Vernon Wells and the Injury Bug

It was an injury-plagued season for Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells in 2008. First he missed 26 games due to a broken left wrist and then had to sit out 25 more due to a hamstring injury. After returning on August 10th from the latter injury, Wells hit .318/.365/.566 over his final 189 plate appearances, putting up those numbers with a .291 BABIP as he had 11 HR and 13 SO in that span.

The projection systems do not anticipate a big year from Wells in 2009. All five see him missing significant time, with the CHONE system giving him the most action with 555 at-bats. That is a total that Wells exceeded in five of the six seasons prior to 2008, and he topped 600 at-bats in four of those.

Is Wells now a big injury risk? It is hard not to notice his at-bats have gone from 611-584-427 over the past three seasons. In addition to his two injuries last year, Wells suffered a shoulder injury near the end of 2007, which required surgery. He has also missed time this Spring with a sore hamstring.

In his last healthy season in 2006, Wells put up a top-25 fantasy season among hitters. The last two months of 2008, he showed that he is still capable of putting up big numbers. Wells currently sits with an ADP of 105 according to the latest report over at Mock Draft Central.

Wells is a classic high-risk, high-reward pick. No one will blame you if you shy away from him on Draft Day. However, for my tastes there is just too much upside to pass on him at the end of the ninth round. It seems like Wells has been around forever, but he turned 30 at the end of last year, so it would not be a big surprise to see him put up a healthy season again.

The hamstring injury is a big concern because of the possibility for that to flare up at any time. But his other two injuries were not of the chronic nature. He may no longer be a threat to steal 20 bases, but if running less keeps him on the field more, that is a trade off fantasy owners should be willing to take.

He should be very productive while in the lineup and he offers the possibility of great stats if he can get back to the 150 games played level. If you drafted solid, low-risk guys in the early rounds, you should be able to gamble on a guy like Wells at his current ADP.

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