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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: How to Better Avoid Injuries (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: How to Better Avoid Injuries (2024)

Injuries are a large part of fantasy baseball, and I suppose in relation, a large part of real-life baseball as well. Avoiding players with high injury risk and knowing when to sell on a player when they return from an injury is an advantage as the season progresses.

However, every article I reviewed insinuated injuries are random and based on complete chance and there is no causation or way to predict an injury is coming.

I refuse to believe that. As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time looking at minor details that most people do not care about, I’ll give it a shot.

Let’s go down the rabbit hole of MLB injuries step by step and crack the code:

Fantasy Baseball Injury Risks

Contact Team Doctors

Email all MLB team doctors asking for the workout routines for players being drafted in the top 150 to find players who are focusing on or rehabbing certain high-risk body parts.

I must have caught all 30 team doctors on a bad day or something, I disagree with it being an “inappropriate question.” It is appropriate to me and they are being unreasonable, not me.

Major Injuries in 2023

Since no one with a medical degree will help me, major injuries in 2023 seem like the next logical place to start. Notable major injuries last year and the players’ recent injury history:

Max Scherzer (SP – TEX)

  • 9/12/23 – Tricep
  • 5/9/23 – Neck
  • 9/3/22 – Side
  • 5/18/22 – Oblique
  • 9/1/21 – Hamstring

Brandon Woodruff (SP – FA)

  • 04/08/23 – Shoulder
  • 05/27/22 – Ankle

Byron Buxton (CF – MIN)

  • 8/2/23 – Hamstring
  • 6/24/23 – Back
  • 6/1/23 – Ribs
  • 5/22/23 – Leg
  • 8/22/22 – Hip
  • 8/2/22 – Knee
  • 7/23/22 – Knee
  • 5/7/22 – Hip
  • 4/15/22- Knee

Jazz Chisholm Jr. (OF – MIA)

  • 9/13/23- Knee
  • 8/5/23 – Hamstring
  • 7/2/23 – Oblique
  • 5/13/23 – Toe
  • 4/24/23- Undisclosed
  • 4/5/23 – Shoulder
  • 6/28/22- Back
  • 6/27/22 – Back
  • 6/24/22 – Back
  • 6/21/22 – Undisclosed
  • 5/22/22 – Hamstring

Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA)

  • 9/6/23 – Forearm

Notes

Standing out to me, other than Max Scherzer getting hurt every May and September, is how the injuries to the position players all seem anatomically connected: hamstring, knee, hip, while the only upper body injuries (Jazz Chisholm – shoulder/back) did not return.

Looking at the prior year’s major player injuries, I found a similar correlation. Lower body injuries that occur for position players are random, but lingering. Check.

On to pitchers.

Smarter people than I isolated pitcher injury data and found a 3.5x increase in elbow injuries for pitchers during the 2020 shortened season. They found no increase/decrease for position players, pointing to what I spoke to earlier, position player injuries being random and then lingering.

They found, among other reasons, that “fatigue on kinematic variables (increased arm strain through throwing motion) … and the increased density of games played” were the causes for the increase. I found the density of games most interesting, but there was no real change in average pitches per game or decreased rest schedule for starting pitchers in 2020. The study mentions an increased number of doubleheaders as the reason for the increased density of pitcher injuries, but that did not affect starting pitching.

I chose to focus on arm strain on throwing motion. Further down the rabbit hole we go.

League Leaders in Pitches Thrown

A list of players who finished top five in pitches thrown since 2020 and their subsequent injuries:

Notes

Nine of the players above have had Tommy John surgery at some point in their lives.

Every player who was top five in pitch count in 2020 and 2021 suffered an injury within the next 18 months.

There is undoubtedly at least a loose correlation between leading the league in pitches and having an injury in the near future. Usually after some sort of increase or significant decrease in strain on the arm in the subsequent season.

Naturally, the next thought is:

2023 Pitch Count Leaders 

A list of five pitchers I may find myself avoiding in 2024.

This article is partly in jest as there are hundreds of reasons for injuries throughout a season; players recover differently than others, injury history, body anatomy, age, etc. But in 2024 I will be staying away from pitchers with large increases in pitch count and position players with lower body injuries.

TLDR

Looking to avoid injuries in 2024?

  1. Avoid position players who have had recent major lower body injuries within the last year
  2. Avoid pitchers who have been in the top 5 in pitch counts in the recent years preceding

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