Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Infielders to Avoid

March 4, 2019 | insideinjuries | No Comments

Last week we covered five outfielders to avoid in fantasy drafts this year, and now we are back with infielders to avoid. We take a look at a few players who come with too much risk to draft at their current ADP. 

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A few terms to know: 

  • IRC = Injury Risk Category (Low, Elevated, High – this is the likelihood of a player suffering an injury in 2019)

  • HPF = Health Performance Factor (Peak, Above Average, Below Average, Poor – how we expect a player to perform based on any current or past injuries)

Carlos Correa

IRC: High – 33%
HPF: Above Average – 67%
Significant Injuries: lower back and oblique tightness (2018), torn left thumb ligament (2017), right hand contusion (2017), left shoulder sprain (2016), ankle sprain (2016), fibula fracture (2014)

I could go on and on about Correa’s many injuries since 2016, but the most concerning problem going forward will be the back and oblique problems he battled in 2018. After having the offseason to rest and recover, he reported to spring training healthy and feeling great. While that’s obviously great news, these are injuries that are easily aggravated. One day you can be feeling great and the next you tweak your back or a core muscle and end up out for weeks or months.

If Correa’s ADP didn’t fall inside the top 50, he might be worth the risk. But using one of your early round picks on a guy with such a lengthy injury history doesn’t pay off more often than not. He’s a tempting shortstop to target as we have seen his potential – in 2017 he was in the MVP conversation before a torn thumb ligament forced him to miss nearly two months and sapped his power when he returned. Then in 2018 he hit just 15 home runs in 110 games. His average dropped to .239, by far the worst in his career. One other concerning stat is his stolen bases. He hit 14 in 2015 and 13 in 2016, then he totaled just five in the last two seasons. Correa just isn’t the stud that burst onto the season as a highly rate prospect in 2015. We can’t assume that he’s going to return to being that guy again just because he feels healthy right now.

Corey Seager LAD

IRC: High – 49%
HPF: Above Average – 66%
Significant Injuries: Tommy John surgery (2018), hip surgery (2018), lower back strain (2017), right elbow soreness (2017), hamstring strain (2017), oblique strain (2017), left knee sprain (2016)

Like Correa, Seager was a top prospect who has had a rough go of it due to injuries over the last few seasons. Seager lasted just 26 games last season before being shut down with renewed pain in his throwing elbow. It was a problem in 2017, but he opted to avoid surgery and go the rehab route. That didn’t work, so he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair damage to his UCL. Seager then had an arthroscopic procedure on his hip to address a lingering problem.

So far his recovery from both surgeries has gone as planned. Seager already played in a minor league game as a DH, but he is still waiting to get cleared to play in the field. He is on track to be ready on Opening Day but may not be ready to play every single day at the start of the season.

Seager isn’t quite worth the risk at his current ADP, hovering around 75, but if he falls a round or two it could payoff. Just make sure you have a solid replacement on your bench just in case. It’s always tough coming back from two serious surgeries, and it will likely lead to a slow start. If Seager can stay healthy and play 140-150 games this year, he has the potential to be a 25+ home run player that can hit .300 or better.

Francisco Lindor CLE

IRC: High – 27%
HPF: Poor – 28%
Significant Injuries: calf strain (2019)

Don’t take a guy with a serious calf injury in the first round! The advice on Lindor is that simple.

Lindor suffered a grade 3 calf strain early in February and was given a projected recovery timeline of 7-9 weeks. Grade 3 indicates a partial tear, which is very serious. Calf strains are also highly recurrent injuries. Just look at Josh Donaldson’s problems over the last two seasons.

Lindor does have age on his side (he’s just 25 years olds), but you can’t use a first round pick on a guy that comes with this much risk. When healthy he’s an elite player whose power and speed helps him become a top fantasy asset, but he won’t be 100% in the first month or two of the season. If he somehow falls to the second round, drafting him could payoff due to his immense upside, but this calf strain could be easily aggravated even when he is cleared to return.

Josh Donaldson ATL

IRC: High – 49%
HPF: Below Average – 65%
Significant Injuries: left calf strain (2018), multiple right calf strains (2017)

Donaldson is looking for a fresh start in Atlanta after back-to-back rough seasons plagued by calf strains. Unfortunately his Injury Risk remains very High at 49%, a concerning number for a guy who is currently “healthy.” We just reviewed why calf strains are so concerning – they are one of the highest recurring injuries and never seem to fully heal. Donaldson has played just 165 games over the last two seasons due to problems with both his right and left calf, and at 33 years old, he’s getting up there in age. He may never be the same player that he once was.

Donaldson should be considered a high risk/high reward infielder heading into the 2019 season, but there’s so much risk that he isn’t worth a pick inside the top 100. If he can somehow stay healthy he has 30+ home runs, 100 run potential, but his better years are likely behind him.

Jose Altuve HOU

IRC: High – 57%
HPF: Poor – 2%
Significant Injuries: back injury (2018), right oblique strain (2016)

Altuve was a huge disappointment last season. He started as consensus top 2 fantasy pick following an MVP season and ended up suffering a knee injury in June the ruined his year. Altuve managed to play 132 games despite the injury but saw his power dip, hitting just 13 home runs. His stolen bases dropped to 17 on the season, failing to reach 30 for the first time in his career. He didn’t address the injury until the Astros season was over.

Some players that undergo surgery in the offseason are expected to return healthier and stronger than they were when trying to play hurt. This is especially true with things like bone spurs or cartilage damage that is cleaned up. Unfortunately Altuve’s surgery doesn’t come with very positive long-term results. Altuve’s injury was a patellar avulsion fracture – essentially a piece of bone from the tip of the patella gets ripped off along with the patellar tendon. During surgery this is reattached and repaired. It’s a very serious procedure that comes with a lengthy recovery, and we can’t expect Altuve to truly be healthy until late in the season.

The Astros said that they would bring him along slowly throughout sprain training, but he has already been cleared to play. Altuve is on track to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Still, his knee is likely to flare up at some point. The cost of drafting Altuve is too high for a guy who has a 57% chance of getting injured at some point this season.

Others to avoid at their current ADP: Wilson Ramos, Troy Tulowitzki, Kris Bryant

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