Using The Disabled List To Your Advantage

This will be a real quick hitter here, thinking about periphery stuff in terms of roster strategy…

There are no doubt going to be a goodly number of you drafting fantasy baseball teams this weekend (so many in fact that we’re trying to throw together a weekend-long marathon chat for you should you want to check in with crisis situations!). After looking at the many squads I’ve already procured through sometimes deft and sometimes drunken decisions, I’m starting to prepare for my roster spots yet to become available via the disabled list. So while this is a waiver wire piece, it’s rather a bizarro-waiver-wire piece because I’m asking you to think about it in advance. Yes, it’s a strange time of year.

As you well know, there is a considerable number of “rosterable” individuals who won’t start the season on the 25-man roster. Some will be short timers, others perhaps much longer. Players like Carl Crawford, Chris Carpenter, Ryan Howard, Mike Morse, Chris Perez, Drew Storen, B.J. Upton, Chase Utley… there are several others. I’m such a glutton for roster space, I actually kind of like drafting these guys if the price is right. I’m already jonesing for the teams to make their roster decisions, get these guys officially on the disabled list, so I can have my freebie roster slot. Gimme, gimme, gimme!

In standard roto leagues where you can rotate in relievers at will, I really like the idea of grabbing guys that are either high strikeout late-inning arms and/or some guys that are at least being hinted at as having an opportunity to close. In no particular order, that would include (these guys not all available in every league I’m in, but most are) Addison Reed, Jesse Crain, Aaron Crow, Greg Holland, David Hernandez, Evan Meek, Henry Rodriguez, Koji Uehara, Kerry Wood, Rex Brothers, Mark Melancon, Edward Mujica, and maybe even Sam LeCure.

At worst, you’ve got some arms to rotate in when the schedule allows who ought to give you a handful of strikeouts and drive your ERA and WHIP down. But at best, you might fall into a free closer should injuries strike the incumbent. There’s not much downside to the reliever approach – they’re usually plentiful and it doesn’t hurt when you have to cut them.

Another thing I like to do with that roving roster spot, depending on the strength of my team and what’s available, is try to fill the catcher games played. This is mostly for leagues that carry just one catcher with a games played limit, but maxing out that 162 is a pain in the neck. For instance, take John Buck (insert Henny Youngman joke). On Wednesday, the scheduling geniuses give us exactly one game between the Cardinals and the Marlins. Buck is available in several of my leagues, so with the extra space, I’ll probably rotate him in to see what he can do against Kyle Lohse (even though his career 17 at bats vs. Lohse have been miserable ones). If your catcher still isn’t on a team playing Thursday, consider Devin Mesoraco or Ryan Hanigan as one of them will match up with Mark Buehrle. I wouldn’t advise grabbing just any catcher as these are opening day starters here, so you could wind up doing more damage than good, but there are some decent match-ups to be had.

If you don’t like the reliever or the catcher game — or you’re pretty well set in that department, I like to take one of the starting pitchers that I wasn’t able to make room for during the draft. Specifically, I like to take some guys that aren’t really “sleepers” but guys that already have some name recognition just in case they come out of the gate smoking hot and I’m able to bundle them in some kind of trade package. A few I’ve kicked around thus far include Jonathon Niese, Juan Nicasio, Luke Hochevar, Drew Pomeranz, Edinson Volquez, and Henderson Alvarez.

Lastly, I’ve been known to try and poach some early steals since I always seem to be in scramble mode for steals by mid-season. For Thursday, I’m thinking about guys like Will Venable, Michael Brantley, maybe even Juan Pierre. It’s a bit of a reach, but given the scheduling, you might have an empty outfield on Thursday (I will in several leagues). Trying to sneak in a stolen base or two isn’t a terrible idea – anything for an edge.

I might be in a very small camp of my own, but I find disabled list guys to be a real opportunity to experiment with your roster and/or try to fill games played. If you have two DL slots, I envy you.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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Agree on Venable. Unlike other 25-30 steal guys, he at least offers some pop.