit not quite as dramatically one as before. It might not remake Aaron Harang as a stud anymore, but I'd still rather pitch there than in Denver or Arlington.
Is Cashner Clayton Kershaw? No. First off, his name is Andrew, come on. But no, he's not a top-tier pitcher. His control has been dodgy, with only a 24:15 K:BB ratio so far in 2013. But he's got a potentially dominant fastball to go with a changeup and a slider, and it appears he's added a two-seamer this year as well, according to PITCHf/x data. No, he's not likely to be Matt Harvey just yet, if ever, but he just might be Brandon Morrow - not great, but always owned, theoretically useful. I wouldn't trade the farm for Brandon Morrow, but if he was out there, I'd always put in a claim.
Just like Roberts - and, heck, Morrow - as long as Cashner is healthy, there's no reason not to toss him out there. Add Cashner now. Odds are, he'll be productive. If (when?) he gets hurt, cut bait. Move on. Cashner's ownership percentage is around 27 in Yahoo. There's no reason for it not to be double, triple that. He's healthy now. Capitalize.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a world devoid of injury. You can't use Wally Pipp, no matter how hard you try. But don't live in fear of a theoretical future injury. That's just missing out on potential stats.
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