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Collette Calls: Enjoy Them While You Can

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

We are barely 10 games into the season, and injuries have already reared their ugly head. Scott Sizemore re-tore the ACL that shelved him for all of 2012 and now he is going to miss the rest of 2013. A full offseason of rest did nothing to help Jeff Niemann's shoulder and his 2013 is over before it begins as a shoulder debridement ensures that the big fella's innings pitched total will be fewer than the previous season for five consecutive campaign.

Freddie Freeman injured his oblique and begrudgingly goes to the disabled list. John Lackey was cruising along against the Blue Jays before his biceps tendon decided to cramp on him which knocks him out for four-to-six weeks. Gordon Beckham did fantasy owners a favor by getting injured. Michael Saunders jammed his shoulder trying to make a great play in Seattle, Carlos Santana nearly broke a finger on his throwing hand even though his hand was well hidden, and then we have Zack Greinke.

The elbow issues in the offseason scared people to suppress his value to the point I was able to roster him in a 10-team NL only league, with 23 percent pre-draft inflation, for just $19. I and anyone else who was able to get him cheaply in drafts were enjoying the start of Greinke's season until Carlos Quentin decided to overreact to his 1,234,212th hit by pitch of his career and charge the mound, crushing the pitcher's left collarbone. I have both Greinke and Quentin on the same aforementioned team and one is now on the disabled list while I am very tempted to put the other one on the waiver wire out of pure spite. It is one thing when your hitter hurts your pitcher's ratios with a good game at the plate. It is another thing when he physically harms him like this.

Stepping off of my soapbox, injuries are part of the game. The best leading indicator of an injury is a previous injury. Once a player's health is called into question, it tends to follow them like the dust cloud that followed Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons. There are some players off to hot starts in 2013 that have habitually had trouble answering the bell for even 130 games in a given season. When I was lamenting to Paul Sporer last night on our podcast about having some writer's block, he suggested I do a piece about these fragile types having a good season so this is my all, "Enjoy Them While You Can" offensive team.

Catcher - John Buck: Buck has five home runs and is leading the National League with 15 runs driven in. He is already 25 percent of the way to his career high in home runs and nearly that far toward his career high in runs driven in. Even with the knowledge that the catching position rarely plays more than 130 games in a given season, the fact Buck has played at least 120 games in a season just once is concerning. In his last four seasons, his games played totals are 59, 118, 140, and 106. So far, he has played in nine games for the Metropolitans. I would try to have a backup plan for Buck once he cools off or when he gets hurt because at least one of those outcomes is coming.

First Base - Brandon Moss: Given his rather strong health track record, this one looks like a bit of a reach but bear with me. Moss, like most of his teammates in Oakland, is off to a hot start. Buster Olney tweeted a note out this morning that since June 1st, the A's easily have the best record in baseball at 80-40 and Moss is a big part of that success. Moss is 29 years old but the 84 games he played last season was the second-highest total of his career. It was too crowded in Boston for him to get playing time, so they shipped him off to Pittsburgh. The Pirates gave him 424 plate appearances in 2009, but quickly fell out of favor and Moss then went to the Phillies before landing in Oakland. More of this is due to lack of opportunities than injuries, but I was stunned to see how low Moss' games played totals were when looking them up. His only stint on the disabled list as a major leaguer came after an appendectomy in 2008.

Second Base - Chase Utley: This is a no-brainer choice. Utley is clearly in the phase of the name being more valuable than the actual results. Some Chase Utley facts that people may not be aware of:

  • His games played total has been in decline for five consecutive seasons: 159, 156, 115, 103, 83
  • He has not hit more than 16 home runs in any of the last three seasons
  • He has not stolen 15 bases in any of the last three seasons
  • He has not hit over .275 in any of the last three seasons

If you forced me to set an over/under for Utley's plate appearance total for 2013, I will set it at 450. He is currently on pace for 684 plate appearances and he is already 20 percent of the way to his RBI totals of the previous two seasons.

Shortstop - Jed Lowrie: I was rather surprised that Lowrie did not play for Team Italy during the WBC because I would have thought his middle name, Fragile, would have qualified him for the team. Lowrie has yet to hit the century mark for games played in any MLB season nor has he exceeded 400 plate appearances in a season. He is off to a hot start at shortstop for Oakland, but his medical records include: Ulnar Neuritis, Mononucleosis, wrist surgery, shoulder bruise, thumb sprain, and a major ankle sprain. All of those ailments have happened in the past four seasons.

Third Base - Pablo Sandoval: I dislike Sandoval as a player because he blows one of my theories out of the water in that you cannot pull fat. After one particular frustrating season of injuries on a fantasy team, I nearly decided to punt steals and draft a team full of hefty players because they were unlikely to strain hamstrings or obliques. Sandoval has played four full seasons in the majors and got off to a solid start with back to back 150-plus game seasons, but did not top 120 games in either of the past two seasons. He came into this season in less than stellar shape, so part of me wants to think he can stay fully healthy with the extra beef on him but the realist in me fears an injury.

Outfield - Michael Morse: Late last night, Morse took a pitch from hard-throwing Tanner Scheppers off his pinky and suffered a small fracture to the finger. Morse and the team believe he will only miss a few days and will not need to go on the disabled list. Morse is currently tied with Chris Davis for the league lead in home runs, but this kind of injury is a friendly reminder that Morse is not a durable player despite his beastly build. Morse played in a career-high 146 games in 2011, but his next highest total is 102 and that came last season. For a player that is 32 years old, that is not a good track record.

Outfield - Coco Crisp: Crisp has never played more than 145 games in a season and has not topped that mark since the 2007 season in Boston. Injuries are a big part of the frail outfielder's game which hurts fantasy owners because he tends to be one of those single-skill players that people pay for. This season, Crisp is flashing a power tool as he has already hit four home runs, albeit two of which were of the fence-scraping variety. I am not a big believer in selling high or buying low, but Crisp is definitely someone I would market to a team that is worried about their steals out of the gate. He is 33 years old and has topped 500 plate appearances in just three of the last seven seasons.

Outfield - Franklin Gutierrez: Gutierrez has been hitting with a lot of power to start the season and looks like his old self at the plate. In his first 39 plate appearances of 2013, he has already matched his 2012 home-run total that came in 139 plate appearances. We are also talking about a guy that has played in just 132 games over the past two seasons and plays a rough center field believing he can catch just about anything hit between the numbers in the left and right center field gaps.

With all of these players, you should be executing some combination of a backup plan for when (not if) they get hurt or looking to take advantage of their hot starts on the trade market for players off to ice cold starts. If my Twitter account (@jasoncollette) is any indicator, there are plenty of fantasy owners in a panic about the cold starts of players such as Giancarlo Stanton, R.A. Dickey, David Price, and Edwin Encarnacion that are ripe for the picking.