One of the keys to draft valuation is combining projected value and upside to build rankings or auction values at each position, but injuries tend to throw a monkey wrench in all the careful planning. The biggest example of 2011 thus far is Chase Utley, a sure-fire top-20 pick whose draft stock is up in the air thanks to an uncertain timetable for recovery from a knee injury. In the Cafeholics Masters draft, Utley was selected with the 14th overall pick on February 19, just one selection after Robinson Cano; by the H2H World Series draft on March 19, the Phillies second baseman had fallen to 40th overall, behind Brandon Phillips and Rickie Weeks. Is top-40 too early for a player surrounded by question marks? Only time will tell. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest question marks in the league.
2B Chase Utley, PHI. The Phillies went out and signed Luis Castillo on Tuesday to man second base while Utley is out. That’s a big red flag for me, as I would expect them to use internal candidates if the star slugger was only expected to miss a few weeks. Utley still remains a candidate for surgery until we hear otherwise, and I would avoid him in drafts unless you can get him after you’ve filled most of your starting offensive positions.
SP Zack Greinke, MIL. Having bruised and fractured ribs, Greinke is 100 percent certain to land on the disabled list to start the season. Initial reports had him missing two or three starts, but now it appears he’ll be back near the end of April at the earliest. He’s expected to have a great season after transitioning to the National League, but adjust your pre-season projections for Grienke to account for 4-8 starts missed.
OF Corey Hart, MIL. One day away from his birthday — and his target date of March 24 to return to full strength — Hart still hasn’t played in a spring training game due to an oblique injury in February that was expected to sideline him two weeks. Owners should prepare to be without the slugger for at least the first two weeks of the season, and maybe longer if we don’t hear positive progress reports soon.
RP Brian Wilson, SF. The Giants closer is battling through a minor oblique strain and will miss anywhere from a few games to a few weeks, though positive reports paint a rose-colored picture of his potential availability in the first week of April. He shouldn’t fall out of the first tier of closers (which goes about six deep) as a result.
OF Carlos Beltran, NYM. Recovering from a knee injury, Beltran was able to play in two minor league games on Tuesday and even homered from the left side. His availability for Opening Day remains in question, but the performance is a great sign Beltran will avoid the DL. While he’s not likely to pile up SBs like in years past, Beltran remains a value pick in drafts.
3B Ian Stewart, COL. The young third baseman has been dealing with a bone bruise to his knee as well as a strained MCL, but he looks likely to avoid the disabled list at the beginning of the season and may even be ready for Opening Day. Be sure not to adjust his initial value in your rankings due to injury concerns.
SP Johan Santana, NYM. The former ace is still quite a ways from contributing in fantasy leagues, but the buzz that he would be shut down for the entire season has been mostly squashed. Santana should be available after the All-Star Break, which makes him a good pickup in the last round of drafts in leagues that feature DL slots.
SP Johnny Cueto, CIN. The Reds starter suffered pain in his bicep one inning into his Saturday start and has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation. The smart money has him missing at least 2-4 weeks of the regular season, which means he’s likely to be available in fantasy free agency by the time he’s ready to take the mound again.
SP Stephen Strasburg, WAS. The phenom has been ruled out for most, if not all, of 2011 and will get well acquainted with the disabled list this year. While he may return at the tail end of the season, he’s not worth waiting for in re-draft leagues.
3B Casey Blake, LAD. Mixed-league owners probably have nothing to do with Blake, even in 16-team leagues, but NL-only owners need to be aware that the Dodger third baseman is expected start the season on the DL. His absence could mean a few at-bats for Jamey Carroll or Aaron Miles at 2B at the beginning of the season. Most owners should avoid the situation altogether.
C Jonathan Lucroy, MIL. The young catcher had surgery on his left pinkie finger and remains doubtful for Opening Day. He isn’t an option in anything but deep, two-catcher leagues or NL-only leagues, but the $1 player is worth stashing in those types of leagues, as he isn’t expected to miss much time in April.
1B/OF Kyle Blanks, SD. With Adrian Gonzalez having departed, first base is now finally open for Blanks, a big-bodied slugger that could wind up eventually doing a nice Gonzalez impression for the Padres. Unfortunately, his elbow is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and he will hit the DL at the beginning of the season. He’s likely to have limited value this season, but keep him in mind for 2012.
SP Adam Wainwright, STL. The top-five fantasy pitcher will miss the entire 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Re-drafters have no use for the pitcher, but dynasty-league owners should make sure the ace is rostered.
If you have any updates on the players above or any other NL injuries, let us know in the comments section.
RP Brad Lidge, PHI. After exhibiting pain in his shoulder, Lidge is scheduled to start the season on the disabled list. The team should know more about his timetable once the pain lessens, but Ryan Madson, long one of the game’s best setup men, will have significant value to start the season, though there is a chance Jose Contreras closes games as well.
OF Chris Coghlan, FLA. The Marlins outfielder was expected to play in a game Wednesday or Thursday, but after feeling something was not quite right in his shoulder, Coghlan missed the scheduled appearance. He’s a candidate to open the season on the DL, though there’s still a chance he’ll be ready for the first few games of the regular season.
SS Clint Barmes, HOU. Barmes, Houston’s projected starter at shortstop this season, will miss the month of April after being hit on the hand by a pitch Friday. Initial reports have Barmes’ timetable for recovery at 4-6 weeks.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz.
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