Injuries: They're the great equalizer in fantasy baseball.
They're also the greatest variable in formulating projections, and the rankings that result from them.
Since the last edition of the Going Forward Rankings, a whopping eight fantasy-relevant players -- and that's standard-mixed-league-relevant -- have landed on the disabled list, most of them entirely unexpected. Three of them, in fact, landed on the DL on Monday alone: Shin-Soo Choo (who was freshly off the DL a few days earlier), Lucas Duda and Alex Gordon. Those transactions perhaps put their owners in mixed leagues in a rough spot if their lineups had locked at the day's 12:35 p.m. ET start.
Injuries always present the greatest conundrum when I set out to begin the week's ranks. Any ranking set of 250 or greater players -- and typically as many as 400 are roughly ranked, in order to generate the positional rankings -- requires a rest-of-year projection for each, even if only a rough set, and estimating an injury's influence upon them is challenging.
Among the factors to consider:
Players whose value would drop if they change teams. The unreliability of initially projected recovery timetables, as some tend to be spot-on, others vastly underestimate and a significantly smaller percentage overshoot a player's eventual return.
The prospect that the injury itself might hinder the player's performance even after his eventual return.
The expected level of replacement that player's fantasy owner might expect to receive during the player's absence; level of difficulty replacing said injured player absolutely influences the player's rest-of-year worth to that team.
It's that latter point that's tricky, as replacement levels are considerably higher in ESPN standard leagues than in, say, a 12-team AL- or NL-only league, which is why it's instinct to cut a Kevin Kiermaier in a standard league, whereas he's someone to retain in a 12-team AL-only. That difference makes players on the disabled list the most fluid from a rankings perspective. (It's also why I routinely say on the Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast and elsewhere that I rarely ever trade for a player while he's on the DL.)
To give you a window into how I analyze, project and rank players currently on the DL, listed below are 10 significant names who qualify, in the order in which they're included in my Going Forward Rankings (including if they missed the top-250 overall cutoff). Recent updates as well as their current timetables are included, where applicable, and besides my own projections, other rest-of-year projection systems like ZiPS and Steamer are cited to outline the player's value.
Note that this list excludes soon-to-return players such as Brad Boxberger (likely back within the next week), Yu Darvish (due backSaturday), Alex Rodriguez (due back any day) and Devon Travis (likely back within the next week), and rather deals with players who are either out for a significant amount of time, or who could return in the near future but had injury-influenced performance concerns before landing on the DL.
Carlos Carrasco (strained left hamstring): He is scheduled to throw three innings in a rehabilitation start for Class A Lake County on Saturday, hinting at his potential return in the next two to three turns of the Cleveland Indians' rotation. Considering Mike Clevenger has been serving as the fifth starter of late, and is scheduled to pitch a day later on Sunday, a June 8 return isn't an unreasonable guess. Since the beginning of 2014, Carrasco's 1.03 WHIP ranks ninth among qualifiers and his 28.0 percent strikeout rate eighth, so there's little reason to doubt him as a top-25 starter the rest of the year. Many projection systems concur: Steamer and ZiPS have him with roughly a 3.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 18 starts, which builds in approximately six missed starts (two of which are presumably his minimum number of rehab starts). I concur, though I've got him projected with closer to a 3.00 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
Sonny Gray (strained right trapezius): When he landed on the DL on Sunday, retroactive to Saturday, it became clear that an injury did contribute to his five-start slump; at the same time his owners shouldn't forget the four higher-quality starts that preceded it. Gray did receive a cortisone shot this past Friday, so this looks much more like a two-week breather than anything. He's eligible to return on June 5, though the Oakland Athletics could choose to hold him out until their June 13-22 home stand with no days off the June 13-19 week. When healthy last season and to begin 2016, Gray had been an outstanding, top-20-caliber fantasy starting pitcher. Since he might be more of a 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP pitcher upon his return, albeit in perhaps as many as 22 starts, he's still the rare exception to my "don't-trade-for-DL'ed-players" guideline. I think there's buy-low value here.
Michael Brantley (right shoulder inflammation): His injury is specifically a subacromial impingement, and the Cleveland Indians offered no timetable when placing him back on the DL on May 14 (retroactive to May 10). Brantley only resumed taking swings on Tuesday, but the team plans a conservative approach, so no reasonable estimate could assume his return before mid-June. Steamer and ZiPS are divided on his projected number of games -- 74 by the former, 92 the latter -- as am I, and I'd rather see him held out until even as long as the All-Star break, if that's what he requires to fully heal, in order to recapture his when-healthy form as a top-40 overall player. Note: Though Brantley is one of the most intriguing names on this list, he's also one of the riskier ones, though I remain in the optimists' camp. I'd say he's a possible .290/.360/.430 hitter with nearly 10/10 numbers in roughly 80 games.
Raisel Iglesias (impingement in his right shoulder): Potential proximity of his return drives his ranking, as Iglesias resumed a throwing program 10 days ago and reported no soreness, meaning he might not be far off a rehab stint of his own. Let's assume for a moment that he could do so within the next week to 10 days; on a regular schedule that might make him a candidate to rejoin the Cincinnati Reds' rotation in the June 15-20 range. That'd give him a fighting chance at 19 starts, which is precisely Steamer's projection, which includes a 3.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 105 strikeouts. It's optimistic for a pitcher coming off a shoulder injury, but after he looked as good as he did in the second half of 2015 and first five starts this season, it's possible. I'd say closer to a 3.80 ERA and 90 K's, and perhaps 16-17 starts.
David Peralta (right wrist inflammation): He resumed swinging a bat during the past weekend and isn't far from playing in extended spring training games, which seems like a quick recovery until you remember that he had been held out of the Arizona Diamondbacks' starting lineup for seven consecutive games before landing on the DL May 15. Peralta and manager Chip Hale are hoping for the outfielder to return sometime during the May 30-June 5 week, and the team could surely use his bat. The Steamer and ZiPS projections have him roughly a .280/.340/.460 hitter with 10-5 potential once healthy, but they disagree on games played; the former has 104, the latter 84. I'd be more apt to side with the former on this one, but I'm also a tad worried that Peralta's power (read: slugging percentage) might suffer somewhat, at least initially, and that he's more like a .275-hitting, 8-homer player whose best asset is RBIs.
Logan Forsythe (hairline fracture in his left shoulder blade): At the time of his DL placement on May 14, Forsythe was expected to miss roughly four weeks, and be re-evaluated exactly three weeks from the initial injury on May 10 -- meaning May 31 for that. That puts his timetable in more of the "unknown" department on this list, but to project a conservative six-week timetable, Forsythe would return on June 21 and be available for the final 94 Tampa Bay Rays games. My concern would be that he was already over-performing when he initially got hurt, so he might be more of a .280 than .310 hitter, though Steamer and ZiPS seem to be even more pessimistic with .263 and .255 batting averages respectively.
Carlos Gomez (bruised left rib cage): He's another player due back within the next 10 days -- he played his first of a likely six rehab games for Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday -- but he's on the list primarily because I'm a Gomez pessimist. Before getting hurt, Gomez was performing horribly, and while his injury might've contributed, his rising strikeout and ground-ball rates coupled with a dip in his hard-contact rate suggest he might struggle to bat even .240. I'm expecting more like .225, and since I think anything more than 100 games is optimistic, I'll say 8-10 home runs and 15 stolen bases. To be clear, the floor here is lower than you think but then again, so is the ceiling, considering his 23/34 performance only two seasons ago.
Huston Street (left oblique strain): He is headed to extended spring training on Friday and might require only a week's-length rehab stint thereafter, meaning Street might be back closing games by the June 4-5 weekend. With him you tend to know what you'll get annually: Peripherals that hint a 2.75-ish ERA, 1.05-ish WHIP, a competitive number of saves but also a monthlong DL stint. It's his job when healthy and he's nearly there, and in 10 days or so I'd imagine he'll again rank 15-18 at his position.
Shin-Soo Choo (left hamstring strain): He returned on Friday, walked twice in two plate appearances, felt tightness in his hamstring and went back on the DL on Monday. The Texas Rangers now say that Choo might miss up to four weeks, and you can be sure they'll take the conservative route this time. A four-week timetable puts his return at June 17, giving him 95 remaining team games. I'll say he plays 80-85, bats .275 and hits 6-8 home runs, with his best contributions a .370-plus on-base percentage and the healthy runs total that comes with it, though it's dangerous to expect anything more.
Tyson Ross (right shoulder inflammation): He might be the most difficult player to rank on a weekly basis, at least of the current names on the DL, because Ross' prognosis remains a total unknown. As of May 17, he still wasn't throwing; that means he's only starting from scratch once he does. Ross' is a "track-record" ranking, because I'm not sure I have a right to expect even 15 more starts with his usual low-ERA, high-K-rate performance; I've considered the possibility he should be ranked closer to 400th than 200th overall. There are better uses of a DL spot in standard leagues.
Other quick hits: Jhonny Peralta (torn left thumb ligament) has been playing both third base and shortstop during his rehab stint with Class A Peoria, and his initial 10-12 week timetable would've put his return date to the St. Louis Cardinals between May 19 and June 1. I'd say he plays a good 100 games with similar rates to his 2015. ... Josh Reddick (fractured left thumb) faces a recovery time of 4-6 weeks, putting his return in the June 17-July 1 range. That'd give him roughly 85-90 remaining Oakland Athletics games. ... Lucas Duda (stress fracture of the lower back) was expected to miss 4-6 weeks at the time of his DL placement, putting his return at almost the same as Reddick's -- June 18-July 2. I'm not so sure it'll be that easy, though, considering he had .049 isolated power in his 13 games before being sidelined; if he's back after the All-Star break as the Duda of old, consider it a win. ... Ketel Marte (sprained left thumb) landed on the DL on Sunday, but it seemed more like the Seattle Mariners regarded it an opportunity to get a healthy player onto the roster rather than it requiring 15 days' recovery time...Alex Gordon (scaphoid fracture in right wrist) was expected to recover from his collision with Kansas City Royals teammate Mike Moustakas in 3-4 weeks, meaning a June 15-22 projected return. Still, Gordon isn't a significant fantasy contributor when healthy, and is more of a fourth-fifth outfielder in mixed ...
Anthony DeSclafani (mild oblique strain) is already eligible for activation after his recent transfer to the 60-day DL, and was scheduled to resume his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday. Though his chain of setbacks is troubling, he shouldn't be entirely forgotten after his lengthy absence...Domingo Santana (right shoulder strain) had no set timetable for his return after landing on the DL on May 19, and his performance before being sidelined suggests the Milwaukee Brewers should take it slowly with him. Consider it wise to project 80-85 remaining games. ...Travis d'Arnaud (right rotator cuff strain) isn't expected back for at least a few more weeks, making a mid-June return date a somewhat optimistic projection. His injury history makes it extremely difficult to project greater than 75 remaining games. ... A.J. Pollock (fractured right elbow) wasn't to resume baseball activities for at least three months from his original injury date of April 1, meaning it'll be at least July 1 before we get any sort of significant update on a possible 2016 return date. ...
Finally, Kevin Kiermaier (fractured left hand) is due to miss 8-10 weeks, which would put his return date in the July 16-30 range. That'd afford him 72 Tampa Bay Rays games on the most optimistic side.
New ESPN position eligibility
The following players added new position eligibility within the past week. As a reminder, position players need to appear 10 times at a new position to gain in-season eligibility, while pitchers need to make three starts to earn starting-pitching eligibility or five relief appearances to earn relief-pitching eligibility.
Gordon Beckham (2B), Billy Butler (1B), Eric Campbell (1B), Daniel Castro (SS), Steve Clevenger (C), John Gant (RP), Tyler Ladendorf (2B), Gregorio Petit (SS), Cesar Ramos (SP), Taylor Rogers (RP), Chris Rusin (RP), Josh Rutledge (3B), Brendan Ryan (SS).
The following players are within two games of earning new eligibility, with their total games played noted at the listed position.
Dustin Ackley (1B, 8 games), Pedro Alvarez (3B, 8 games), Alexi Amarista (2B, 8 games), Andres Blanco (1B, 8 games), Daniel Castro (3B, 9 games), Christian Colon (2B, 9 games), Howie Kendrick (3B, 8 games), Steve Pearce (2B, 8 games), Adam Rosales (2B, 9 games), Ryan Rua (1B, 8 games), Ruben Tejada (3B, 8 games), Ronald Torreyes (3B, 9 games).
Going-forward rankings: Week 8
Listed below are my updated, going-forward rankings. These are based upon an ESPN standard league of 10 teams and Rotisserie 5x5 scoring. Click here to see these rankings sorted by position.