2015 Fantasy Baseball: Week 7 Injury Report
Another year, another Troy Tulowitzki injury (*sigh*).
The Rockies’ shortstop made it all the way to May 15 before finally succumbing to his first real health scare of 2015 (picking up any sarcasm?). A simple quadriceps “strain” relegated him to the bench for all but 12 innings of the four-game weekend series against the Dodgers, though a strain for Tulo is like a severed limb for others. He was back in the lineup on Monday, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s nursing another ailment.
Throughout his career, Tulo’s health has been, for lack of a better term, not very good. From 2012-2014, the 30-year-old played in just 264 of a possible 486 games (54 percent), dealing with numerous lower body injuries. Most recently, he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, and it’s the left leg that his current quad issue is on as well. Back in 2008, he tore the same left quad. Recognizing a theme here? Yep, the left side of Troy Tulowitzki’s lower body is made from what can only be assumed is papier-mâché.
When Tulowitzki does play, he’s the best fantasy shortstop in the game, but unfortunately, owners always need to have a backup plan in place for when his next injury occurs. So let’s take a look at some lesser-owned players who can help you fill the void if/when Tulo is on the shelf.
For the purpose of this particular article, I’ll be suggesting shortstops that are owned in less than 10 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. The players I’m recommending also carry standalone value (MI/UTIL), as you don’t want to add a player that’s going to sit on your bench when Tulowitzki is healthy.
(All stats and ownership percentages are through Sunday’s games)
Chris Owings Diamondbacks (8.5% owned)
Owings was one of my favorite deep league middle infielders coming into the season, but he began 2015 in terrible fashion, batting just .135 with one RBI and two extra-base hits through his first 10 games. He quickly picked it up though, slashing .429/.429/.714 with a HR and five RBI over his next five. But as soon as owners even had a chance to reap the benefits, he went cold again, and we’re talking ice cold. Over his next eight contests, he nearly duplicated his early-season numbers, hitting .138 with a 1/7 BB/K ratio.
Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride of a season for the 23-year-old. The key part of that last sentence is his age. Young players will have their ups and downs; it’s part of the maturing process. A smart player adapts, and it seems like Owings has taken notice of his early struggles and made some adjustments, because he’s scorching hot over his last nine games. In that span, the third-year player has 16 hits, including a homer, a triple and two doubles. He’s tallied six multi-hit games in that stretch, raising his average from .220 to .270.
Even with his hot and cold streaks, manager Chip Hale has stuck with his young middle infielder, penciling him in to the D-Backs’ starting lineup in 21 of the last 24 games. His recent string of success will force Hale to play him nearly every day, whether it be at second base (his primary position) or shortstop. A player who is getting daily at-bats and has 10-homer/15-stolen base potential needs to be rostered in nearly every format.
Wilmer Flores, Mets (9.0% owned)
Wilmer Flores can’t play defense, but he can certainly hit, and that’s all the matters in fantasy baseball (unless you’re in some OCD-driven league that counts defensive stats).
Terry Collins has tried to find ways to keep the 23-year-old out of the lineup, but that task has become increasingly difficult to do. Flores has committed nine errors at shortstop, which is tied with Elvis Andrus for fourth-most at the position (believe it or not, the A’s Marcus Semien has thirteen miscues), but like Semien, his bat has been too powerful to ignore. In 121 plate appearances, the native Venezuelan has popped six round-trippers and driven in 15 runs. That projects to nearly 30 homers and 74 RBI over 600 plate appearances. He lost some playing time when Dilson Herrera was called up to The Show, but Herrera broke his finger soon after, making Flores the undeniable starter once again.
Flores is an interesting case because he’s more directly linked to Tulowitzki than one may think. Not only is Tulo hurt, but he’s also involved in rampant trade speculation, and according to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Mets are one of the teams being mentioned as possible suitors. Any value Flores has now would disappear if Tulo were traded to the Mets, but what if Flores was sent to Colorado as part of a potential swap? It would immediately put him in the top 10 fantasy shortstops conversation, if he isn’t already. After all, his six homers ties him for second among Major League shortstops, and his 15 RBI has him tied for ninth. Still, these are all complete rumors right now, and adding Flores makes sense as long as he’s the starting shortstop in Queens.