In the second installment of our “Injured Players Draft Guide”-Dr. Jesse Morse takes a look at injured or recovering first baseman entering the 2017 season.
While he’s no longer a spring chicken, boy Miguel Cabrera still can mash. Over the past decade, Miggy has been the model of consistency at first base, averaging 679 plate appearances over his first 11 seasons. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer – no question. Playing in his 31 year-old season in 2015, he started to break down a little, losing nearly a quarter of the season to a strained calf. Then, he bounced back to his old ways in 2016, vintage-Miggy hit 38 HRs, his most since 2013, hitting .316 with 92 runs and 108 RBIs. Those are MVP-caliber numbers.
Playing in the WBC for Team Venezuela earlier this month, Miggy left a game with back tightness, and it remains to be seen if this will evolve into anything of significance. Fantasy-wise, Miggy is a top 2 rounder, without question. Depending on the specific parameters of your league, Miggy could easily slide into the first round. Even at age-34, you should draft Miggy with confidence. He’s currently being drafted as the fourth 1B off the board (in leagues where Kris Bryant has 1B eligibility), trailing only Bryant, Goldy and Rizzo, with an ADP of 12.
Replacing Big Papi’s production with one player will be impossible; at least with the current Red Sox players that is. However, Hanley Ramirez, who has been battling right shoulder soreness, is getting closer to playing first base according to recent reports, and is going to do what he can to shoulder the loss of the large father (pun intended). Remember Ramirez battled shoulder injuries since April 2015, so this is nothing to be taken lightly. It sounds like the Red Sox intend to use Ramirez at first base primarily against lefties, and sliding into the DH role versus righties, with Mitch Moreland taking over 1B duties. How will this lingering shoulder injury affect HanRam’s production this year? That only remains to be seen. Likely, the more he plays the field, the less effective he will be with the bat. The Red Sox will do everything they can to keep Ramirez fresh. Playing in his age-33 season, Steamer expects solid production out of Ramirez, projecting him to bat .282 with 22 HRs and a .357 wOBA.
Ramirez is currently being drafted as the 17th 1B off the board, with an ADP of 76, which puts him in the range of Chris Davis. Injury wise, draft Ramirez with confidence, he’s a solid veteran that should be taken in the middle rounds of your draft. As long the shoulder soreness fully heals, you should expect the 2016 version of HanRam.
Early in spring training Adrian Gonzalez was diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, and was shut down for 2 weeks. Entering what will be his age-35 season, AGonz has continued his decline which often occurs with players in their 30s. After posting a wRC+ of 112, his worst as a full-time player, Gonzalez struggled with his power, posting career-lows in isolated power and home runs. After finishing the second-half of the season strong with a 129 wRC+, Gonzalez could surprise some people and post a solid season – but don’t count on it. He’s reliable, and I don’t think this elbow injury will change that, but that’s about it. Gonzalez now has Cody Bellinger looking over his shoulder and waiting for him to falter. Steamer is projecting AGonz for a 106 wRC+ season with .262 average and 20 HRs. He’s currently being drafted as the 14th 1B off the board, with an ADP of 145, just after Albert Pujols, which sounds about right for him. AGonz lacks the upside but is a reliable veteran if you miss out on the crop of 1Bs with upside.
Albert Pujols, now entering his age-37 season, underwent chronic planter fasciitis surgery in the offseason and has been ramping up appropriately. Pujols, once neck-and-neck with Miggy for top fantasy pick, can still be a very useful fantasy asset, but it really depends on how successful the surgery was. Plantar Fasciitis is very painful, and can be difficult to live with; never-mind trying to play professional baseball with. Somehow, as bad as his feet were hurting, Pujols still managed to turn in a solid 2016, with .268 BA, hitting 31 HRs, and 119 RBIs. Due to the plantar injury, baserunning will continue to be challenging for Pujols, but as long as he remains the DH and limits his on-field appearances, he will continue to be a reliable back-end 1B. Expect his HRs to continue to decline, but according to Steamer, expect his overall production to be similar to his 2016 numbers, where he posted a 116 wRC+. Pujols is currently being drafted in between Carlos Santana and the recently mentioned Adrian Gonzalez, with an ADP of 126. Would I draft Pujols in a redraft league as an INF or UTIL bat? Definitely. You might be surprised how effective he can be if his foot heals appropriately after the surgery.
Tommy Joseph, who is currently penciled in as the Phillies’ starting 1B, was recently hit by a pitch and suffered a left hand contusion. Joseph, who was the heralded prospect in the Hunter Pence deal, has loads of potential as long as he is concussion-free. He’s currently being drafted around pick 273, which is in the same area as CJ Cron and Greg Bird, both of which I think Joseph has more upside than. His hand contusion should not affect his value, and you should draft him with confidence as your UTIL or back-up 1B. He shouldn’t cost as much as Albert Pujols but may offer the same upside.
Josh Bell, one of the Pirates’ top offensive prospects, needed surgery in early February to remove a loose body from his left knee. This talented 24-year-old has some sneaky fantasy value this year, especially in deeper leagues. His current ADP is about 290, which puts him in the Chris Carter and Mitch Moreland area, but he offers significantly more upside than either of them. Because he’s young, his knee should heal very nicely, and don’t be afraid to grab him at the end of your draft.