With many players returning from offseason surgeries and injuries they have picked up in recent months, here are 10 position players 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.
10 Risky Fantasy Baseball Players for 2018- Hitters
Daniel Murphy 2B WAS
Murphy has been one of the best hitters in the major leagues the past two seasons, transforming his approach by hitting the ball in the air more often. The poster child for the ‘Fly Ball Revolution’ would be a shoe in to be a top end second baseman yet again this year, but off season knee surgery has him as a question mark for Opening Day. He’s a High Injury Risk at this point according to Inside Injuries, and he’s still working through his running progression and isn’t taking part in baseball drills with his teammates in Spring Training just yet. There also has to be concern that as Murphy gets older (turns 33 this season), any recurrence in knee issues could rob him of some athleticism, an area where he already lags behind many middle infielders (a reason he struggles defensively). These concerns are enough to push Murphy down your draft board. He certainly shouldn’t be off of it altogether, but he’s a big risk where he’s currently being ranked.
Michael Brantley OF CLE
Brantley is a solid player, but he unfortunately has not been able to stay on the field the past two seasons. Last year, it was recurring ankle problems that caused him to hit the DL for extended periods of time. Brantley had off season surgery to try and stabilize his right ankle, and he is still working his way back. Like Murphy, Brantley is a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries and is a questionable to make it back for Opening Day. At this point, it seems like a bit of a long shot that Cleveland will push him. Given the Tribe’s depth and Brantley’s long list of injury concerns, it’s possible that he splits more time in the outfield, as well. With how deep the outfield is in the Major Leagues right now, Brantley is an unnecessary risk to take in your draft.
Yuli Gurriel 1B HOU
Gurriel underwent surgery Wednesday AM on the hamate bone in his left hand. The procedure could take up to 8 weeks for him to recover from, and the condition is often a recurring one (this has been an issue for Gurriel for a while). These are all reasons he was already an Elevated Injury Risk according to our algorithm before the surgery. Now he is a High Injury Risk, and his new Optimal Recovery Time is 8 weeks. Gurriel will likely be on the shelf until May, and from there it could take some time for him to knock the rust off. He’s a solid bat that’s a part of an elite offense, but his production isn’t enough to warrant taking him with mid round fantasy draft pick given the injury situation. Throw in the fact that he will in all likelihood lose time to super utility man Marwin Gonzalez even after he returns, the return is not worth the risk for Gurriel.
Michael Conforto OF NYM
Conforto had a breakout year in 2017, hitting 27 home runs in just 109 games. He’s an exciting young player at just 24 years of age, but a late season shoulder injury gives reason for pause before getting too bullish on Conforto before this upcoming season. September surgery to repair his rotator cuff has him listed as a High Injury Risk, and he’s expected to miss the first month of the season. On top of the injury concerns, if when Conforto returns his inflated HR/FB rate from last year drops and his struggles with lefties continue, then he could be in for a serious regression this season. He should have a solid career ahead of him, but pump the breaks on Conforto heading into 2018.
Ryan Zimmerman 1B WAS
Zimmerman was a revelation in 2017, staying healthy for an entire season for the first time in years and posting the highest OPS of his career (.930). At 33 years old, has Zimmerman turned the corner into an elongated career renaissance, like his teammate Murphy (who he apparently took some launch angle tips from)? Or, was 2017 one last feel good season before Zimmerman enters back into a cycle of injuries and inconsistencies? It’s hard to tell, but betting on the former feels like a huge risk. Given Zimmerman’s injury history, it’s hard to count on him for 140+ games, meaning he should drop down your draft rankings.
Austin Barnes C LAD
Barnes became Dave Roberts catcher of choice in LA late last season, as Roberts turned to him in the playoffs over long time backstop Yasmani Grandal. In his first consistent time spent in the Majors, Barnes hit .289 in 218 at-bats, playing in 108 games. Many thought the Dodgers would move on from Grandal altogether, however they have not dealt Grandal and look like they will be platooning the two. Barnes will start against left-handed pitching, but that won’t be enough for him to be a fantasy relevant option. Given Grandal’s injury history, Barnes should see more time at some point, and it’s always possible that Grandal could be dealt during the season. All in all, though, it looks like the Dodgers catching situation is one to avoid, at least early in the season, especially with Barnes dealing with an elbow issue (though it’s not thought to be major).
Aaron Hicks OF NYY
Hicks had a career year in 2017 but played in just 88 games due to injury. He battled oblique issues last season and remains a High Injury Risk due to their highly recurrent nature. He should start in center for the Yankees, but given his injury history and the Yankees embarrassment of riches in the outfield that will cause a lot of rotating and platooning, who knows how many starts we can expect out of Hicks. Also, when he plays, will we see the 2017 Hicks at the plate? Or will he revert back to something closer to his early career self? The upside is there for Hicks in a loaded lineup, but at this point he’s still a massive risk on a multitude of different levels.
Elvis Andrus SS TEX
Andrus has been a solid fantasy asset at the shortstop position for years now, but he was elevated into elite status last season due to an uptick in power. Andrus blasted 20 homers to go along with his customary 25 stolen bases, making him a hot commodity in fantasy last season. That production has him pretty far up there on many preseason ranking lists, but there is some reason for caution with Andrus. As he approaches age 30, he gets dangerously close to a cliff that many speedy players fall off of from a steal perspective. Given that he is already dealing with back issues in Spring Training, it might be wise to expect a dip in steals from Andrus this season. Should his power numbers regress a bit too, then Andrus becomes a pretty average fantasy shortstop rather quickly. Be cautious and don’t overdraft him.
Dustin Pedroia 2B BOS
At this point in his career, Pedroia is more of a big name than a big time fantasy 2nd baseman. He’s still capable of producing, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently. In 2 out of the last 3 seasons, he has failed to play in more than 105 games. Now he will likely miss the first month of this season after undergoing knee surgery in October. At this point, he’s just too hard to trust from an availability standpoint. He might be worth picking up mid-season when things are going well, but don’t invest in him to start.
Ben Zobrist 2B/OF CHC
Like Pedroia, Zobrist is a player with name recognition who may not be worth much at all to you in fantasy. He has positional versatility, but he might be more of a super sub for Joe Maddon this year than anything else. He’ll still play a decent amount, but his numbers dipped big time last year (.691 OPS), and he’s still battling back from back issues. It’s just hard to know what you’ll get from Zobrist at this point, so steer clear on draft day.
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