ROTISSERIE: Embracing Injury For a Competitive Advantage

Injury is inevitable.  With the advent of the 10-day disabled list in 2017, teams strategically sidelined and/or rested players. In fact, trips to the DL increased 29 percent for hitters and 22 percent for pitchers. Yet, total DL days actually fell 4 percent for hitters and 12 percent for pitchers.

The long-term effects of the 10-day disabled list won’t be known for another couple of seasons yet, but fantasy baseball players must adapt to the new, short-term reality presented by the (sore) knee-jerk reactions major league teams are employing to deal with possible injuries.

There are several possible approaches to dealing with more frequent injuries on the major league level, but they all start with one basic approach. Embrace injury.

Fantasy owners are accustomed to fearing injuries and blaming bad seasons on unhealthy seasons. It’s time to adjust and use injuries to your advantage. Here are some ways fantasy owners can not only work around injuries but to make them work for their teams.

  • Draft/claim injured players. Many leagues have either added injury roster slots, or added to the number from last season to accommodate the DL Shuffle. Early in the season most teams do not embrace risk or injury, imagining a full season of good health taking them to the end of the rainbow. Often drafting or claiming an injured player is a better full-season bet than taking a flier on a benchwarmer you think can emerge as a star. If the injury to your player worsens, simply make the call about cutting him in favor of others. Ask the team that drafted JD Martinez last year or Michael Conforto this spring how that worked out.
  • Own “musical chair” players. The data tells us that DL stints are shorter than before, so think not about how to replace a player, but how to plug the hole for a few days. This is where the versatility of a Marwin Gonzalez, Whit Merrifield or Chris Taylor proves the additional value these players carry. Notice how helpful those names are in the early season, when days off and rainouts are plentiful. If your middle infielder is sidelined for a week and a half, owners can play musical chairs until his return.
  • Make assumptions.  Some owners prepare for injury by assuming or imagining that no player will exceed 120 games (or 24 starts). Others assume that 40-50 percent of their roster will miss at least some time due to injury. How might that dictate your early season roster choices?
  • Know the trends. Of all MLB teams, the Dodgers used the most pitcher DL stints, with 27 disabled list placements. However, 14 of those trips were fewer than 15 days.  (The Rangers were second with 18 pitchers placed on the DL; seven of which were fewer than 15 days). So if you own a Dodger pitcher, add an arm or two to your reserves, as it appears to be a methodology of resting pitchers during the season.
  • Zig when they zag. How many years did we all avoid Giancarlo Stanton in our first rounds or for our top dollars? We think of injury risk as a negative, but if an owner is the only one chasing that risk, maybe it will work out. Players who are injured or have an injury history are discounted – not only in drafts but throughout the season.

Roster depth is perhaps the most important ingredient to fantasy baseball success. If owners view injuries through a lens of building depth rather than driving around inconvenient roster construction, they might be able to gain an advantage.

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