Spring training is underway and players are going to start getting hurt. Tell us about your approach to drafting players with short and medium-term injury issues.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this one -- just as there's no one-size-fits-all cap that fits my cranium -- I tend to take a conservative approach to drafting players with injury questions, with the scope following a sliding scale depending upon the severity of the specific ailment and/or the projected timetable for recovery.
On the short end, day-to-day injuries such as the ones currently hampering Jeimer Candelario (knee), Yoenis Cespedes (shoulder), Kevin Gausman (facial laceration) and Mitch Haniger (hand) aren't of concern, though they're worth jotting down to track/scratch-off-once-they-play, just in the event that they worsen. In addition, injuries that had upcoming projected return dates or weren't considered threats to the player's Opening Day status also aren't of concern, including those to Matt Carpenter (back) and Matt Chapman (hand). Again, they're only things to monitor, and it's often the case that these players wind up relative draft-day bargains due to the concerns your competition might have about their injuries.
It's the injuries that cast legitimate threats of lingering into the regular season that are the ones that worry me, though even some of those are of minimal concern, circumstances pending. The surgery recovery timetables being faced by Michael Conforto (shoulder), Daniel Murphy (knee) and Alex Reyes (elbow) have me projecting minimum one-month absences -- two in Conforto's case -- and while I do think each is draft-worthy in all formats, I'm taking a pessimistic view of them beating their originally estimated timetables. If I don't get them in drafts, so be it, but injuries extending into the upcoming season dramatically lower players' statistical floors.
The other group, which worries me most, is the one with injuries with uncertain timetables that could adversely impact the player's skill set: Jimmy Nelson (shoulder surgery), Carlos Rodon (shoulder surgery), Danny Salazar (shoulder inflammation), Marcus Stroman (shoulder inflammation) and Troy Tulowitzki (foot) fit here. They're the ones for whom I'll most be monitoring the news/possible spring training appearances, but for now will almost assuredly be fading on draft day. In Stroman's case, specifically, I'm much more likely to avoid him without much known about his anticipated timetable, and have adjusted my projection for him downwards by 2-4 starts and ranking from SP28 to SP37.
Eric Karabell: For years we have heard from representatives of baseball organizations about optimistic injury timetables and for years we have been grossly and probably intentionally misled by positive reports. That is not to say we should always be pessimistic, but when a player like Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is reported to have little chance of being ready for April, with a timetable of perhaps later that month, chances are pretty strong that even a return in May is questionable, too. Perhaps teams do this to keep fans intrigued. Perhaps they just do not know. The point is, while many of the common injuries -- minor or major -- carry standard timetables for recovery, even then teams rarely share information that could deviate from the norm. As a result, I tend to err on the side of caution in most cases, depending on the ailment, and if a player is already hurt, I look for a healthy player instead.
Pitchers are a bit different because we know the warning signs -- or think we do -- that predate major elbow problems. A player's forearm strain is something that a fantasy player should view seriously, for example. A back injury can linger for months. Shoulder woes are a big deal. Minnesota Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, however, has a finger injury. He should be fine with little chance of recurrence or lingering woes. Anyone can get hurt, but in general, I do not look for later-round value for an injured player because we know from the great Stephania Bell that the biggest predictor of an injury is previous injury. Drink your milk and get lots of sleep, kids!
AJ Mass: There are different kinds of injuries, and not all of them should be handled the same way. Sore shoulders, contusions and minor hamstring woes aren't going to impact my draft strategy much, if at all, unless the injury occurs in the final few games of the spring. Most of these types of bumps and bruises will be completely forgotten once the games start to count in the standings.
However, if I hear "elbow" or "tear" or "broken" -- well then, we're going to have to tread very cautiously if there's not a lot of information available at the time of our draft. For example, if I had drafted Tuesday, when the extent of Yuli Gurriel's hand injury was still a bit of a mystery, I'd probably have dropped him a minimum of 2-3 rounds simply because of the uncertainty. Of course, now that we know he's undergone surgery and will miss at least the first week of the season, if not more, he's nothing more than a late-round flier.
Having that timetable for a return is key, just as in the case of Pedroia -- whose recovery from knee surgery currently seems to be on a track which would have him miss no more than the month of April, and potentially much less time than that. Given his upward trend, I'm more likely to take a flier on him with one of my bench spots now than I would have been even just a few days ago.
Kyle Soppe: This is a simple one for me ... I don't worry about drafting injury-riddled players. That's not to say that I don't care about them, but it is to say that I will consider every player at all times. If I end up drafting a player with a track record of missed time, it affects my draft moving forward, but I'm never going to take a player off my board due to injury concerns.
In these times of social media and news spreading so fast, it is not as if I am going to have information that my leaguemates do not, so I welcome the injured players that often come at a discount, understanding that I will adjust in the later stages to hedge my bet a bit. Does this come with a bit of risk? Of course it does, but players are going to get hurt one way or another, and if I can get nice draft-day value, the reward is greater than the risk in my opinion.