Heading into the fantasy draft season, we will identify high risk, high reward players at every position. Some fantasy GMs are more risk averse while others thrive on it. Either way, it’s typically a good strategy to sprinkle in some high risk players, especially later in the draft. The key is to pick the ones with the most upside and have solid backups in place. Here are 10 high risk infielders that warrant consideration this season.
Wilson Ramos C, TB
Ramos tore his ACL late in what was easily the best season of his career in 2016, which ended up costing him the first three months of 2017 (not to mention a lot of money last offseason). He played in only 64 games last season, but, after a slow start, did put up a pretty solid numbers, with a 260/.290/.447 slash line with 11 homers in 224 plate appearances. Ramos really peaked in September, showing that the rust was knocked off and that he could potentially return to his all-star form of 2016. The injuries are a concern, as he’s never played more than 135 games and has had multiple knee surgeries (not necessarily ideal for a catcher), but with the DH spot available for him now playing in the AL, he might be able to top that number. He remains an Elevated Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries, but his upside at the plate in such a thin position group makes him worthy of a gamble.
Ryan Zimmerman 1B, WAS
Ryan Zimmerman‘s renaissance in 2017 came somewhat out of nowhere, as he stayed healthy for the first time in years and produced big time numbers. If you’re ranking him based off of his 2017 totals and how that could translate in what should be an elite offense in Washington, then he should be a high pick as the upside is certainly there. However, it’s hard to trust a guy who had averaged 90 games played over his previous 3 seasons, and who hadn’t come close to the .930 OPS he put up in 2017 in years (it was a career high, as well). Was 2017 an inflection point, or was it a one year return to form for a player who is still in the downward part of his career at age 33? If you’re willing to bet on the former, just know the risk is rather large.
Flashback a year to Spring Training 2017, and it was Greg Bird, not Aaron Judge, creating the most buzz. Of course, Bird went on to be a massive disappointment, as his season was derailed by an ankle injury that all started when he fouled a ball off of his left foot in the later stages of the Spring. However, Bird did return late in the season, posting a .891 OPS in 29 games to close the regular season, then followed it up with an impressive performance in the playoffs. Bird is slated to start at first base for the Bronx Bombers, and if he’s able to replicate what he did in a short sample size down the stretch last season, he could explode this season in the middle of what should be a murderers row of an offense. It’s tough to look past the disappointment of last year and some of the risk that might come with Bird from an injury perspective, but the upside is certainly there as well.
Daniel Murphy 2B, WAS
Murphy has been one of the most consistent bats in baseball the past two seasons, so why is he on this list? Mostly because his physical status is up in the air. Murphy had a pretty extensive procedure done on his knee in the off season, and he has yet to return to the field in Spring Training. All of the reports out of the Nationals camp have been that “he’s progressing”. What if Murphy is much farther away from returning than anyone realizes? It certainly seems possible, as Inside Injuries has him listed as a High Injury Risk with a Poor Health Performance Factor based off of the injury to his knee that he had to have surgically repaired. Also, how quickly will a 32 year old Murphy be able to get back to his peak level? There are a bunch of questions surrounding him right now, none of which have great answers. What we do know is that Murphy has an elite level bat for the 2nd base position, which makes him tempting in fantasy regardless of his health. Trying to figure out where Murphy should go in your fantasy draft might be one of the trickiest propositions of this draft season.
Marwin Gonzalez UTIL, HOU
Gonzalez had a breakout year in 2017, becoming the game’s premier super utility man. His 1B/2B/SS/OF eligibility makes him incredibly versatile, and he is a part of the Astros lineup on most days. To start 2018, he’ll likely play 1st base close to everyday, with Yuli Gurriel rehabbing a broken hand. The issue with Gonzalez is the lack of previous production in his career. Before posting a .906 OPS in 2017, Gonzalez previous career high of .757, and he also bested his previous career best in home runs by 10. It appears he could be in for a bit of a regression, which could make it harder for him to find a different place in the lineup each day when the Astros get back to full strength, given the depth of talent on their roster. If Gonzalez produces like last year or better, he’ll be in the lineup nearly everyday, and the positional versatility he brings will make him a super valuable fantasy asset, but the potential for a fall off makes him a risky player to target in your drafts.
Elvis Andrus SS, TEX
Andrus was a top end fantasy asset at the shortstop position last year thanks to a power explosion. He put up 20 homers for the first time in his career, joining the 20/20 club, as he also stole 25 bases. Speed has been a constant in Andrus’ game, and if the newfound power is here to stay, he could have one of the elite speed/power combos at shortstop in all of baseball, making him incredibly valuable in fantasy. However, Andrus is currently dealing with a bad back, which isn’t what you want to hear for a speed-dependent player who is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. If his steal numbers fall off, like they do for many players his age, and his power numbers dip back closer to his career norms, Andrus could all of a sudden be a very ordinary fantasy shortstop. Andrus upside remains high, but just be aware of the potential pitfalls when considering Andrus.
Trevor Story SS, COL
From a pure power perspective, Trevor Story is among the elite shortstops in baseball, having swatted 51 bombs over the past two seasons. However, his terrible start and lack of contact put a serious damper on Story’s 2017, making him one of the bigger disappointments in fantasy circles last season. A shoulder injury was part of the issue for Story and his numbers did rebound when he came back off the DL last season. The question remains whether he can stay healthy for a full season and be able to replicate the ridiculous numbers he put up in 2016. He might be worth the risk with his depressed value going into this season vs. last. Just know, it’s still a role of the dice.
Gleyber Torres SS/2B, NYY
Torres has been considered one of best, if not the best, prospects in baseball over the past few years. He looked poised to join the Yankees at some point for the stretch run last year, but he ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Luckily for Torres, position player rehab isn’t anything near that of a pitcher for Tommy John, and he should be able to play some at Triple A early in the season. If he’s able to get back and produce there early, he should be a part of the Yankees plans at second base this season, with Didi Gregorious entrenched at his natural position of shortstop. His pedigree as a prospect, combined with the positional versatility and added value of being in the Yankees lineup, means the sky’s the limit for Torres. That is all dependent on him being able to hit the fast track early this season, which hopefully will not be deterred by injury. For season long leagues, he’s a lottery ticket, but one worth buying if he’s available later in your draft.
Josh Donaldson 3B, TOR
Donaldson was derailed early in 2017 by a calf injury that cost him the better part of 6 weeks. Once he was able to return to the lineup, he was the one consistent piece for the Blue Jays. His numbers didn’t fall off at all post injury, but there have to be concerns moving forward about a 32 year old who has started to develop a bit of an injury history. He’s an Elevated Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries, though the shoulder issue he is dealing with right now is considered minor. With the Blue Jays lineup fading around him and age/injuries becoming an issue, it’s not hard to see the prolific Donaldson falling off farther this season. Be careful when drafting him, even if he’s still capable of big numbers.
Miguel Sano 3B, MIN
Sano was one of the big breakout players of 2017, hitting 21 home runs in the first half of the season. He struggled with a stress injury in his shin the rest of the season, however, missing most of the rest of the season. Sano just made his Spring Training debut last week after having off season surgery, but he remains a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries, given the nature of lower body stress injuries. If Sano returns fully healthy, 40 homers as a part of a solid young team should be the expectation. However, the injury concerns and his sky high strikeout numbers (173 in 114 games last year), make him a boom or bust fantasy option this season.
Download the Inside Injuries app to look up the Injury Risk, Healthy to Return Date and even more analysis on every player in Major League Baseball!