Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Pitchers to Avoid

March 7, 2019 | insideinjuries | No Comments clayton kershaw back

Clayton Kershaw LAD

IRC: High – 48%
HPF: Poor – 19%
Significant Injuries: shoulder injury, biceps tendinitis, multiple back injuries

I don’t care how good Kershaw is when he is healthy. You just can’t draft him at his current ADP. Not only has he had back problems in each of the last three seasons, but he battled biceps tendinitis last season and is now having issues with his shoulder. Kershaw’s days of being one of the most reliable aces in the game are long gone.

The Dodgers have yet to rule out Kershaw as their Opening Day started, but he’s quickly running out of time. Kershaw has been throwing but not pitching, and there’s a big difference. He is slowly increasing the distance of his throws, so far progressing to 75 feet, but has yet to resume throwing off of the mound.

Inside Injuries currently has Kershaw’s Injury Risk at 48%, which is incredibly high. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Kershaw ended up missing half of the season due to his injuries. His body is breaking down. If it’s not his back, it’s a problem with his throwing arm. I don’t care how far he falls in drafts, he just isn’t worth the risk unless it’s a late round pick, and chances are someone else is going to take a chance on him as one of their top pitchers.

Stephen Strasburg WAS

IRC: High – 51%
HPF: Above Average – 67%
Significant Injuries: cervical nerve impingement, shoulder inflammation, Tommy John surgery, back strains

Strasburg threw just 130 innings in 22 starts last season and has averaged 145 innings over the last four seasons. In 2018 he posted the worst ERA of his career (3.75) and his lowest strikeout percentage (28.68%) since 2014. Strasburg struggled to recover from a few different injuries, including cervical nerve impingement and right shoulder inflammation, and they certainly hurt his performance even when he was healthy enough to pitch.

Strasburg’s injuries date all the way back to his rookie season. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and since then has had issues with his shoulder, upper and lower back, oblique, lat and elbow. That alone should be enough of a reason to avoid him in fantasy drafts, but if that isn’t convincing enough, our future projections should scare you away. Right now his Injury Risk sits at 51%, a warning sign that he is once again going to miss a large chunk of the season. What we don’t know is which injury will flare up, but it’s going to be something. His HPF is ok at 67%, but it isn’t going to get back into the Peak category at any point this season. Strasburg has too many injuries to his name and is never going to be the pitcher he once was when he was the clear ace of the Nationals staff.

Jimmy Nelson MIL

IRC: Elevated – 14%
HPF: Peak – 85%
Significant Injuries: right shoulder surgery for partial anterior labrum tear

Nelson ended up missing the entire 2018 season after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He was initially expected to return mid-season, but the recovery took much longer than expected. He reported to spring training without any restrictions, although he was briefly shut down last week due to a slight setback. Nelson’s shoulder is already feeling better, and he was cleared to throw his first bullpen session on Monday. While Nelson does remain an Elevated Injury Risk, and could for much of the year, he has made steady progress and could be ready to join the Brewers rotation at the start of the season.

Nelson was very impressive before his injury in 2017, posting a 3.49 ERA and a 27.34 K%, by far the best in his career. He’s a guy that we will need to watch closely throughout spring training. During his BP session his fastball hit 92, two mph below his 2017 average. Nelson is scheduled to throw two innings in his Cactus League debut this week.

Don’t stretch and take Nelson until the last few rounds of your draft, but he could payoff as a late round pick. We don’t really know what to expect from him after missing an entire season, making him a risky player to add to rosters.

Alex Reyes STL

IRC: High – 48%
HPF: Above Average – 67%
Significant Injuries: torn lat, Tommy John surgery

Reyes remains one of the top prospects in the game with sky-high upside, but there is plenty of risk as he works his way back from two season-ending injuries. First it was Tommy John surgery in 2017, then early in 2018 he suffered a torn lat tendon, requiring surgery and another lengthy recovery. Reyes has already made his spring debut and is expected to be ready to go at the start of the season, but it remains unclear how the Cardinals will use him. He isn’t a guy that is going to see 150+ innings this season, and he could end up in the bullpen for much of the year. It might make sense to start him in the bullpen and then use him as a starter in the second half of the season if his body is responding well. Consider Reyes a high risk/high reward guy to target late in drafts but not inside the top 200 picks.

Mike Foltynewicz ATL

IRC: Elevated – 18%
HPF: Below Average – 46%
Significant Injuries: elbow soreness, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, triceps tightness

Folty was a pleasant surprise last season, posting career bests in ERA (2.85), K% (27.15), innings pitched (183), wins (13) and WHIP (1.08). Unfortunately his elbow flared up last week, setting him back and making him unavailable as the Braves Opening Day starter. Folty has already been cleared to resume throwing, and the medical staff wasn’t concerned enough to send him for an MRI. But when you look at this injury combined with his career numbers, it’s clear Folty isn’t worth a pick at his current ADP inside the top 100.

This injury alone isn’t enough to drop his ADP significantly, but it is another warning sign that he might not live up to the lofty expectations this season. In his five year MLB career, he has also had surgery for Thoracic Outlet syndrome, battled bone spurs and landed on the DL with triceps tightness. His Injury Risk is Elevated at 18%, not as concerning as some of the other guys on this list, but it’s still something to watch. On top of that his BABIP in 2018 was .251, much lower than his .303 career average. Don’t go after Foltynewicz unless he really falls in drafts.