Dealing in the misfortunes of athletes is something you do without a heavy heart. Players, like us, feel pain. If you punch them in the face, do they not receive a cut under their eye? If you stick them with a hypodermic needle, do they not bleed? As fantasy baseball owners, we have less of a conscience. If a player’s hurt, we basically employ a “screw you, get off my team” attitude — but not before we trade him to someone else in our league, of course.
I featured this column with suggestions last week of which injured or injury-prone hitters were worth buying low and selling high on. Today, I’ll be delving into the pitchers that fall under those designations.
It’s not something Sister Mary Margaret would approve of, but taking advantage of injuries by either trading hurt players or speculating when one will become hurt, can be very beneficial to your fantasy team in the long run — so pay attention!
PITCHERS TO BUY:
Aroldis Chapman, Reds: The Reds’ fireball throwin’ closer had an unfortunate accident in the spring (a ball crushed his face), but he’s been throwing live BP and should be headed to a rehab assignment later this week. If all goes well, expect the Cuban import to be pitching in the ninth for the Reds come mid-May. It seems like baseball players are getting hurt every 10 minutes, so it’s likely Chapman owners have other injured guys to deal with and may be willing to ship him off in order to clear up some room on their roster. Remember, his injury was to his mug, not his arm, so there should be no concerns about him regaining the form that saw him save 76 games and strikeout 234 batters over the past two seasons.
Alex Cobb, Rays: Cobb was one of my favorite pitchers going into this season. For someone who loves catching some sweet rays while eating corn outside of a Tampa strip club (they’re the best in America, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!), there’s a lot to like. Like Chapman, Cobb also had a scary ball-to-face incident last year, but he overcame that, pitching to a 2.43 ERA and 5-1 record over his final nine starts. He’s now sidelined with an oblique injury, which can be a nagging thing to deal with. Prior to going down he had compiled a sparkling 1.89 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 19 IP. He was originally given a 4-6 week timetable to return, but there have been some hints he could be back on the earlier side of that. The Rays have always been very cautious with injuries, so he makes for a good trade target knowing the team won’t likely let him pitch until they know he is 100 percent healthy. That, and he is a great guy to introduce at BBQs.
PITCHERS TO SELL:
Chris Sale: White Sox: It’s pretty fitting that a guy named “Sale” is under the “sell” column, but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Yellow Smiley Face Deal, or whatever those freaks at Wal-Mart call it. Sale (Chris) is not your average marked down product. He is a Cy Young-caliber starting pitcher who was taken in the 3rd-4th rounds of most fantasy league drafts. He’s been on the shelf since last week with “elbow soreness”, and while doctors have deemed the condition of his UCL to be “excellent”, anyone who has watched him pitch over the past three seasons knows he’s a ticking time bomb. His delivery to the plate is extremely unorthodox, although if you like hearing Hawk Harrelson say “he gone” multiple times, you could probably give a crap. The baseball gods do give a crap, though. The human arm was not designed to throw baseballs, so his herky-jerky motion only puts even more undue pressure on the elbow. Sale, and the Sox, are saying he’ll be off the DL in the minimum time, but if I’m a Sale owner, I’m rushing to trade him. He’s pitched well this season and if owners in your league aren’t spending their days mulling over pitching mechanics and medical oddities, they may be unaware of the fate that could soon be handed down to the White Sox’ ace. Make trading him a priority, because once we hear the even slightest utterance of the name “Dr. James Andrews” in the same sentence as his, you’ll have a better chance of selling a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.
OTHER INJURY NOTES:
Jason Grilli, Pirates: Things have been bad for the Pirates all season long. They have the fourth-worst record in baseball and now their closer has hit the DL with an oblique strain. He wasn’t terribly effective prior to going on the shelf, having blown three saves in seven opportunities. If Mark Melancon (44% owned on ESPN) is still available in your league, make sure you grab him. He had 16 saves in fill-in duty last year and could remain the closer even when Grilli does comes back.
Devin Mesoraco, Reds: I was all over this guy throughout spring training and he certainly made me look good with that 1.297 OPS, but alas, he succumbed to a hamstring injury in Friday night’s game vs. the Braves. If your DL spots are filled and you have another decent catcher, I hate to say it, but he’s droppable. Catchers are gonna have an awfully difficult time returning quickly from a pulled hammy, you know, with all that squatting and stuff. His replacement, Brayan Pena, is a must-add in NL-only leagues if he isn’t already owned.
Chase Headley, Padres: I feel like I’m a kid and some bully just asked me if I wanted a Hertz Doughnut. Yep, it does. Fresh off recommending him as an attractive “buy low”, Headley aggravated the calf injury that caused him to miss much of spring training. According to Headley, though, it’s not as bad as the previous strain and he thinks he will only require a minimum stay on the DL. I’m still a firm believer that if he can maintain health, he will have a decent year, but if you need the roster spot, he can be dropped. On the other hand, if you have an open DL spot and he was let go in your league, he’s easily a top stash candidate.
Wilson Ramos, Nationals: Ramos played all of one game before undergoing surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his left hand. A top sleeper pick among many, he can be added in 62% of ESPN leagues. With catchers like Mesoraco and Russell Martin going down, Ramos could be a viable replacement come May 5, which is when the Nats are hoping he can return. There is 20-homer potential in his bat.
Oswaldo Arcia, Twins: Coming off a fantastic rookie campaign (14 HR, 43 RBI), Arcia didn’t make it past Week 1 of the 2014 season without getting hurt. He’s been on the DL with a wrist injury, but has been cleared to go on a rehab assignment this week and could be back in the Twin Cities by the weekend. Jason Kubel did an okay job of filling in, but Arcia is a big part of the team’s future. Expect him to play full-time after he gets his feet wet. He’s a nice pickup in leagues that carry five or more outfielders and is worth speculating on if you’re looking to add some sneaky pop to your lineup.
Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks: Trumbo went down this past week with a stress fracture in his left foot. It’s not good news, as he’s dealt with this injury before. The timetable they’re giving for his return is six weeks, but I’m a little pessimistic about that. Trumbo is a 6-foot-4, 240 pound man who already has a difficult time playing in the outfield. Tack on a foot injury to his hulking frame, and that’s a recipe for disaster. He was leading the league in home runs when he went down, so it’s kinda hard to drop the guy, but don’t be surprised if he’s still not back by the All-Star break. In the meantime, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock and Tony Campana (SAGNOF special) are all worth looks in deeper leagues.
Follow SethDaSportsMan on Twitter at, you guessed it, @SethDaSportsMan, for quality fantasy sports advice and the deepest veneration of all things Nicolas Cage