DR HQ: Looking for value from the medical scrapheap

At First Pitch Chicago on February 23, several BaseballHQ.com subscribers came up after the session and asked if there were any players with debilitating injuries recently that were worth drafting. It's a great question.

So today’s exercise is rummaging through players on the medical scrap heap, hoping to find a few who could have some value if they remain healthy. At the end of the draft when picks are coming fast and furious, we tend to look for and select names we are familiar with. Hopefully this column will help you make the right choice.

Brian Roberts (2B, BAL)
Roberts is coming off both a torn labrum in his right hip and a sports hernia in 2012. These new ailments come after his battle with concussions in 2011-2012. And we can’t forget the herniated disc in his lower back, and a wide range of lesser ailments during his career. The only thing keeping him in the Orioles camp is the fact he is in the last year of his $40 million contract with Baltimore. It will be tempting on draft day but the odds of Roberts proving you any positive value is almost nil. Look for someone with some positive upside.

Rich Harden (RHP, MIN)
The Twins need some veteran arms in their rotation and the Rich Harden medical show moves to Minneapolis this season. Harden is a surprisingly "young" 31; he seems at least five years older. He again has an opportunity to provide some value for fantasy owners if he can just stay healthy. His arm strength remains fairly strong as his fastball velocity has remained constant the past six or so seasons. He missed the 2012 campaign recovering from surgery on his right shoulder capsule. This can be a difficult surgery to return from, especially in the first 18 or so months, though it can be done. He knows how to pitch; meaning he could provide you with some value if he proves he can pitch effectively again.

Jeremy Bonderman (RHP, SEA)
Bonderman has never been the same physically since he had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in June of 2008. Now he is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery from April 2012. He is only 30 years old, so he has time to get healthy and reinvent himself. Can he get outs with guile and experience rather than the pure stuff when he was with the Tigers? The Mariners sure hope so because they could use another veteran starter. As it stands now, the only thing working in his favor is his age. Pass even in the deepest leagues. His tank is empty at this point.

Erik Bedard (LHP, HOU)
Bedard has to be the biggest tease currently in MLB; his inability to remain healthy continues to plague this talented southpaw. The talent pool in Houston is definitely extremely low at the moment but he all but has a job locked up, even though he's on a minor league deal. The lure of Bedard is the fact he also still throws at 90 mph with decent movement on his pitches. In 2011, Bedard recorded a 3.62 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Last year was disaster and one has to wonder if his career is almost over. But take a flyer on him, as he is likely to provide some value this season. But always be ready to place him on the DL when the time comes.

Scott Rolen (3B, FA)
Rolen has not sent in his retirement papers yet so he could come back this season. He has not ruled out returning to the Reds, though that is his only likely choice at this stage of his career. Last year, he struggled with two herniated discs in his back. He did manage to hit eight homers in 294 at-bats but it was clear that the end was near. It may be tempting to take a flyer on him for your reserve roster but resist. Not only was his back a mess last season, his left shoulder was re-injured and weakened again. Look for a younger and healthier option.

Chris Carpenter (RHP, STL)
Last July, Carpenter underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Simply put, this is when a rib puts pressure on an artery to the arm, causing weakness and numbness in the arm, hand or fingers. The surgery removes the rib and in theory the nerve problems and any circulation problems clear up. Carpenter made remarkable progress late in the year, even returning in September and pitching reasonably well. The plan was for him to continue to build up his arm strength over the winter and be ready to lead the staff in 2013.

As he tried to ramp up the bullpen sessions just before spring training, the discomfort in his pitching shoulder/arm was too much for him to continue. We don’t have a complete diagnosis, but it seems clear that this could be the end of his career. He has already said he won’t have any more baseball-related surgery. The only way he returns to the Cards this season is if rest and treatment will clear up what ails him and that sounds like a long shot at best. Yes, it might be tempting to grab Carpenter at the end of your draft. He’s come back before and he could do it again. But this time, the hurdle is huge. The upside is also big given his history, but make the smart play and pass the very long odds to someone else. 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.