Draft Prep: Hitters Coming Off 2019 Injuries

Ryan Amore surveys hitters who were injured last year and could provide draft day bargains.

Let’s survey some hitters who dealt with injuries this past season and whose ADP may or may not be deflated as a result. In order to do this, we’ll compare NFBC ADPs from last year and this year (accurate as of 2/27) in a search for potential bargains. Of course, not everyone plays NFBC format so its far from perfect but it at the very least gives us a rough indication of whose perceived value has gone up or down in the last 12 months. Players like Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Joey Gallo are not included. Their value is more or less set in stone at this point. The same can be said for top catchers Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras, despite that both dealt with nagging injuries last season. Not everyone on this list may have hit the IL officially last year. One final caveat, most players deal with injuries over the course of a full season. The purpose here isn’t necessarily to provide an excuse for poor performance, rather provide some additional context when you are evaluating players for upcoming drafts.

Injured Hitters Part 1

Gregory Polanco underwent surgery in September of 2018 to repair a dislocated left shoulder. He returned in April of last year but inflammation of that same shoulder sent him back to the IL for good on the 19th of June. What we saw wasn’t great; a .294 xwOBA, an elevated 29.3% K rate.  However, it is abundantly clear that Polanco just hadn’t recovered fully from surgery- the first he’s ever had. Fast forward to 2020 and Polanco has stated that he feels significantly better than he did this time last year and he’s a full go for the season. In 2018 (535 PA) he posted 23 home runs and 12 stolen bases. Maybe the stolen bases are dialed down in an effort to protect his shoulder (the original injury occurred on an awkward slide into second base) but still, this is certainly a skillset worth taking a gamble on as the opportunity cost is next to nil right now.

In year one of his three-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, Andrew McCutchen suffered a torn left ACL while running the bases on June 3rd. It was an unfortunate end to what was shaping up to be a really productive season for the veteran outfielder as he managed a career-best 16.4% walk rate and an excellent .355 xwOBA. The positive news though is that he fully anticipates being ready for a return on Opening Day and his ADP has dropped substantially from last year making him a potential target this year. Last year’s .378 OBP should keep him locked into the top of the Phillies order making him a nice source of runs.

Update: On Friday (2/28) Phillies skipper Joe Girardi announced that McCutchen will not be ready for Opening Day. To clarify, this is not a setback as McCutchen is still recovering from last year’s ACL injury. The hope is that he’ll be ready to return sometime in April. This latest bit of news should bump his ADP down slightly.

Lorenzo Cain dealt with a myriad of injuries this past season. Most notably a left knee injury that he admitted hindered his ability to run and reach top speed. He also had an irritated nerve in his right thumb that he eventually opted to receive a cryotherapy injection for. You have to give him credit though as he avoided the IL and managed to play in 148 games last year despite being at far less than full strength. Cain’s batting average fell to .260 last year, the lowest its been since 2013 though a .290 xBA leaves room for optimism. Cain’s batting average has cleared the .300 mark in four of his last six seasons making him an intriguing buyback assuming last year may have been a reflection of poor health. He recently admitted that it took him until sometime in December for his knee to feel well again. He did avoid any sort of surgery so that’s a positive piece of news too. He’s a potentially excellent source of batting average and runs that’s priced to move right now.

Giancarlo Stanton‘s 2019 was basically dead on arrival as he gave his fantasy owners a fright on April Fool’s Day no less with a biceps strain that put him on the shelf for two months. He’d eventually return in mid-June before being shuttled back to the IL roughly a week later with a knee sprain. He was on the active roster for the ALCS but the perpetual agony that was 2019 continued after he injured his quad running out an infield single during game one.

Now here is where I was going to say he’s healthy to start 2020. Except, unfortunately, he isn’t as an MRI Wednesday (2/26) revealed a grade 1 strain of his right calf. This puts his status for Opening Day in question. Given that this injury just occurred we should anticipate Stanton’s ADP to continue to drop. We know the Yankees are going to be exceedingly cautious here so it really depends on your risk/reward threshold. This latest injury could make Stanton a simple “stay-away” or you could look at it as a buying opportunity on a player who still carries a tremendous power ceiling in one of the best lineups in baseball. The situation is murkier now but that will be reflected in his ADP moving forward.

Carlos Correa lost just about two months on the IL last year with a cracked rib. He returned in late July before succumbing to back discomfort which shuttled him back to the IL in late August more or less ending his season. His performance in the second half suffered though. A quick glance at last year’s rolling Exit Velocity is pretty telling as it reveals a bottoming out after his return from injury. Correa hasn’t exceeded 110 games played since back in 2016 and is a risk/reward play coming in at a substantial discount this year.

We’re getting a huge discount on Justin Upton this draft season. Similar to Stanton, 2019 was really just a lost year for Upton. In late March he was placed on the IL with turf toe. He’d return in mid-June where he grinded his way through 63 games hitting an ugly .215 to go along with a .307 wOBA and 92 wRC+, all career-lows before knee tendinitis proved to be the death knell to his 2019 season. Prior to last year though, he had posted a barrel rate in the top 10% for four straight seasons while also clearing the 30 home run mark in three of four. Coming off of what looks like a routine offseason (he did not require surgery on his knee) it would be a mistake to overlook Upton at his current ADP.

Injured Hitters Part 2

 

Despite managing to play through 133 games last year, we’re left to wonder just how compromised Khris Davis may have been last year. Davis was officially placed on the IL just once on the 22nd of May with a “left-hip/oblique contusion” and he would later return when first eligible on June 1st. But he also missed time in later that same month with a sore hand after being hit by a pitch.

And it’s that second injury that may have been critical to Davis’ lack of success last year as he would later admit to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that his hand was “not as strong as it should be” and he was forced to choke up on the bat to help compensate. A quick look at Davis’ rolling exit velocity from last year reveals a drop that may have coincided with the hand injury in late June and extended into July though that sort of thing is close to impossible to prove. You can’t entirely dismiss the notion that Davis may be on a legitimate downturn with last year being the harbinger of future horrors but this injury is nevertheless something to keep in mind.  Prior to last season, Davis had produced three 40 home runs and 100 RBI seasons in a row. There is excellent potential at his current price if he rebounds.

We saw some growth last year from Byron Buxton as he posted a career-low K rate of 23.1% (29.8% in 2018) and a career-best .827 OPS. There is certainly 20/20 potential here but considering he’s cleared 100 games played just once in his MLB career and he’s now coming off of shoulder surgery I was hoping for more of a discount.

Ah, yes the mercurial Met Yoenis Cespedes. How did we get here? Suffice it to say its a long tale involving surgery to address calcification in both heels and, of course, wild boars. We haven’t seen Cespedes clear 350 PA since way back in 2016. The Mets outfield right now is full with Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and J.D. Davis  (Jeff McNeil is the 3B as of now). What’s more, the Mets also amended his contract cutting it to 6.5 million down from 29.5 million with a hefty incentive kicking in if he clears 650 PA. So the Mets aren’t committed here long term and could certainly move on if things go south. There’s a slight chance that Cespedes could provide meaningful production but its best reserved as a last pick type dart throw. The latest has him eyeing a potential Opening Day return.

Mike Tauchman was a revelation for the Yankees last year accumulating a .364 wOBA and 128 wRC+ while hitting .277 in just under 300 PA until he too succumbed to an injury in early September. Tauchman is healthy now meanwhile both Aaron Hicks (Tommy John) and the injury to Stanton provide him with a wide-open road to playing time. And even when Stanton returns you’d imagine the Yankees will almost certainly use the DH spot liberally in an effort to coax him through the season. Tauchman looks like he could be a really cost-effective way to get exposure to an excellent Yankee lineup.

Robinson Cano‘s first season in Queens did not go well. And that’s putting it mildly. The veteran 2nd basemen dealt with quad and hamstring injuries throughout the year hitting the IL on three separate occasions while managing a .308 wOBA, the worst mark of his career. Cano reportedly spent his offseason focusing on his leg fitness. We have to be highly skeptical, but hey he’ll cost you next to nothing in drafts. Prior to last year, Cano had posted an xwOBA over .350 in each of his last four seasons. It should also be noted that the Mets are committed here as Cano is under contract through the 2023 season.

Nick Senzel endured a partial tear of the labrum in his right shoulder last September and underwent surgery. The latest has Senzel still on track for Opening Day. There’s no denying his talent but considering both the injury he’s coming off of and the quality names the Reds have in the OF I was hoping for more of a discount. Taking a chance on Senzel could certainly pay off but there’s plenty of uncertainty here too.

Injured Hitters Part 3

 

Mitch Haniger can’t catch a break. As if last year’s injury wasn’t brutal enough, he recently revealed that he tore the adductor muscle while rehabbing last year’s injury. Doubly unfortunate, that issue went undiagnosed initially which led to a herniated disc. He’s now undergone two surgeries in the past few weeks and his timeline is really anyone’s guess at this point. Haniger anticipates playing again this year but how much time he’ll miss renders his 2020 season a murky proposition and that’s reflected in his ADP which has plummetted in recent weeks.

With the emergence of Gio Urshela last year there is uncertainty as to Miguel Andujar‘s role on the Yankees after missing time last year with a bum shoulder that eventually required labrum surgery. But the good news is that he has “no limitations” on said shoulder and he’s been taking reps at multiple positions. This year’s discount could be a great chance to buy low on 2018’s AL ROTY runner-up who hit .297 to go along with 27 home runs and 92 RBI in his first full season. Note he’ll start the season as UTIL eligible only which should also keep the price down some. Stanton’s injury provides Andujar another avenue to playing time but really if the bat plays as it did back in 2018 manager Aaron Boone will have no choice but to find a spot for him one way or another.

David Peralta had surgery on the AC joint in his right shoulder in late August. He had dealt with inflammation and soreness throughout the year prior to having the procedure done. Early indications following the procedure were that he should be ready to go for Spring Training. A career .290 hitter, Peralta could provide a batting average boost at a discount as the Diamondbacks starting LF barring any setbacks.

A fluke play during the 2018 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, unfortunately, necessitated off-season Tommy John surgery for the now-former Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius. Last year, in just about a half of a season, he posted a meager .237 batting average and .276 OBP both representing lows for his tenure in Yankee land. But you have to at least wonder if perhaps he was pressing last year trying to make up for lost time so to speak, we did see his O-swing% spike to 41.1% (36.5% in 2018).

Putting that aside, the question we’re left with is what to expect from Sir Didi as he continues his career with a new team? Gregorius is a tricky player to evaluate as he has notoriously defied expectations based on batted ball data. I’m inclined to think that his two peak seasons of 2017-18 may have been the product of being immersed in a fantastic lineup that enabled him to take advantage of favorable pitches to hit. The shift to Philadelphia isn’t necessarily a poor one as its still a conducive park for lefty pull power regardless it’s still a downgrade contextually speaking so the ceiling might be a little muted here. It’s also worth noting that the Phillies aren’t committed long term here as its just a one year deal so they could explore other options should Gregorius’ struggles continue into 2020.

Regardless, the former Yankee SS is coming in at a pretty sizable discount relative to the last time he was fully healthy and should provide a reasonable middle infield option in the later rounds. Note the asterisk above indicates his 2018 NFBC ADP.

Salvador Perez missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery. He should be ready to go for Opening Day. Note the asterisk above indicates his 2018 NFBC ADP as his injury was first announced in the middle of draft season last year throwing off his 2019 ADP. He’s coming in at a nice discount relative to 2018 especially considering the 2C format of NFBC.

Luke Voit underwent bilateral core surgery this offseason to address his sports hernia and admitted that he may have been too stubborn in his efforts to return from injury this past season. Perhaps that could help explain Voit’s second-half struggles where we saw his K-rate climb from 25.8% to 32.3%. Fast forward to 2020 where we can confidently count Voit among the proud members of camp BSOHL. 

Injured Hitters Part 4

 

Dansby Swanson is an interesting player to keep an eye on in 2020, last year’s xwOBA of .347 was both well-above league average (.318) and a huge jump from 2018’s mark of .278. His barrel % also jumped from 4.1% to 10.1% last season. A heel injury he sustained in late July while running the bases may have muted his production in the latter portion of the season. He missed just about a month on the IL and described the situation himself as “a frustrating injury”. There could be something here to see with the former first-round selection out of the 2015 draft if the second half fade was injury-related.

Unfortunately, A.J. Pollock got hurt again last year this time the culprit being a balky right elbow. His role as a full-time player is speculative seeing as the Dodgers have thus far managed to hold onto Joc Pederson but the substantial draft day discount is certainly intriguing.

Ramon Laureano missed a little over a month of action with a stress reaction in his right leg. He ended up posting a .288 average with 24 home runs and 13 steals. We can’t, of course, assume he would have kept that same rate across a full season but I think it’s safe to wager there’d be even more steam in the Laureano Express if he had avoided injury. Which is impressive since he’s one of the few on this list who jumped way up in spite of injury last year. The hype is both real and spectacular here with Laureano as a potential power/speed threat.

The Rays have plenty of options, so who knows what to expect with regards to playing time. But don’t forget Joey Wendle in very deep formats. He posted a .300 batting average and 16 steals in 2018 and is coming off of a season lost to a wrist injury.

Tommy La Stella proved to be one of the bigger surprises of the first half last year as he slashed .295/ .346/ .486 before a broken leg ended his season. He’s a late batting average boost in deep formats.

A bulging disc in his neck torpedoed Brandon Nimmo‘s 2019 season. But the Mets starting CFer looks to be coming in at a sharp discount this year. In 2018 he led the team with a terrific .404 OBP so he’ll likely leadoff against RHP at least making him a potential run source available late.

Injured Hitters Part 5

 

Daniel Murphy broke his finger early on in the season and returned about three weeks later. He looks to still be the top option at 1B in Colorado, an appealing location but last year his xwOBA declined again for the fourth year in a row this time to a meager .290. This might be a decent buy-low but its not hard to imagine the Rockies looking to alternatives should his struggles continue this year as he’s an impending free agent.

C.J. Cron might get lost in the shuffle playing for what should be a pretty dreadful Tigers team, but he had an excellent first half last year with the Twins managing to hit .266 with a .821 OPS. His production fell off a cliff in the 2nd half which saw his K rate jump from 19.3% to 25.6%. A thumb issue, which Cron sought treatment for in the offseason, may have exacerbated his 2nd half tailspin.

Edwin Encarnacion managed to crank out 34 home runs in just 109 games with the Mariners and Yankees in 2019. He missed time last year with a fractured wrist and an oblique issue but he still sported an excellent .360 xwOBA. He’s coming in this year at a nice discount where he’ll be entrenched in an upstart White Sox lineup.

Alex Verdugo impressed last year slashing .294/.342/.475 in 109 games with the Dodgers before an oblique strain ended his season. The huge trade to Boston and talks of Verdugo being in the mix to hit leadoff has likely sapped any potential value here. And then, it was later revealed he is dealing with a stress fracture in his back something that Verdugo admitted can be traced back to the original oblique injury he had last year. There’s a chance he’s on the shelf to start the year.

Buster Posey could be a decent gamble in two catcher formats right now. His ADP has plummetted after posting a career-worst .298 wOBA and 85 wRC+ last season. He had hip surgery in 2018 and noted that he feels substantially better this year as opposed to last year where he acknowledged he was sluggish in his recovery.

Hunter Renfroe‘s K rate skyrocketed in the 2nd half last year from 27.3% to 36.6% while his OPS crashed from .921 to .562. But it’s worth noting that he was dealing with a lingering ankle injury that, according to his former manager Andy Green, sapped his ability late in the year. He’s coming off of offseason foot surgery and could be a nice value if that 2nd half slide was injury precipitated.

Adapted by James Peterson (@jhp_design714 on Twitter and Instagram)

 

 

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

  • Avatar Bill says:

    This is the best draft-prep article I’ve seen so far for this season, and I’ve read more than the wife regards as a non-alarming number.

    Context may not be everything, but it’s extremely important and often overlooked; this article contains an enormous amount of useful information, much of which I hadn’t run across elsewhere. The number of players it covers also represents an impressive amount of work.

    I’d also say it’s the “most unique” (sorry, pet peeve. Something is unique or it isn’t, kind of like virginity), although I’m struggling to describe just why it’s unlike the normal undervalued-player article. Best I’ve got so far is that it’s very dense, packing in an impressive amount of information without becoming a statsfest, snoozefest or infomercial. Or maybe “fair and balanced,” with the additional benefit of including the relevant facts instead of just those supporting a particular viewpoint.

    Thank you!

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