2014 Fantasy Baseball: Tommy John Surgeries Causing Problems
While Major League Baseball teams must always be prepared to deal with unexpected injuries that can have a lasting impact on the big league club, it’s always brutal to find out players seasons are deemed over before the season even begins. Along with settling position battles, determining who will make the team, and developing prospects who have a chance to make it up to the show later on in the year, trying to keep players healthy in preparation for the upcoming season is extremely important in Spring Training.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible as many MLB teams have already had to adjust on the fly due to a bevy of Tommy John injuries. Specifically, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy of the Atlanta Braves, Jarrod Parker of the Oakland Athletics, and Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks are all but assured of missing the 2014 season due to this. The brutal hits just seem to keep on coming as the days pass and the season nears, but MLB teams must move on as no one is going to be feeling sorry for their respective losses in the rotation.
The intent of this article is to briefly talk about the injuries and statistics of the afflicted pitchers and then detail the players who are likely to fill the openings in the rotations and examine if they can be fantasy relevant players. With all this being said, it’s time to take a look at who might be able to help your fantasy squads for the 2014 season.
Kris Medlen/Brandon Beachy
While losing one integral piece of a starting rotation would be hard enough, it looks like the Braves will be losing two. Medlen injured his arm on March 9 and was initially diagnosed with a forearm strain, but his initial reaction to run straight off the mound and into the dugout caused significant concern among the Braves medical staff and fantasy owners who had already selected Medlen for their squads. These concerns were amplified when it was announced a couple days ago that Medlen would need to go under the knife again and have his second Tommy John surgery, with his first one coming in August 2010.
The 28-year-old hurler will miss the entirety of the 2014 season and can safely be dropped in all re-draft leagues. This is a devastating blow to fantasy owners who were penciling in Medlen to be a SP3 on their teams as he has been dynamite when on the field the last couple years. Since the 2012 season, Medlen owns a 2.47 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 277 strikeouts in 335 innings pitched, and a .233 BAA.
As for Beachy, it hasn’t been officially announced that he is going to undergo another Tommy John operation, but all signs are pointing to this being the case. This would be Beachy’s second Tommy John surgery in the last 17 months and after making only five starts in 2013, his last two seasons will have essentially been a lost cause. With a career 3.23 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and .220 BAA, Beachy’s presence on the mound will sorely be missed by the Braves. Although expectations for Beachy weren’t as high compared to Medlen, Beachy surely could have been a useful SP5 for many fantasy teams.
With these aforementioned injuries, the Braves realized they desperately needed rotation help and was a key reason they ended up signing free agent Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract. Santana had a career-year in 2013 with the Kansas City Royals as he posted a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Santana will undoubtedly benefit from the injuries as he should be able to post 30 starts pending his health and timetable to return to the mound sometime in mid-April. Fantasy owners can safely count on Santana as a SP4.
The other main beneficiary of the injuries to Medlen and Beachy will be fellow rotation mate Alex Wood. In 11 starts over 61.2 IP in 2013, Wood compiled a 2.91 ERA , 1.26 WHIP, and 52 strikeouts. These are certainly fantasy worthy numbers and with an ADP of 255, Wood can be had at a discounted price. Although Gavin Floyd is expected to arrive to the rotation sometime in May and may boot Wood from the rotation at that time, fantasy owners can safely count on Wood to provide SP5 value in the early parts of the season.
Parker was slated to start Opening Day for the Athletics but that plan was scrapped after it was revealed that Parker would need to undergo Tommy John surgery, the second such operation he’s had in his young career. Parker wasn’t exactly amazing in 2013, but he wasn’t terrible either, as he posted a 3.97 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. With a K/9 rate of 6.53 over the last two years, Parker was best suited as a SP5 without much upside.
With A.J. Griffin dealing with elbow problems of his own, Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez are slated to take over the openings in the rotation. Milone is the best bet to provide fantasy value, but rather than counting on him to provide reliable SP5 value, fantasy owners should use him as a spot starter. His ERA at home in 2013 (3.44) compared to away (4.69) is a huge difference and his biggest bugaboo is his propensity to surrender home runs. He has allowed 49 longballs over the last two seasons and starting him at O.Co Coliseum plays more to his strengths since he allows a lot of fly balls. With a career 3.92 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, Milone doesn’t exactly provide fantasy worthy statistics on a consistent basis.
As for Jesse Chavez, he’s not exactly an inspiring fantasy option. He has done well this Spring Training, as he has only surrendered 2 earned runs in 17 1/3 IP, but we all know to take Spring Training numbers with a grain of salt. He has only made two starts in his six-year career and he owns a career 5.48 ERA in the majors. Chavez should only be considered a fantasy option in AL-only leagues and not a very good one at that.
Corbin was forced to leave his start on Saturday due to forearm stiffness and an MRI a day later revealed that Corbin had sustained damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. As the ace of the Diamondbacks, it was a gut-wrenching blow to the team and fantasy owners alike who had already selected him. Drafting early has its benefits as you can get some players at great values and discounted prices, but in instances like this where injuries derail a season, it always makes you wonder if drafting right before the season is the way to go for the simple reason that you will know the status of all players dealing with injuries and seeing how the position battles turned out.
Corbin hasn’t officially been ruled out for the season as he has only been recommended Tommy John surgery and will decide whether he will undergo the surgery or rehab, but it’s extremely likely he goes under the knife. Corbin burst onto the MLB scene in 2013 as he used his filthy slider and assortment of other pitches to bamboozle hitters to the tune of a 3.41 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.69 K/9, and .240 BAA. Corbin would have made for a fine SP3/SP4 for fantasy owners this season and it’s a real shame to see the 24-year-old succumb to an injury that is becoming all too commonplace in baseball.
As of now, Randall Delgado is going to step in and fill the void in the rotation left by Corbin. Delgado started 19 games last season and didn’t exactly set the world on fire as he had a 4.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and gave up an astounding 24 home runs in only 116.1 IP. Delgado would be best served as an NL-only option for fantasy owners and he would do well to post an ERA under 4.
The real winner of Corbin’s unfortunate injury is the highly-touted pitching prospect, Archie Bradley. Although he probably won’t open the season with the Diamondbacks, he should get the call to the big leagues sooner rather than later. With a fastball that consistently tops 95 mph and a nasty curveball, Bradley should have no problem averaging at least a strikeout an inning when he makes it to the show.
Bradley is worth owning in all standard mixed leagues if you can afford to wait on his arrival because when he gets placed into the rotation he has all the tools to make an immediate impact that could pay major dividends for fantasy teams. If you want a more in-depth look at Bradley, check out Landon Jones’ prospect profile over him.
Thanks to FanGraphs and NESN for the statistical information. If you have any questions in general or comments on items discussed in the article, be sure to comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.