Top Injury Stashes (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
They say that patience is a virtue, which is most definitely true for fantasy sports. I am that guy in your league who is always scooping up players to stash in my Injured List (IL) spots — and you should be, too!
If you play in a competitive league, maximizing every single roster spot’s value is essential, and that includes your IL spots. Now some of you probably play in leagues that don’t have any IL spots, and if that’s the case, I would be wary about stashing injured guys. In those formats, it’s only likely to be worth doing if you have really deep benches, a games played limit, and/or weekly lineups (as opposed to daily). And even then, you’ll only want to be stashing true difference-makers.
But while some leagues have shunned IL spots, most have at least one or two. In fact, many fantasy leagues added additional IL spots in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and there’s a pretty good chance that those extra IL spots will be available to you again in 2021. So make sure to check your league settings and see what you’ve got to work with.
When you’re stashing players on the IL, you’re basically playing with house money. If one of your top players gets hurt and you need to make room on your IL by dumping a player you stashed, fine! If a player you stashed gets activated and isn’t worth holding onto anymore, no biggie!
I always make sure I have all of my IL spots filled, even if it’s with players that I don’t expect to ever put in my starting lineup. If my own team is relatively healthy (fingers crossed), I identify the best IR-eligible players on the waiver wire and get them on my roster. Or better yet, draft them in the first place. It’s always good to have fallback options, and you never know what your needs — or players’ values — might look like in a few weeks or months.
While stashing hurt players on the IL is always the way to go, it’s an especially appealing strategy this year, particularly when it comes to front-line starting pitchers. I can’t remember a past season when there were this many pitchers who would be out the first couple of months of the season and be potential fantasy aces in the second half. This list won’t even include names like Dinelson Lamet, Sonny Gray, Mike Soroka, and Nate Pearson, who may begin the season on the Injured List but aren’t expected to miss too much time if things go according to plan.
If your league does indeed have IL spots, I’d be looking to gobble up as many of these injured aces as I can squeeze onto my roster. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong!
Chris Sale (SP – BOS)
Sale is my favorite injury stash, and the reason is simple: He is one of the most valuable fantasy assets in the game when healthy. Before the injury, he ranked among the top-12 starters in fantasy value in standard 5×5 leagues for six straight years, including top-five finishes in 2017 and 2018. Now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly when Sale will be back in a Red Sox uniform, but June or July feels like a good estimate. Pitchers often have an adjustment period when they return from Tommy John, so we can’t necessarily expect ace numbers from Day One, but there’s a good chance Sale is a must-start player over the season’s second half.
Carlos Carrasco (SP – NYM)
As a rock-solid fantasy SP2 who even has a top-10 finish (2017) on his resume, Carrasco is typically an underrated fantasy option. That will undoubtedly remain the case this year now that he will be sidelined at least 6-8 weeks with a torn hamstring. Once healthy, Cookie will return to an even more favorable pitching environment in Queens than he had before in Cleveland. The Mets are unlikely to rush the 34-year old back, but considering the injury isn’t to his arm, he could be a top-20 fantasy starter from the moment he’s activated.
Noah Syndergaard (SP – NYM)
Syndergaard is on the long road back from Tommy John surgery, but the expectation is that he will be able to return to the Mets’ rotation by early summer. His career 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 9.74 K/9 rate point to the upside that the 28-year old can have for fantasy once he’s fully recovered. As with Sale, there may be an adjustment period before we see vintage Thor, but he is well worth drafting and stash in anticipation of a big second half.
Luis Severino (SP – NYY)
Severino is yet another pitcher who is now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and the expectation is that he will be able to return sometime this summer. Before the injury, Severino had posted back-to-back seasons with an ERA under 3.40, a WHIP below 1.15, and a K/9 over 10. He is well worth stashing because you could have a borderline fantasy ace in the second half of the season.
Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
Gallen injured his forearm while swinging a bat in a Cactus League game and has since been diagnosed with a hairline stress fracture. The good news is that it is not a ligament issue, and he’ll reportedly be allowed to continue throwing at a “lower stress level” as he recuperates. But the fact remains that he will begin the season on the injured list, and it is anyone’s guess how long he might be out. Gallen has put up a terrific 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.54 K/9 through his first 152 Major League innings, but his underlying peripherals suggest he is due for some regression in the ERA department.
Framber Valdez (SP – HOU)
Valdez initially looked like he might miss the entire season with a fractured left ring finger, but that no longer appears to be the case now that surgery has been ruled out. His timetable remains totally up in the air, but the injury is reportedly healing nicely. Valdez posted an excellent 3.57 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 9.68 K/9 last season, so he has the potential to be an SP3 or even SP2 when healthy.
Jose Leclerc (RP – TEX)
The news on LeClerc’s sore elbow is not good, and there’s a decent chance that he doesn’t pitch a single inning this season. At the very least, he’s looking at a stay on the 60-day IL. LeClerc also missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, and he’s struggled with his control even when healthy. But he can miss tons of bats and was the leading contender for saves in Texas’ depleted bullpen before getting hurt. He’s a lower priority than the starting pitchers on this list, but there is no shame in stashing a lottery ticket like LeClerc, as I covered up top. If we find out he’s out for the season, you simply move on and stash someone else.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL)
The landscape is much more barren when it comes to injured position players to stash, but if you really want one, look at Rodgers. The Nolan Arenado deal looked to have finally opened up regular playing time for the 24-year old, but now he is expected to miss at least a month with a hamstring strain. Once considered an elite prospect, Rodgers has looked overmatched through his first 102 Major League plate appearances, but he hit .350 with 9 HRs across 160 plate appearances at Triple-A as recently as 2019. Rodgers was an intriguing “post-hype sleeper” before the injury, so I suppose he’s now a “post-post-hype sleeper” to stash away on the IL.
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