Fair warning: this article is motivated entirely by self-pity.  Lucky for you, I’ve decided to keep the crying to a minimum and try to provide as much useful perspective as possible.  In the FSIC NL-only expert league that I’m partnered with Michael Street for this year, our team has taken quite the beating from the ol’ injury stick.  At present, our roster contains seven players on the disabled list: Jayson Werth, Pablo Sandoval, Chipper Jones, Geovany Soto, Ted Lilly, Marco Estrada, and Jorge de la Rosa.  The problem?  The league calls for zero DL-specific spots and just five bench spots.  One… two… Put your fingers down, you counted right the first time.  Yes, we’re presently forced to play two injured players in active roster spots.

This begs the question of how to best structure the rosters in a fantasy league.  Should a league have spots reserved for players on the DL and, if so, how many?  There’s no standard in the fantasy community and not nearly as much agreement even over the principle of DL spots as you might expect.  The default in Yahoo! leagues is two DL spots.  LABR and Tout Wars allow unlimited DL spots.  Others, like the FSIC, don’t call for any.

I am (and have been even before this FSIC business) squarely on the side of the fence in favor of unlimited DL spots.  Before the 2011 season, there was a massive debate amongst the participants of the CardRunners Experts League (rebranded the Draft Day Experts League this year) over DL rules.  Ultimately, we landed on unlimited spots, but there were a quite a few who were opposed to it.

It’s my contention that injuries to the vast majority of players (the Rich Hardens and Coco Crisps of the world excluded) are unpredictable given the tools we have at hand.  We’ve advanced to the point where we can make some educated guesses, but the margin of error is still very large—and this is for fantasy owners who actually attempt to predict injuries at all.  Most owners—casual players and experts alike—make no attempt at all to forecast injuries.  As such, why should we penalize the unlucky ones who happened to draft both Jacoby Ellsbury and Evan Longoria?  And really, I should say penalize further.  After all, they’re already being penalized with the bad luck of losing their players; why should they also lose a roster spot?

The primary argument I’ve heard from those against specified DL spots is that, by not having them, it forces owners to make “tough decisions” when a player gets injured.  To this, I reiterate my previous statement: why should an owner who’s already had the misfortune of injury strewn upon him be forced to make a “tough decision” when the lucky owner with all healthy players gets off untarnished?  Additionally, it doesn’t always create “tough decisions.”  It took half a second for Michael and me to decide we weren’t going to drop Kung Fu Panda in FSIC.  Easy decision.  Correct decision.  But it still sucks.

The one interesting (and potentially negative, depending on your point-of-view) side effect of DL spots, though, is that it severely diminishes the depth of the free agent pool.  In deep leagues, it can even drain it entirely at times.  In the CBS AL-only Experts League, for instance, we use seven bench spots and unlimited DL spots.  Because owners aren’t being forced to make “tough decisions” with their injured players, because they get to keep them no matter what (I have LaTroy Hawkins on my DL at present… yeah), each time a player is placed on the DL, it allows an owner to dip into the free agent pool for a replacement.  Right now, the only available players with more than 10 at-bats over the past seven days are Omar Vizquel, Juan Diaz, and Luke Carlin.  And this is the most stocked it’s been all season!  (Full disclosure, I almost didn’t include this tidbit because of how stocked the FA pool is.  “OMG, Omar Vizquel is available?!  My point sucks with a player that good available!!1”)

I’m content to play with an empty player pool if it means I don’t receive a double penalty for my injured guys.  After all, in FSIC, there are some quality players available (Mike Minor, Eric Stults, Paul Maholm, Elian Herrera, Jerry Hairston, and Rod Barajas, among others), but what good does that do me if I have no room for them?  I’ll trust my player evaluation and FAAB skills to find replacements in a shallow pool (and line them up in advance) any day. 

Where do you stand?  How many DL spots does your league have, and is it enough?

Thank you for reading

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Both leagues I play in allow two D.L. slots. Both are A.L. only, one being points (with holds added) and one head-to-head.

This seems about right, but with Carlos Santana suffering a concussion recently, I had to make a "tough decision" in dropping Nolan Reimold in both (keeping Evan Longoria in one and Al Albuquerque for holds and K/9 later in the season in the other).

In re Santana, I already had picked up J.P. Arencibia in one league and had him at utility, but in the other had to choose from the likes of Brayan Pena, Bobby Wilson, Luke Carlin, and Josh Donaldson for this week (with only weekly lineup changes). I chose Donaldson, which turned into a bad decision when Brandon Inge came back to man third for the A's. Still, I'm holding first place there (eight teams) and second in the other (seven teams).

Longoria was a more impactful loss, but I slid Brett Lawrie from 1b/3b to third and grabbed Will Middlebrooks for the corner. Kyle Seager provides depth on the bench.
10-team semi-traditional 7x7 snake-draft league. 30-man active roster with an additional 3DL slots available if needed. 9 starting position players, 5SP and 6RP, with 1475 IP limit & 30-move limit.

We have 1 (whining) player with 7 guys on the DL at the moment. (Have a good weekend, David!)

Awesome fun league to play in, and I say that without ever having won & currently way back in 7th place with 3 guys on the DL.
12 team AL-only 5x5. We allow unlimited DL slots, but have no bench (4 man FARM roster drafted after auction though).

I like to think it's the best of both worlds, as owners are still faced with 'tough decisions' (like should I let Mike Carp get another AB for my 4th place team), but not related to injuries.
We have unlimited spots in a very deep "only" league. It's the way to go. We have rules that require activation within (at most) two weeks following activation from the DL. Could even be more draconian if you want, but why penalize further for injury?

Proud owner of Alex Gonzalez, Cory Luebke, Matt Kemp
10 team blended league (owners nominate 18 MLB teams to be in the player pool), unlimited DL, no bench slots. I think this set up best avoids the problem in Derek's post -- nobody needs to carry a dead position in order to retain their players, and it keeps the FA pool less crappy.

Which brings us to the central point -- having an unlimited DL doesn't drain the FA pool, having bench slots drains the FA pool. Injured players wouldn't be available to other owners regardless of how many DL slots a league allows, but bench slots take players out of the FA pool that would otherwise be available.

The "forced to make a decision" aspect is when a player returns from the DL (or the minors) -- to activate a player, you need to drop another. If you don't activate a player after one moves period, they automatically go into the FA pool.
14-team Mixed H2H Dynasty League. 25-man active roster, 10-man minor league squad, and we allow 10 DL spots... and require that owners activate/drop players returning from the DL by the following Sunday evening.

Granted, it sure depletes the free agent pool... but we've come down on the side of avoiding the "double-penalty" for injuries. Our "brother" fantasy football league is much more draconian, with no injured reserve... but isn't that the way with football?
CBS generally have none and ESPN has just one....Yahoo is the one who gets it right, as usual, with the two.....
I am in two 12 team AL only leagues. One has no bench/unlimited DL/minors and the other has 10 bench/DL/minor league slots. Between the two (not that that they are the only choices) I like the second because I like at least a few bench spots to hide struggling pitchers and capping the total at 10 limits the overall roster size.
I am commish in a Yahoo mixed league, 12-teams, 30 roster spots. I try in almost every way to make it mimic real MLB, by having 25 active spots (set at 13 for hitters and 12 for pitchers). The 5-man "bench" is so you can stash minor-league guys, or stash an MLB guy to cover an injury, etc. I think of it more as the AAA-shuttle, as it were. Real MLB managers can call up and down help as needed without fear of losing them on waivers or to the FA pool, so I wanted that idea available in my league (and yes, I am omitting the whole MiLB options-remaining argument for ease of application).

I also have 5 DL slots available. I currently have Chipper, Rolen, Kemp, Ryan Howard and Farnsworth on my DL. Overall, I think that it not only allows some flexibility in maintaining a healthy, working, playable roster every day, it can keep teams in contention longer (assuming the managers play hard), but it ALSO allows for drafting of players with the purpose of "stashing" them for when they ARE healthy later in the year. A proactive manager might draft a Stephen Drew or Jorge de La Rosa in the 23rd round, knowing that if they're healthy in July, that's potentially a big boost that they might never get via the waiver wire. Or a trade chip for something they DO need.

I am in Yahoo leagues with as few as 1 DL spot (hate it), and our NL-Only leagues also all have 5 spots. I like having options available, and the idea of pre-planning additions to my roster mid-year, so I like more DL spots.
ESPN 6x6 (OPS & K/BB added), 11 team (we keep trying for 12) with 5 bench and 2 DL.

When Cespedes got reactivated today, that brought my DL'd players down to 6, and with any luck I'll get Mike Morse back this afternoon... (Chipper, Longoria, Weaver, Feliz, Fister are the others)
I'm in a super-intense keeper league that's been going strong for 15 years or soand we have unlimited DL spots. Can't imagine it any other way.
Dear Derek and fellow Fantasy GMs:

I'm in a 20*35 keeper CBS scoring league. With 3 DL spots, I constantly fill it up on purpose (i.e. even for pitchers go on Tommy John). It strikes me the most that people can't risk on holding players have no use (which may be the reason my league mates think I'm dumb) to calculate the timing of DL actualized and turn into value for your team (i.e. a better player than you can find in FA pool).

As Derek Carty the Great, you hold your own reason by playing two injured players. Fantasy baseball is so much about reality, yet the length of DL time players expect to spend, which could be fantasy from time to time, oppose to your league scoring period shall be self explanatory on your decision of keeping/dumping injured players in your league.

p.s. Why haven't we see @DerekCartyTheGreat on Twitter yet? I will go register one if I don't see that happen on Monday, Ciao!
I'm confused, why can't you just drop Soto and replace him. Surely there must be someone better available off waivers as he's been dreadful.
According to the CBS Player Rater, the best catcher available right now is Hector Sanchez. Yes, Soto has been bad thus far, but his projected performance the rest of the way would still be well above the likes of Sanchez, making him hard to drop.