Managing the disabled list isn’t often the difference between winning and losing a league, but if it’s done poorly, it can leave owners hurting for bench space and restrict the ability to grab sleepers or move out a slumping player. This time of year, if used well, the DL can be used almost as an extra draft slot. Grabbing an already injured player, then using that vacated spot to pull a top option off the wire gives owners a way to fill a weakness that emerged during the draft.
There is a huge caveat here: I don’t recommend this plan for those who only have one DL spot. At all. The unpredictability of injuries — I see you Miguel Cabrera — means that giving over the only injury refuge on the roster to someone like a Brett Anderson or Dallas Braden produces the wicked choice of dropping the newly injured player, dropping the long-term injury despite the sunk cost already incurred, or playing with a shortened bench. Survivable? Sure, but far less than ideal.
For those with multiple DL spots — or the daredevils who think themselves immune to the injury bug — here are three players who are going to start the season on the DL as well as whether or not they’re worth targeting on draft day at a discount. Not for nothing, just because a player opens on the disabled list, that doesn’t mean they’ll miss the full 15 days. At the beginning of the season, a player can be put on the DL before camps close, which means they may only miss a week or so of the season.
Before De La Rosa went down with a torn UCL last May, he was finally looking like the pitcher a lot of people expected him to be. His FIP and xFIP support his low ERA and a decreased walk rate meant his WHIP was more than playable at 1.19, by far the lowest mark of his career. I expect De La Rosa to return sometime in June, which puts him ahead of Anderson in terms of a return. In terms of raw stuff, I like Anderson a little better of the two, but whereas he’s actually getting drafted at the end of most mixed drafts, De La Rosa is flying under the radar.
Even with the depth of pitching, grabbing De La Rosa in the last round of a draft, then stashing him on the DL for eight weeks or so is a great way to get a middle-tier pitcher for virtually no cost. If his control doesn’t come back — which is a viable concern — and it becomes smarter to ditch him, it shouldn’t cause too much hand wringing, just drop him and move on.
Sanchez is one of those that might be placed on the DL before camps end and come back after the first week or so of the season, which, in theory, means that most owners will be able to get a small discount on him, but get almost all of his potential production. In that sense, I like Sanchez; he won’t clog up the spot for long and he should have the starting job waiting for him when he’s healthy.
My concern with Sanchez is how his injury is progressing. He’s had back issues that are now shoulder issues and bilateral shoulder issues to boot, and that makes me nervous. While I don’t think this particular shoulder injury will keep him out long, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see him back on the DL with another upper body injury related to this kinetic chain. It’s that injury concern that sours me on Sanchez for the time being. The fact that he’ll be available on the waiver wire in the vast majority of leagues further dissuades me from drafting him and keeping him on the DL.
Spring Training has been unkind to the Cardinals in the last few seasons; they lost Adam Wainwright last year, then Chris Carpenter and Schumaker this year, perhaps they ought to think about skipping camp in 2013 and just opening the season in April. According to the latest reports, Schumaker has a tear in his oblique, an injury that seemed to pop up last year in larger numbers than in previous years, a trend I think will continue in the next few seasons. Obliques can really run the gamut as far as amount of time lost, but most players lost about a month in 2011 when their official cause of injury was the oblique.
If Schumaker hits that average, he’ll be back in late-April, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll walk back into his starting job. Allen Craig is progressing faster than originally expected, and can fill a lot of the holes that Schumaker has typically filled for the team. Add in a new manager’s preferences, and I could see Schumaker struggling to get the kind of playing time he needs to be useful even if he were healthy. He’s not. This is a complete non-starter — you know, just like Schumaker — don’t bother with him on draft day.
If Craig starts on the DL, which could still happen despite his accelerated timetable, he is one I could see stashing in the right circumstances. Craig doesn’t have an obvious home, which makes me nervous, but he hit well last year and could be used to spell a number of the Cardinals starters. If that’s the case, he could still end up with 350-400 PAs and a wide variety of positions at which he’s eligible. I don’t see him as a great option in mixed until his timetable becomes clearer, but he’s worth a late-round pick in NL-only, even if he’s a DL filler for the first bit of the season.