July 29, 2011
Resident Fantasy Genius
A Market Inefficiency
It’s that time of year: Major-league teams that are out of contention for a 2011 playoff spot are working the phones and attempting to trade players like Josh Willingham, Aaron Harang, and Hiroki Kuroda—guys who are free agents at the end of the year—for cost-controlled younger players who will help a team compete for years to come. We’ve already seen a few such trades involving Carlos Beltran, Kosuke Fukudome, and Edwin Jackson over the past two days.
It’s also around this time of year that fantasy baseball owners who play in keeper leagues attempt to take a page out of the books of their major-league general manager counterparts. If you’re in a keeper league and won’t be competing for a championship this season, you’re likely working the phone lines (or internet tubes) looking to dump your unkeepable assets on teams who will use them for a championship run this year.
While most anyone who plays in a keeper league knows that younger players and prospects generally make for good targets, these players are often unknown quantities who have a lot of associated risk. There’s no such thing as a “can’t-miss” prospect, and even the most elite prospects have a high bust rate. There is another class of player, though, that may provide much better trade targets, both in terms of talent and risk: injured players.
Injured players make for excellent targets for a number of reasons. First, there are usually veterans who have been around for a few years and thus have a more reliable projection. Second, that projection is likely to be better than that of a prospect alternative—like Jesus Montero—if you’re looking to compete next season. Third, despite this player’s superior talent to his younger counterparts, because he’s on the DL, he does a contending team no good to own. Finally, if the player doesn’t have much of an injury history and his current ailment isn’t serious, he’ll be perfectly fine by the time the 2012 season starts.
This year’s crop of injured players is especially rich, with a number of superstar types currently taking ice baths and riding the pine every day. Below, you’ll find a list of some of these players. I’m sure it’s not comprehensive, but it should get you started.
Of course, not all of these players will be viable targets in your league. Some will already be on the rosters of teams who are looking toward next year, and rules for which players can be kept vary wildly from league to league. In leagues that use a salary cap keeper system, for example, A-Rod’s high price might make him an unsuitable keeper even if he comes cheaply right now. But in leagues without a salary cap, where you are allowed to keep any x number of players, A-Rod might be an excellent target since he’ll come cheaply and will surely end up being one of your top x players going into 2012.
In a similar vein, you could consider pitchers who are approaching innings limits, like Jordan Zimmermann. These kinds of players make especially good targets in head-to-head leagues where there are more “buyers” because several teams make the playoffs and where the pitcher will have hit his innings limit by the time the playoffs come around, rendering him completely useless.