Thursday, February 28, 2008

Draft Guide: Using your Disabled List

Typically, every fantasy league gives you at least one, but more often two or three, DL spots. Using these properly during your draft and the early waiver-wire period can be a godsend.

Some concepts to keep in mind:

1.) These should be speculation picks at the very end of your draft. You don't want to use any type of useful draft pick on a player who's going to be hogging a roster spot until you can stash them on your DL. Used properly, the early waiver-wire period becomes an extended draft for you.

2.) If bonafide stars go down, be prepared to cut bait. You can't hold on to these speculation plays if your need your DL slots for "genuine" injuries. Chalk it up as a calculated risk that didn't pan out.

3.) Most web-based leagues aren't going to have a "DL" search function, so this is something you're going to have to monitor for yourself . . . with our help.

4.) Using your DL slots effectively is practically mandatory in deep AL or NL-only leagues.

5.) DL list players are more valuable the closer your league's draft is to opening day. Since players typically aren't given "DL" status until opening day, they soak up roster spots and block waiver wire speculation until then. If your league's draft is held more than a week or two before opening day, you're likely to lose more than you could gain.

In no particular order, here are some players who should begin 2008 with a lengthy (more than one month) stay on the disabled list. Guys like Jason Schmidt, for whom nobody really has any idea what the fuck is going on, aren't mentioned.

Not surprisingly, they're basically all pitchers.

Bartolo Colon was just signed to a minor-league contract by the Boston Red Sox. If he's not on the Major League roster by May 1st, he becomes a free agent. Interesting. Colon's injury woes are pretty severe, but he's only a few years removed from a completely undeserved Cy Young that should belong to Johan Santana. If I'm drafting a few days before opening day, I'm picking up Colon in the last round. He'll immediately go into the DL slot, where he'll hungrily (*rimshot*) wait for the chance to earn some big time free agent dollars.

Did you draft Chris Carpenter last year? Sorry. A good buddy of mine wolfed him down in the mid-second round of last year's draft and immediately regretted it. That draft pick alone probably cost him a top three finish. Carpenter isn't that old (born 1975), but he's basically out until after the All-Star break. I wouldn't count on getting very much use out of him, but at least he's an NL pitcher with a very good track record. He's also Exhibit "A" as to why you shouldn't give big dollar five-year deals to pitchers over the age of 30 with injuries in their background. The Cardinals are getting no return on the first two years of his contract.

Kelvim Escobar is typically underrated. Good ratios, nice K rates, and he was abysmally unlucky in 2006 which depressed his value going into 2007. He's got a bum shoulder, and I wouldn't expect anything productive from him until June or July, but he's worth stashing away.

Josh Johnson, he of the sterling 3.10 ERA in 2006, is gone for 2008, recovering from surgery. Don't come across his name while combing through late round chaff and think you're getting a sleeper.

Mark Mulder is Exhibit "B" why you don't give long term deals to overworked/aging pitchers. The A's mercilessly abused him for 185+ innings for five straight years, two of them topping 225 IP. Even worse, he pitched in the playoffs for quite a few of those years -- although Jeremy Giambi's stunning inability to slide home and Miguel Tejada's refusal to run out a play prevented the A's from going deeper than round one.

Curt Schilling may or may not need surgery (depending on whether you ask independent doctors or the Red Sox -- who were duped into giving him a big one year contract), but he'll give it a go and try to return for the second half. Unlike some of the other names on this list, Schilling is pretty darned old for a Major Leaguer. He was moderately effective this year, but I wouldn't count on getting much out of him in 2008. Of interest in deep AL leagues only.

It pains me to have to actually type Mark Prior's name in any fantasy related context. Dusty Baker let him throw 1400+ pitches in the 2003 regular season (at the age of 23, after entering the majors with little minor league seasoning) and he's never been the same since. Other players from the last 10 to 15 years who threw that many pitches in their 23rd or 24th year of life:
  • Livan Hernandez, 3,956 pitches -- Livan's a physical freak and not a prototypical power pitcher.
  • Barry Zito, 3,697 -- 2002 was his career, Cy Young-winning year. It's been a downward slide ever since.
  • Dontrelle Willis, 3,611 -- Slow spiral is accelerating.
  • Scott Kazmir (last season) 3,609 -- His left elbow "incident" this spring has me worried.
  • Ryan Dempster (twice!), 3,583, 3617 -- He never pitched more than 120 innings in a season again, has battled injuries, and is now a reliever. First year on that high of a pitch count: 3.66 ERA. Next year: 4.96. He was in the sixes for the two years after that before converting to a reliever.
  • John Smoltz, 3,577 -- Physical freak.
  • Carlos Zambrano, 3562 -- Slow downwards spiral? Sure seems like it.
  • Consider that two of these players pitched for Dusty Baker managed teams. Then look at Baker's track record with young pitchers while with the S.F. Giants. Now, look at the youth of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, and you tell me whether you want any of those guys after this season, assuming Baker doesn't change his ways.
I would have bet that Joel Zumaya would be the Detroit closer by now. A couple of freak injuries (Guitar Hero? Dropping a box on your shoulder while evacuating your San Diego home?) has taken him off my radar entirely.

Albert Pujols . . . just kidding.

B.J. Ryan looks okay in Spring Training. He threw 21 pitches to batters today. Maybe he's worth stashing as a Jeremy Accardo insurance policy.



Hoodlumman said...

As someone who had Prior for his breakout year, I've always had a special place in my heart for Baker. And by 'special place place in my heart' I mean 'he should be charged criminally for ruining so many pitchers.'

Mike Bock said...

The list is truly awe-inspiring. Everyone thinks about Prior, Zambrano, and Wood, but he actually did as much, if not more, damage with the Giants.