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Fantasy Injury Concerns -- How to use your DL before anyone is hurt

Why let your DL sit empty? Use it as your secret stash and pick up an already-injured guy and sit on that lottery ticket.

Kevork Djansezian

The theory: On Mondays, I will break down some guys who are on the disabled list/coming off the disabled list/playing through pain/got a splinter. I will tell you about injury replacements, guys whose injuries make them liabilities, guys whose ex-fantasy owners are mad at them and have made voodoo dolls, cursing them to eternal ailments.

The reality: It’s Opening Day, after approximately a gestation-period-worth of spring training. There are no under-the-radar injuries. I think Mike Trout’s last cough was the second segment on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. Papercuts have been analyzed to within an inch of their…papers? I lost the thread of that metaphor, sorry.

The point is, this particular injury post is the least insight-y injury post I’ll ever be able to offer. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard more than enough about Hanley Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson. So I’ll take this in a little different direction this week — let’s see who you ought to stash, shall we?

Assuming you have the DL space — either your league has multiple slots, or you managed to avoid drafting any of the hurt-third-base combo platter — you can and should use that as a bonus roster spot. An empty DL slot is nearly the same as any other empty slot — it might not cost you, but why not make use of every resource? If one of your regulars gets hurt and you need the DL spot for him, then you drop the sleeper hurt guy. No harm, no foul. No harm to you, at least. In this scenario, there are two hurt players, so I suppose "Yes harm, no foul" for them.

Like I said, it’s Opening Day. A week ago, I had Brandon Beachy sitting on my bench in a couple leagues, because he wasn’t officially on the DL yet. The Braves, though, and bless them for it, appear to be more proactive about their hurt guys, and Beachy was DL a week ago. Today, it’s time for the rest of the teams to act. Today, maybe tomorrow, all sorts of potentially viable players will be hurt and available on your free agent wire.

Maybe they went undrafted because we knew about their injuries. Maybe they were dropped when their injuries popped up. Regardless, and I’ll say it again, why leave a roster spot empty?

So here are the low-owned guys I would target, in the order I would target them, at least in standard-or-close leagues, along with their ESPN ownership percentages:

Alex Rodriguez (11.8% owned): Speaking of players who have been written about too much. Rodriguez might miss the year, might hit like last October if he returns. Sure. But there is no greater potential upside out there. If Rodriguez is anywhere in the vicinity of good Alex Rodriguez, if he has even met good Alex Rodriguez in one of his mirror-kisses, he could end up winning your league for you. Lord knows the Yankees are praying that works out.

Beachy (7.4): I am an unabashed Beachy lover. I refuse to apologize for it. It’s possible-to-likely that he misses half the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. But his return could carry with it the pitcher that led the bigs in ERA and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning over the last two seasons.

Brian McCann (36.3): Catcher is super-deep this year, so if you’re in a single-catcher league, there are better flyers to take than McCann. And he’s been on a steady decline the last couple years. But if you end up needing to use a Carlos Santana or Joe Mauer at first base, or if it looks like Wilin Rosario or Salvador Perez can’t hack it as well as we had hoped, McCann’s return, which could be in the next few weeks, could be your rescue.

Adam Eaton (22.6): HUGE caveat here — Eaton’s DL return is nothing like any of these other, already-proved-themselves-in-the-majors guys. The traditional rehab system has MLB guys down for 20 days (pitcher for 30) before they have to come back up. So a six-eight-week timeline means six to eight weeks. But Eaton, who is a minor-league guy, has no such requirements. If, when he’s healthy, some combination of Gerardo Parra-Jason Kubel-A.J. Pollock-Cody Ross-whoever is crushing it, if the Diamondbacks are winning, they might decide to leave Eaton down indefinitely. No one can force them to do otherwise. But that said, do you remember, like two weeks ago, when everyone and their brother thought Eaton would win the Rookie of the Year? Those projections haven’t gone anywhere. A load of steals, strong OBP and slugging. He’s expected healthy in a month or so. If he gets brought back up, you’ll jump on him then. So jump on him now.

Cory Luebke (0.1): Same as Beachy. Love him. There is the chance that the fences moving in at Petco will hurt him (as it could hurt Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, and anyone else who puts on those awful camo Padres uniforms), but until we know what the impact is, I’m running like they’re the same guys they were before. There’s just no intelligent way to do much else. And when the fences were where they were, Luebke was striking out more than a guy per inning. He’s 28 now and not expected back until midseason, so he’s effectively missed his primest-of-prime years, but if you have a Luebke in your back pocket to slide into your fourth or fifth starter role…well, there are worse things.

Scott Baker (0.2): He’s expected back from his own elbow maladies around the start of June. He’ll have missed more than a full year, but he averaged better than a 3 K:BB ratio over the three years prior to his injury, and his FIP and xFIP improved each year. The Cubs will definitely have a rotation slot ready and waiting for him.

Logan Forsythe (0.1): This is a complete positional-value idea. There aren’t good second basemen out there right now. If Jedd Gyorko bombs out to start the year, or if Headley takes too long coming back, Forsythe’s return from plantar fasciitis (mid-May?) could see him getting serious second-base time. He’s no great shakes at the plate, but he managed a 106 OPS+ last year. Theoretically at least (especially if you read and agree with Joe Sheehan), the Padres’ offense should improve this year, as their core offensive players are all running into their prime years. Forsythe might be able to take advantage with a nice uptick in runs and RBI. But again, this recommendation is only because he’s a second baseman. If you have Robinson Cano and Danny Espinosa, never mind.

Delmon Young (2.2): Just kidding.

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