1. CL Joe Nathan – elbow – Do I even need to extol the risks of drafting a pitcher who JUST came off of Tommy John surgery on his elbow? Yes, Billy Wagner came back from Tommy John surgery in 2008, missing all of 2009, and was dominant in 2010. He’s also a freak. Wagner broke his right arm and decided to teach himself to throw left-handed and became even more dominant pitching lefty. Ridiculous. Then you have Francisco Liriano who injured his elbow in 2006 and had Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2007, came back in 2008 and was mediocre in limited innings. He was flat-out bad in 2009, and only returned to form last season. Now I’m sure it’s easier for a reliever to make a comeback than a starter, but I’ll let someone else take a chance on a 36 year-old formerly dominant closer with another good closing candidate setting him up (Capps).
2. SP Jake Peavy - shoulder - Last July, Peavy had a latissimus dorsi muscle torn completely from the bone under his right shoulder, which was a pretty much unprecedented injury in baseball. In December, the White Sox were saying that he could be ready to pitch by the end of May. Now they are talking about him possibly being ready to pitch by Opening Day. I just don’t buy it. This was a MAJOR injury… he can say “I’m in the best shape of my life” and “I’ve never felt better” all he wants… either he’s being overly optimistic about possibly being back for the start of the season, or he will rush back and re-injure himself. Either way, I’m only drafting him at a major discount. Lesson learned last season with Brandon Webb.
3. OF Grady Sizemore – knee – Grady had microfracture knee surgery last June. You probably won’t hear it officially, but word is that he is not healthy and probably won’t be for awhile. The fact that you’re not hearing overly optimistic things about his recovery in general should warn you. Now, Grady is saying he is still feeling discomfort when he runs - not a good sign. Grady makes a living using his knees.. stealing bases and playing CF require healthy knees. Plus, Grady plays hard… he won’t think twice about diving into a wall again to make a catch, even if it costs him another year. They’re saying he’s questionable for the start of the season but it’s pretty likely he misses some of, if not most, of April. He hasn’t been healthy since 2008, so don’t expect Sizemore to be a big contributor on your fantasy teams coming off a major surgery. When Grady does return, expect some rust as well. Take a flyer on him in drafts if he falls to a place where there is a major drop in OF talent left.
4. 1B Kendry Morales - leg - Morales broke his ankle last season in early June. The recovery time from this sort of injury is pretty substantial, but as of November it looked like he would be on track to return in time for spring training. Well, things don't always go as planned. Though he was cleared for baseball activities in early February, he's being held out of some drills because he isn't running at full speed yet. Morales said he is questioning whether he will be ready for spring training or not. Keep an eye on this situation.
5. 1B Justin Morneau – concussion – Morneau got concussed in July last season. He really seemed to struggle with concussion-symptoms which lasted through most of this offseason as well. Only recently have some positive reports come out about how he is feeling better and finally able to swing a bat again. So from July until February he couldn’t swing a bat. Color me skeptical that he’ll be effective hitting anytime soon. Justin will be limited in spring training, so he’ll enter the season rusty. Concussions are tricky injuries.. the symptoms can re-appear at any point. With how much he seems to have struggled with his concussion, I’m concerned. I have him downgraded below Dunn and Konerko, but with the uncertainty surrounding Morales now, I'd draft Morneau ahead of Morales. Morneau's MVP-potential is too much to put him below Butler unless more negative news about Morneau's struggles with concussion symptoms comes out. First Base is suddenly looking a little thinner.
6. 2B Dustin Pedroia – foot – Much like Peavy, Pedroia also had a pretty much unprecedented injury last season… he had an impact fracture on his foot. These fractures are usually found in basketball players, such as the perpetually-injured Yao Ming and Grant Hill. Now obviously playing baseball isn’t nearly as stressful on the feet as playing basketball, but Yao and Grant Hill still aren’t over their injuries… which doesn’t bode well for Dustin either. Pedroia says the injury has been much tougher to come back from than he anticipated, and he is not 100%. He will be limited in spring training, and won’t go full-speed until the regular season begins. At the very least, don’t expect his usual 20 steals, and don’t expect him to play 162 games. He’s another guy that plays hard, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he re-injured himself this season trying to do too much. Dustin spoke cautiously about the injury, so you should be cautious about drafting him as well.
7. C Russell Martin – hip/knee – A catcher coming off injuries to his hip AND knee who says he isn’t fully-recovered yet… that’s all I needed to hear. Martin was already coming off of a fractured hip injury when he learned that he needed knee surgery this offseason. These injuries would be bad for someone who DOESN’T play catcher... for someone who does they are crippling. He can scream “I’m in the best shape of my life” at me until he is blue in the face… I’m not listening and neither should you.
GET AT A DISCOUNT
8. 1B Adrian Gonzalez – shoulder/back – No one shot up the draft boards more this offseason than Adrian Gonzalez. If he were healthy, it would be for good reason! Moving from PetCo to Fenway is a HUGE deal for a power-hitting lefty who hit 40 homers in 2009 and 31 last season in PetCo. So, I understand why fantasy owners are drooling over the thought of him belting 50 homers in the middle of a ridiculously-potent Red Sox offense. I think you all have your blinders on, though. The fact of the matter is that you cannot take a guy coming off of major shoulder surgery, who isn’t even a 5-category threat, in the first round – let alone in the first HALF of the first round! Add in the fact that he plays 1B, the deepest position (other than OF) in the draft, and it’s silly to me. Successful fantasy owners know that a league is not won in the first round, but it can be lost if you swing-and-miss completely. I want stability with my first pick, so I’ll pass on the possibly-tainted filet mignon for the ribeye instead.
9. 2B Brian Roberts – back/concussion – Roberts seems to have come back from his concussion with far less problems and complications than Morneau… but then you add in the fact that he also had a herniated disc in his back, is on the wrong side of 30 years-old, and a major part of his game is stealing bases, and this picture is suddenly not so rosy. Anyone who has injured their back knows you never fully recover… just ask Todd Helton. The O’s finally have a powerhouse lineup, but I doubt Roberts will take full advantage of it this season… make sure you get him at a discount if you’re going to draft Brian Roberts.
10. SP Josh Johnson – shoulder/back – Johnson was shut down last September with shoulder and back concerns… he didn’t have surgery or anything, just rested, went to a chiropractor, and worked out in the offseason. This sounds harmless enough, but not when you’re Josh Johnson. The guy has only had one full season (2009) since coming up in 2006. He’s spectacular when he pitches, but he’s a constant injury-risk... and coming off of shoulder and back injuries doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in me that he’s going to have a totally healthy 2011. I’d probably take a half dozen or so starters being drafted after Josh ahead of him based on that.
OF Justin Upton – shoulder - By all accounts his rehab from his shoulder injury seems to have gone well… he spent the last few seasons playing with a slight tear in his labrum, so obviously it wasn’t a MAJOR injury, but a nagging one that probably affected his performance nonetheless. Still, I’m wondering why, if he really is ok physically, were the Diamondbacks shopping him so hard this offseason? He’s extremely talented, young, and under team control at a cheap price for several years… that doesn’t describe someone a team would be looking to trade. So either management doesn’t like his attitude or something along those lines (which has never been brought up as an issue with Justin) or he isn’t right physically and the team is afraid of more injuries down the road. I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him, but I’d probably draft someone slightly less talented than him who had no injury concerns of note.