by Dave De Wit
We’re a month into the season, and odds are you’ve been stung by the injury bug.
It’s almost impossible to avoid the dreaded red DL next to someone on your roster over the course of the baseball season. Often times you can be overwhelmed, having more injured players than available DL roster spots. When that’s the case, you have to decide whether to drop one of your injured players or burn a bench spot with someone who will not produce for a while.
In an attempt to clear up any disabled list log jams, we will rank the top ten injured players for 2014 with their estimated time of return, name an injured player that shouldn’t be owned, and name an injured player that should be stashed if you have an open DL slot.
Top Ten Injured Players for 2014
NOTE: this is not based solely on skill, but also on estimated time of return
1) Chris Davis – Oblique – mid- to late-May
A first-round pick for most owners, Davis has an oblique injury, and it will be interesting to see if it affects his swing in any way, but most likely he’ll be back to mashing taters before Memorial Day.
2) Aroldis Chapman – Head – early-May
Given how serious Chapman’s injury looked, it is unbelievable that he is almost ready to get back on the mound and close out games for the Reds. The fortunate thing, other than the fact that he didn’t get more seriously hurt, is that this injury had nothing to do with his arm. He’ll be throwing triple-digits in no time.
3) Michael Cuddyer – Hamstring – early- to mid-May
Since last year, not many hitters have produced a well as Cuddyer, which makes any missed time so frustrating. Hamstring injuries can be even more frustrating, as they have a tendency for set backs, but Cuddyer can provide plenty of value without his legs, so he has no need to push himself on the base paths or in the outfield.
4) Chris Sale – Elbow – mid-May to early-June
Sale was a late scratch a couple weeks ago, which doesn’t seem as scary as when a starter leaves mid-game, but there is still plenty of cause for concern for fantasy owners — even if Sale turns out to be just fine physically. Given that the Sox aren’t big contenders this year and that they have Sale locked up for many years, they are going to be very cautious bringing him back. That could cost him as much as another month.
5) Doug Fister – Lat – early-May
Fister had all the makings of a breakout year this season as he moved to the National League. However, his lat injury got in the way big time and slowed him down. After battling through it for a while in the spring, Washington finally just put him on the DL to let him heal. Now that he’s ready to go, he should be very good while he pitches, the bigger question is, will this lat injury crop up again later this year?
6) Anibal Sanchez – Finger – mid- to late-May
Sanchez is an odd case. Apparently his blister broke open during his last start and was very gross. The good news is that, unless this blister issue is being talked up to cover some secret arm injury (I’m a conspiracy theorist, I guess), Sanchez should be back on the mound and as good as ever as soon as his skin heals.
7) Ryan Zimmerman – Thumb – late-May
Zimmerman is one of many hitters who are battling thumb injuries this year. But unlike the others, Zimmerman didn’t elect to have surgery. While that means he’ll be back sooner, it also may cost him a bit of power at the plate. That said, he could still hit with a bad thumb (Dustin Pedroia did all last year), so he can rack up some counting numbers and post a solid batting average.
8) Bryce Harper – Thumb – late-June to early July
Unlike his teammate Zimmerman, Harper did have surgery to repair his thumb, and by going under the knife, he will be sidelined longer. However, he’s a very talented player and could easily provide excellent numbers in the second half of the season.
9) Alex Cobb – Oblique – late-May to early-June
The Tampa Bay Rays are famously slow with bringing back players from the DL. It’s probably a very wise strategy, but it can be infuriating for fantasy owners who wait and wait and wait despite reports that the player is fully healthy. Cobb was pitching well before the injury, just like he pitched well last year, so expectations are high for when he returns, but it could be a while.
10) Tony Cingrani – Shoulder – mid- to late-May
Cingrani was placed on the DL Thursday afternoon and apparently, he didn’t think it was necessary. Since replacing Johnny Cueto early last year, Cingrani has been as good a pitcher as anyone in the majors. The good news is that since he didn’t think he needed a trip to the DL, it appears that he will return quickly. The bad news is that typically players are the worst source for setting a timetable for their own returns from injury.
NOTE: This list excludes players who are already scheduled to return such as Clayton Kershaw, Mike Minor, and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Injured Player to Drop: Devin Mesoraco
It pains me to suggest dropping Mesoraco. The young catcher has had such a great start to the season before hitting the DL with a strained hamstring, and he comes with prospect pedigree to back it up. However, he’s not going to perform much better than a lot of the other catcher options out there in mixed, one-catcher leagues.
Injured Player to Stash: Kole Calhoun
As it stands, Calhoun is owned in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues and just 12 percent of ESPN leagues. The original time frame on his ankle sprain puts his return anywhere between the middle and end of May, giving him a good chance of amassing 100+ games this season. Before the injury, Calhoun was the solid source of power and speed that was advertised, hitting three homers and stealing two bases in 14 games. When he returns, he’s likely to get the leadoff spot back, making him an excellent source of runs, as he is hitting in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. A fantasy bench spot should not be wasted on Calhoun, but if you have an empty DL slot, he’s a good option to stash.