Hold on, Alabama Shakes. This title isn’t meant for you to run out and take a crowbar to an injured player’s knee. Instead, I’m handicapping injured players in terms of their value. In a way, this is an expansion upon an article I wrote about how Corey Hart compares to Allen Craig. I’ve heard people argue that you can’t predict injuries, so you should draft players with confidence who, though they have an extensive injury history, are currently healthy. To me, it doesn’t make sense to make that assumption, as if injuries have no lingering aftereffect or increase in chance of future injury. Just because we don’t know the full extent of something doesn’t mean we should ignore it. So, it’s worth building this potential risk into the price you pay or the round you draft that player. It is the same approach that you can use to value players who are currently injured. Does this sound controversial? Perfect, that means you’ve followed me so far. I’m going to use this approach to evaluate a few players. The goal of this post is to reduce the uncertainty of how injuries affect a player’s value, particularly in OPS leagues. Anyway, here’s how I value some of these players:
Hanley Ramirez – The toughest part of this exercise is estimating how much time an injured player will miss. I tend to use the high end estimate from reports, which is two months, or 1/3 of the season in this case. So if you draft Hanley, you’re going to need another shortstop to fill that time. If you’re in a 12 team league, let’s assume you can get the 19th best shortstop (assuming that 12 will be used at SS and 6 at MI), who is Andrelton Simmons according to Grey’s rankings. Steamer projects a .269/.342/.439 line for Hanley and a .274/.320/.387 line for Simmons. Using 2/3 Hanley and 1/3 Simmons (may or may not be taken from Hannibal’s cookbook) we calculate a .271/.335/.422 line. That looks an awful lot like Asdrubal Cabrera and it is reasonable to devalue Hanley close to Cabrera’s value. Does this make sense? Hopefully it’s not too complicated…
Troy Tulowitzki – This is probably the most controversial part, although nearly all projection systems do it to some extent. For players who are currently healthy but have an extensive injury history, I value them as if they will miss part of the season. To estimate how many games I project, I average their games played across the past three years. I’ll admit that three years is an arbitrary amount of time, but I believe it is reasonable because it does not overrate any recent injury without also dismissing it. For Tulo, this results in a projection of 104 games. Let’s call that 2/3 of the season and use Steamer’s .300/.373/.540 line for him, while again using Andrelton to fill in the remaining 1/3 season. The result is a .291/.355/.489 line, which is not easily comparable to another shortstop, but echoes Steamer’s Yoenis Cespedes projection. Depending on how you define and value position scarcity, I could see applying similar value to Tulo and Cespedes. I should also add that I’m using Steamer’s projections in an effort to be objective.
David Ortiz – These aren’t the only guys who matter, but I think each of them illustrates a great point. Is this a list of guys I’m going to avoid? Not exactly. I previously praised Ortiz and just drafted him in one of my Razzball Commenter Leagues. His line is so extraordinary, particularly in an OPS league, that he is valuable even if he only plays a partial season. He’s an interesting case because he was dealing with an injury this spring, but is supposed to be ready by the start of the season. I am going to use the same method I used for Tulo to project his games since I view him as a potential injury risk. Over the last three seasons he’s averaged 127 games. Let’s project him for 3/4 season and use Alfonso Soriano, Grey’s 66th ranked outfielder (assuming 60 OFs are drafted in 12 team league and some for Utility), as a replacement for the remaining 1/3 season. Using Steamer’s .279/.374/.508 line for Ortiz and .244/.301/.442 line for Soriano, we have a .270/.356/.492 projection. This is in Paul Goldschmidt and Jay Bruce territory (minus the steals unless we witness some miracles).
Jacoby Ellsbury – I couldn’t resist writing about him after seeing another fantasy baseball writer say that he expects Ellsbury to be healthy this year. That’s either wishful thinking or an irresponsible assertion. Regardless, I don’t think assuming Jacoby will play the full season is the appropriate way to value him considering that he’s only averaged 83 games over the past three seasons. Yes, if you go back before that, he used to play in full seasons so I wouldn’t argue much with estimating 2/3 of a season instead of a 1/2 season. Let’s again use Soriano for the remaining 1/3 season and Steamer’s .285/.338/.434 line for Ellsbury. This results in a .271/.326/.437 line, which looks like a slight step up from Angel Pagan in Steamer’s projections.
Some of this may seem obvious, but I hope that this provided you with a quick way to adjust your valuation of an injured player or a player with an extensive injury history. I recommend this process because it can be tweaked to fit your circumstance, while remaining fairly objective.