AJ Mass: In an instant, it can all disappear. Whit Merrifield hit a line drive off the left hand of Madison Bumgarner and just like that, the San Francisco Giants' ace will be missing what is likely to be six to eight weeks, with surgery planned for Saturday to repair a fractured finger. It's not a lost cause for fantasy managers who have already drafted the consensus No. 5 SP, but those with drafts still to come are going to have to drop him significantly, perhaps even outside the top 50 starters.
Who will replace him in the Giants' rotation? Jeff Samardzija was already going to be missing around a month with a strained muscle. That leaves Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland as the "core four" of a suddenly depleted rotation. Outside of Cueto, there's no name there that I feel is worthy of excitement. If Tyler Beede, who was sent to Triple-A Sacramento earlier this month, gets a second chance at starting in San Francisco as a result of Bumgarner's injury, then perhaps he's worth a late-round flier. However, he did get lit up this spring (10.80 ERA, 1.92 WHIP), so that demotion was well earned. I think I'll simply avoid this staff until it gets healthy.
Kyle Soppe: It's not as bad as last season's injury and it's more of the "freak injury" variety, but nonetheless, starting the season without the services of your ace is less than ideal. If you've already drafted, Mike Clevinger is available in more than half of ESPN leagues and is worth your while. His 12-6 record last season with a nice 3.11 ERA and 10.1 K/9 rate were very useful.
If you've yet to draft, you obviously need to adjust your ranks, but I wouldn't suggest completely dismissing Bumgarner. Most leagues have at least one DL spot, so he won't be tying up a roster spot, and the upside is obviously elite. The question becomes when is the right time to select him. For me, he slides in right after the Lance McCullers Jr. and Zack Godley tier in the SP40 range. For reference, I still prefer him to Gio Gonzalez, teammate Cueto or his injured teammate Samardzija. Some will say he is a risky pick, but I'm thinking that if this is about where his price settles, he has a greater chance of winning you your league than he does of cratering your season.
Eric Karabell: This is becoming an unfortunate epidemic for Bumgarner and his fantasy managers, but at least it's not his elbow. I simply refuse to assume that because Bumgarner wasn't awesome after returning from a long absence last season that the same happens now. As a result, I'm moving Bumgarner outside my top 100 overall to the middle rounds, but I'd still invest as a top-40 starter.
After all, there is no shortage of risky starters in the middle rounds, guys who have statistical upside but are risky for six months of starts. With Bumgarner, at least we know he should return in June and be fine. Will Price make 30 starts? Will McCullers Jr.? And nobody projects more than 150 innings for Shohei Ohtani. Bumgarner could still soar past 100 innings, so while this news stinks, it could have been worse. Like last year.
Leo Howell: In a new era of pitching that lacks top-end, workhorse aces who take the ball every fifth day and rack up 200-plus innings, an injury to one of the few pitchers still capable of such a feat is a bummer to fans of the real and fantasy games alike. Bumgarner's setback should cost him the first two months of the season, and as is the case with any sort of injury, remember that timelines for injuries can vary from case to case and the way players rebound from injury can also differ.
But if we are to assume that Bumgarner will be pitching again at the start of June, and the durability he once displayed gets him through the end of the season, he could still go well over 100 innings pitched. Consider that we have a few pitchers, the likes of James Paxton, Lance McCullers Jr., Shohei Ohtani and David Price, projected for around 150 innings pitched and ranked among our top 50 starters. If you believed prior to this freak injury that Bumgarner would perform at the elite levels displayed prior to his injury-shortened 2017 campaign, you should continue to believe the same for 2018.
Yet the continued uncertainty about the exact timeline for his return means it's not that cut-and-dried, and some risk has to be baked in. That's why I agree with AJ: He belongs outside of your top 50 at pitcher and becomes more of a late-round pick in ESPN leagues. If you believe in a rapid recovery and instant return to form, I could see him just sneaking into the 15th round of an ESPN standard draft (assuming the names above are all gone), but until we have more faith in a return date -- and we likely won't before most drafts are complete -- caution is a must.