Unless you followed the career of boxer Brandon Burke, or are a connoisseur of German speed porn, you’re probably not used to seeing this many guys go down so soon.
Injuries to baseball players have become a national epidemic, especially among frontline pitchers. In just a few short months, we’ve seen players like Kris Medlen, Patrick Corbin, Bobby Parnell, Jarrod Parker and (most likely) Matt Moore require Tommy John surgery.
While those pitchers are done for the season (and maybe even parts of 2015), there are in fact some players returning from various ailments who are waiting patiently to be scooped up off your fantasy baseball league’s waiver wire.
The “DL stash” is a time-honored tradition that all fantasy baseball champions employ. Last week, I went over the hitters who are/were residing on the disabled list, and this week I’ll be covering the guys throwing the balls to them. If you have an open DL spot, or spots, in your league, it’s imperative that you use them.
You won’t see me suggesting guys like Cole Hamels or Mike Minor, because something tells me that you have more cojones than to play in a league so lacking in competition that they would still be available. Rather, I will highlight some pitchers more suited for deeper leagues, as well as NL- and AL-only leagues.
Grab ‘n Stash:
Taijuan Walker, Mariners: When I looked at Walker’s ownership percentage on ESPN, I was shocked. 11 percent!? There’s a higher percentage of people who still own a Sega Saturn. Walker is one of the top young pitching prospects in baseball and should be owned in 100 percent of leagues. In his cup of coffee in Seattle last year (please don’t sue me, Starbucks), the 21-year-old right-hander went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 12 K over 15 IP. He didn’t allow a single ball to leave the park in his three starts either. Because he hurt his shoulder early on in spring training, many fantasy owners let him fall by the wayside during drafts. If you’re in a league where that happened, go grab him now. Walker struck out 10 batters in his latest rehab start and will make one more minor league appearance before being activated.
Jesse Crain, Astros: Crain is one of the less sexy names out there (unless you’re talking about this Crane), but he could very well be the second-most coveted DL-ridden pitcher behind Taijuan Walker. The Astros are, well, the Astros, and that means that they suck goat ass. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Their bullpen situation is no different, either. Right now the team is using Josh Fields are their primary closer, but that hasn’t worked out so well lately. After a strong start to the season in which he pitched three consecutive scoreless innings, Fields got rocked on Thursday, allowing three runs (2 ER) to the Blue Jays in a non-save situation. One bad inning isn’t gonna get him demoted, but Crain could easily usurp the role upon his return. The right-hander has 10 years of experience and he actually made the All-Star team last year (not kidding)! Crain is recovering from biceps surgery and could be in line to return to the ‘Stros bullpen by the second week of May. If you’re chasing saves, he is easily the top stash and is still available in most leagues.
Derek Holland, Rangers: Holland is an odd guy. His antics once got him kicked out of a Counting Crows concert, although willingly admitting that he was even at a Counting Crows concert is grounds to be put in a straight jacket. He even does a good impression of Will Ferrell impersonating Harry Caray. So it’s not surprising that Holland was injured in an equally goofy manner. Because the injury was to his knee, and not his arm, he makes for one of the better stashes out there. The Ohio native is coming off a fantastic season in which he won 10 games and struck out a career-high 189 batters. He also posted a career-best 3.42 ERA — not an easy feat when playing your home games in Arlington. His original timetable had him coming back after the All-Star break, but he seems determined to beat that. Holland threw his first bullpen session last week and is now shooting for an early- to mid-June return to the Rangers rotation.
Matt Harrison, Rangers: In keeping with the Texas theme here, Matt Harrison is also a viable DL-stash. Plagued by back issues for the past year, the 28-year-old looks to be nearing a return after missing all but two games last season. The southpaw has amped up his rehab, throwing 4.2 innings (with decent velocity) for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders this past Tuesday. Harrison won 32 games for the Rangers from 2011-12, which gives him lots of stash appeal if he can remain healthy. He is expected to join the big club by the end of next week.
Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies: Many owners have shied away from Chacin because of the ballpark factor — he of course plays his home games in Coors Field. No one can compare to the pitching skills Ice Cube does for Coors, but if he should somehow meet an untimely death like his brother Ricky did in “Boyz n the Hood”, Chacin could easily fill the void. His overall ERA in Denver (4.18) was pretty good for Rocky Mountain Standard Time, and his second half ERA (3.72) was even better. Being an exceptional ground ball pitcher (48.7 percent over his career) has allowed Chacin to have some success at Coors when others haven’t. For owners who need help with their pitching depth and have an empty DL spot to spare, Jhoulys Chacin is a worthwhile stash. He is set to go on the first of at least two or three rehab assignments this week and could return in the early stages of May.
Gavin Floyd, Braves: The year was 2004. Fans of “Friends” said goodbye to Joey, Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel, Monica and Ross, “Bennifer” ended their torrid romance, and Gavin Floyd made his major league debut for the Philadelphia Phillies. Once the ninth-ranked prospect in all of baseball, Floyd has failed to live up to the hype. That, of course, hasn’t stopped him from compiling nearly 1,200 innings over 10 big league seasons. Floyd was signed by the Braves in the offseason and is still making his way back from Tommy John surgery, but because the Braves are in dire need for pitching help, he could be handed a rotation spot immediately upon his return. With no Kris Medlen or Brandon Beachy, Floyd will have a longer leash than usual, and could be a decent stash given the potent offense that he’ll be pitching for. The 31-year-old threw very well in his last two rehab starts and a late- April early-May return seems possible. I’ll stick Floyd in the “Grab ‘n Stash” column for now, but he’s probably more likely to be an NL-only guy in the long run.
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: Things went amiss for the former Rookie of the Year last season. His 5.17 ERA was 2.07 points higher than in 2012 and he just didn’t look comfortable out there. Offseason elbow surgery will sideline him till late May at the earliest, but owners shouldn’t forget his past successes or the fact that he’s still just 27 years old. With Matt Moore likely looking at season-ending surgery, the Rays will be ecstatic to have Hellickson back for the dog day of summer. He won’t provide strikeouts, but he should be able to rack up some wins and will be a solid stash if he can revisit the ratios he had prior to 2013.
Jacob Turner, Marlins: Turner, who was already fighting to stay in Miami’s rotation, was placed on the DL with a right shoulder strain after making just one start. Once a top prospect with the Tigers, Turner is a decent stash in deeper leagues due his potential and the ballpark he plays in.
That’s Highly Discriminatory! (AL/NL-only league stashes):
Jake Arrieta, Cubs: Arrieta came over to the Cubs (with Pedro Strop) in the deal that sent Scott Feldman to the Orioles last season. The 28-year-old right-hander has started two games for Double-A Tennessee, pitching 6.2 innings of shutout ball. The Cubs rotation looks decent in the early going, but Arrieta could be an option come summer time. The question still remains: “Arietta going to see the Cubs win??” Note – I am perfectly okay with the severe backlash I will get in the comments section for that terrible pun, but I can’t help it — I’m a big pun guy!
Juan Carlos Oviedo, Rays: If you’re unfamiliar with who this curious name is to the left, it’s because “Juan Carlos” fell the way of Fausto Carm — err — Roberto Hernandez. You may remember JCO as “Leo Nunez”, the former Marlins closer. The 32-year-old (or 57 in Dominican years) saved 92 games for the Fish from 2009-2011, but found himself out of the league while dealing with visa issues. He’s currently building up his stamina with Triple-A Durham and could return to the Rays this week. He’s a good AL-only stash if your league counts holds, and if Grant Balfour were to ever get hurt, Oviedo could be a replacement option at the back end of the Rays’ bullpen.
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals: Jaime Garcia’s left shoulder seems like it was put together by a blind 5-year-old who failed out of Lego school. Garcia underwent surgery last year and had a setback during spring training, but he’s currently regaining his strength and hoping for a return in May. Garcia may hold more injury risk than any of the players already mentioned, but the potential is there. The 27-year-old has a career 3.45 ERA and racked up back-to-back 13-win seasons in 2010-11. He will probably pitch out of the bullpen upon his arrival in St. Louis, but with all the pitchers going down, it’s possible he could be an option to start games later in the season.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Phillies: Soooo not every Cuban player has panned out. While the Yasiel Puigs and the Yoenis Cespedeses of the world have thrived, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has met some attrition. He didn’t do anything good enough in spring training to warrant a roster spot in Philly, and is now dealing with shoulder issues. He’s reportedly feeling a lot better, but since he is on the 60-day DL, he won’t be eligible to return till June. The Phillies, who are in last place in the NL East (a division that includes the Mets and Marlins), aren’t exactly getting younger, and they’ve already shelled out $12 mil to Gonzalez. Throwing him into the rotation may be something they’ll need to do if some certain someones (Ruben Amaro, Jr., Ryne Sandberg) wanna keep their jobs past 2014.
Jason Motte, Cardinals: Motte, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is close to returning. He saved 42 games for the Cards in 2012 and was penciled in to be their closer last year, but an elbow injury derailed his season. Once back, he will be used mainly in a setup role, but Trevor Rosenthal has struggled early on (earned runs in three of six appearances), and Motte could be a dark horse candidate to take over if his issues should continue.
My Ten Foot Pole Has No Interest In Touching These Guys:
Nate Jones, White Sox: On top of already losing his job in spring training after it was already assumed he would be the closer, Jones is now dealing with lower back injury. Those types of injuries can be very tricky and can flare up at moments notice. Prior to landing on the DL, he had allowed 4 ER without having even recorded a single out. Should Matt Lindstrom need to be replaced, Daniel Webb is probably a better option to takeover anyway.
James Paxton, Mariners: Love the talent this guy possesses, but he’s now on the DL with a lat injury, and Johnny Cueto owners should know damn well how annoying those can be to predict. Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker will be in Seattle by the end of the month, so even when Paxton does come back, he’ll most likely be given a bullpen role. Of course, dynasty league owners should continue to roster him with confidence.
Brian Wilson, Dodgers: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” if Brian Wilson could stay even remotely healthy? Wilson is one of the most exciting players to watch (even when he’s doing Taco Bell commercials), but the words “elbow” and “inflammation” next to a guy’s name who’s had not one, but two Tommy John surgeries, should scare off even the most daring of fantasy owners. I’d rather spend my FAAB money on an XXL Chalupa than on Brian Wilson
Josh Johnson, Padres: There was a lot of sleeper hype surrounding Johnson after he signed a one-year deal with the Padres. Spacious ballpark, out of the AL East, fresh start. Those were some of the reasons. Unfortunately, none of those qualities took into account the laundry list of injuries he’s endured throughout his nine-year career. The 30-year-old has always possessed potential, but he started only four games in 2007, 14 games in 2008, nine games in 2011, and 13 games last year — all due to injury. I wouldn’t argue against adding him in NL-only leagues, but he’s not worth the hassle in any other format.