With many players returning from offseason surgeries and injuries they have picked up in recent months, here are 10 pitchers to avoid in fantasy drafts this year. Some aren’t worth considering at all, while others are valued too high right now due to their lingering injury concerns.
Sonny Gray had a nice bounce back in 2017. He went from somewhat of an afterthought at the beginning of the season to one of the most sought after arms at the trade deadline when he was traded to New York to pitch for the Yankees. Gray was just okay in his 11 regular season starts for the bombers, pitching to a 3.72 ERA. The worrisome number is the 11 home runs he allowed in 11 starts, 8 of which he allowed at Yankee Stadium, where he will be starting half of his games this season. Combine his history of arm trouble, which caused him to start only 22 games and pitch to an ERA over 5 in 2016 (and still has him as an Elevated Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries), with the volatility of pitching in New York, it’s easy to see the low floor, which might not be worth it for a guy like Gray, who is only likely to give you 160-180 innings. There are better, less risky options in the same tier as Gray.
Rodon is expected to be out until early June after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in late September. While that wouldn’t be the end of the world if it was an isolated issue and if Rodon had been really good when on the mound, but the fact is neither of those are very true. He has a history of arm issues, which again popped up last year, first with bursitis, then with the shoulder issue. When he was on the mound, Rodon pitched to a 4.15 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, neither inspiring numbers. His strikeout numbers are great, but that’s all for not if he can’t get his ERA down. His 4.69 xFIP in 2017 suggests that isn’t likely to happen unless he improves greatly in one area. Rodon has been an intriguing name for a while, but steer clear heading into 2018.
Britton was the best reliever on the planet in 2016, but he struggled through a lingering forearm strain last year and is currently working his way back from Achilles surgery that will likely keep him out until June or July. Once he returns, the Orioles will probably begin auditioning him for a trade, so long as they aren’t in contention. The upside could be there if Britton is acquired by a contender for the back half of the season, but the injuries he started accumulating last season and the uncertainty surrounding him make him a guy to avoid, especially as a reliever.
Salazar has not been able to kick the injury bug the past two seasons, robbing a tantalizingly talented pitcher of what should have been two prime years. The possibility of a return to 2015 form is always there, making him hard to stay away from, but the fact that Salazar already had renewed shoulder issues in January makes it seem more and more fleeting. Salazar is a High Injury Risk with a Poor HPF (Health Performance Factor) according to Inside Injuries, and it seems less and less likely that he’ll be ready to go for Opening Day. Resist the temptation of Salazar this year when trying to build out your staff.
Santana was great in 2017, leading the upstart Twins staff and helping them earn a Wildcard birth. He went 16-8 with a 3.27 ERA, pitching 211 innings in the process. He faded over the second half of the season, however, and his 4.77 xFIP would suggest he outperformed his expected results. A regression seems likely for the aging Santana, who is also dealing with a finger injury that required off surgery. It’s possible that he starts on the DL, even if he shouldn’t miss too much time. With all of these factors combined, don’t pay a price for Santana this season based off of last year’s performance.
Wacha was once thought of as the next great ace for the Cardinals. However, he’s struggled the past two seasons, partly because of arm trouble. Wacha hasn’t gotten to 180 innings since his first full season back in 2015, and the last two years have been tough for him in general, even if he did improve last season on his horrendous 2016. He could continue that upward trajectory this season, or he could just as easily suffer from some more arm trouble and struggle. It’s just hard to tell at this point, and for that reason, look to avoid Wacha in your drafts.
Wade Davis put up pretty ridiculous numbers again last season, but there are still signs for concern. His walks have risen steadily over the last few years, while his average fastball velocity declined. He’s had injury scares in recent years, following his reinvention as a reliever. Davis was also pushed heavily in the playoffs this past postseason with the Cubs, so there has to be some worry that he could be a bit of ticking time bomb. That, combined with his move to Colorado, could lead to Davis having a down year. With a bevy of closer options out there, don’t bet it all on Davis this year.
Hernandez’ shoulder issues caused him to pitch just 86 innings last year, and in those innings he was highly ineffective. Hernandez posted a 4.36 ERA and gave up 17 homers in those limited innings. His groundball rate has declined big time, and all of a sudden, the once great King Felix is incredibly human. The dominant days of 2014 are long gone, so don’t overpay. Hernandez is also already dealing with an arm issue after taking a line drive off his pitching arm in Spring Training. While everyone would enjoy one last ride, don’t bet on a King Felix renaissance this season.
Stroman was rock solid in 2017, posting a 3.09 ERA while pitching in the AL East. Stroman doesn’t succeed by racking up strikeouts, so his fantasy value doesn’t quite match his on field excellence. Also, Stroman is currently dealing with shoulder inflammation, which could cost him Opening Day and has him listed as a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries. If this issue lingers and causes Stroman to miss some time and potentially struggle when he returns, his fantasy value could really plummet given the fact that he’s not going to provide high strikeout totals. Stroman is excellent, but downside is there this year, so don’t risk it with him if you don’t need to.
Bundy was the talk of last season’s first half, as it looked like he may have finally shook off years of injury problems and turned into the pitcher that many believed he would be when he was a highly touted prospect a couple of years back. However, his ERA ballooned over the second half, and a 60 inning spike in innings from 2016 to 2017 likely is much of the reason for the second half regression and is a big reason for why many are concerned about his health heading into 2018. The talent is there and he’s worth keeping an eye on, but don’t bet on Bundy’s first half repeating itself for a full season in 2018.
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