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Fantasy Baseball Impact of Injured Pitchers (2020)

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Mar 7, 2020

Blake Snell should still be a dominant fantasy option despite his injury

It’s hard to go an entire draft without taking at least one pitcher with injury concerns. In Bobby Sylvester and Nick Pollack’s recent episode of the FantasyPros Baseball Podcast, Nick said that prospect pitchers or pitchers with injury concerns typically bump their innings up around 20-30% from the previous year. Using this barometer is a good way to determine if the projections are over or underestimating a pitcher’s innings pitched. I highlight six pitchers below who I think warrant a deeper dive of their projections. To see my full projections of all 2019 injured pitchers, check the table at the end!

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Blake Snell (SP – TB)
Snell had a few significant injuries last year so I wasn’t going to project him for 175+ innings to begin with. However, Snell recently got a cortisone shot in his elbow and there is a good chance that he is not ready for Opening Day. I am the type of drafter who avoids injuries at most costs and am not looking to target players already showing signs of wear and tear. I bumped Snell’s innings down to 155 (from 170) given this news. It’s a shame too, because his K-BB% of 24.3% ranked seventh in baseball (minimum 100 innings pitched). His xBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and xwOBA all ranked in the top 10% of the league as well. Even with the injury, Snell’s dominance can make him an SP1 this year.

Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)
Woodruff was on the IL for two months last year after suffering a strained oblique, but still managed to pitch 121 innings. I’m higher on him than the consensus and it’s because of his elite K-rate (29%) and solid command (6% walk rate). While those numbers are likely to slightly regress this year (I have him at 27% and 6.5%, respectively), I believe in those numbers due to his big arsenal and ability to get consistent swings and misses on all of his pitches besides his sinker.

Chris Sale (SP – BOS)
Sale got an MRI and saw Dr. James Andrews this week, so let’s keep this short and sweet — I’m not expecting Sale to pitch more than 100 innings this year, whether that be because he is on and off the IL all year or he gets shut down for the season sometime in June after pitching through pain. I am avoiding Sale until the double-digit rounds, at minimum.

Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
Luzardo pitched just 55 innings last year due to a shoulder injury and a lat tear. Credit to Matt Modica of The Athletic for identifying that he has never pitched a full six innings in a major league game in his career (only did it twice in the minors). That is a barrier that he should overcome this year, but I’m still not expecting more than 125 innings out of him. His fastball and slider both have the potential to be elite pitches, so if you believe that Luzardo can get to 150 innings, he may be worth taking at his ADP of 136.

Luke Weaver (SP – ARI)
Weaver was having a fantastic 2019 until a forearm injury sidelined him from late May until late September. He was able to come back and make an appearance before the season ended and he seems to be progressing well in spring training. His above-average 21% K-BB% gives me hope that his sub-3.00 ERA is somewhat sustainable, but his 26.5% strikeout rate is unsupported by just a 10.4% swinging-strike rate. He also ranked in the bottom quartile in hard-hit rate while nearly inducing as many flyballs as grounders. This relationship shows that his ERA will jump about a run. He cannot sustain a 9% HR/FB rate.

Dinelson Lamet (SP – SD)
Lamet came back from Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2019 and sported a 34% strikeout rate … but a 9.6% walk rate. As Nick Pollack of Pitcher List points out, Lamet struggles mightily with command. Take a look at his Baseball Savant pitch location graphs. Every pitch is all over the strike zone.

Many analysts see his ERA indicators (all sub-four) and are ranking him as a top-40 starting pitcher entering the year, according to ECR. His stuff is fantastic, but expecting him to maintain a 30%+ strikeout rate seems unsustainable, plus his swinging strike rate (SwStr%) is 14%. Typically, doubling SwStr% gets you a reasonable strikeout rate estimate. He is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and I think the more the league sees him, the more they will adjust. Plus, that command problem isn’t going away.

Player SP Rank IP W ERA WHIP K
Blake Snell (TB) 12 155 13 2.87 1.09 201
Tyler Glasnow (TB) 20 155 12 3.17 1.15 196
Corey Kluber (TEX) 22 175 13 3.40 1.14 185
Brandon Woodruff (MIL) 23 170 13 3.18 1.14 189
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) 27 175 13 3.58 1.17 198
Chris Sale (BOS) 31 100 9 2.82 0.99 237
Julio Urias (LAD) 35 140 11 3.14 1.21 137
Jesus Luzardo (OAK) 52 125 9 3.61 1.19 134
Sean Manaea (OAK) 53 140 10 3.59 1.20 111
James Paxton (SEA) 55 125 9 3.77 1.23 147
Andrew Heaney (LAA) 56 150 10 4.09 1.23 162
Luke Weaver (ARI) 58 150 10 3.85 1.26 154
Lance McCullers (HOU) 65 125 10 3.62 1.30 134
Dinelson Lamet (SD) 70 140 9 4.01 1.31 171
Rich Hill (MIN) 83 90 7 3.69 1.16 104
Shohei Ohtani (LAA) 90 80 6 3.44 1.23 99
AJ Puk (OAK) 105 100 7 3.99 1.32 117
Michael Kopech (CWS) 119 100 6 4.17 1.38 122

 
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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and personal fantasy blog and follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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