It’s paramount to understand your fantasy baseball settings. For example, you wouldn’t blindly go into a draft without understanding the scoring format, right? In the same vein, you wouldn’t cut players from your bench and roster fewer players than the league maximum, correct? So, if you have an Injured List (IL) spot or multiple spots and do not use any of them, that’s tantamount to failing to maximize your roster.
However, I prefer avoiding early-round injured players and absorbing unnecessary risk on draft day. With that in mind, the following players are intriguing late-round and free-agent injury stash candidates, depending on your league format.
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Mike Soroka (SP – ATL): 415.4 ADP / 465.2 ECR, 21% (Yahoo!)
Mike Soroka last toed the slab on August 3, 2020. Sadly, he tore his Achilles when attempting to cover first base. Remarkably, it gets worse. While rehabbing, he retore his Achilles in June 2021.
In late March, Soroka discussed the rehab process with Ben Verlander of FOX Sports. Understandably, it’s been one of the most challenging times of his life. However, describing his repaired Achilles, he said, “the repair feels really, really strong. It’s not going anywhere. We made sure this time it’s absolutely as strong as it can be. ” When asked when he thought he’d be back on the mound this year, he said, “I’m hopeful for around midseason.”
According to FanGraphs, in 37 starts totaling 214.0 innings, Soroka has had a 2.86 ERA, 4.33 SIERA, 1.16 WHIP, 6.3 BB%, 19.6 K%, 50.9 GB%, and 26.9 CSW%. His SIERA, strikeout rate, and CSW% leave something to be desired. Nevertheless, Soroka might be a pitcher who profiles as a blindspot for ERA estimators.
Obviously, it’s unclear how Soroka will pitch after such a lengthy layoff. Still, a lower-body injury is probably preferable to a shoulder or arm injury. Soroka is worth stashing in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers if the benches are medium-sized or larger and there are at least three IL spots.
Sports Injury Central: MLB 2022 Injury Questions Part 3 >>
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 347.4 ADP / 295.3 ECR, 7%
I have been singing Evan Longoria’s praises this offseason, most recently tabbing him for the All-Undrafted Team. But unfortunately, Longo had surgery on Tuesday to repair a ligament in his right index finger. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic has tweeted a mid-May estimated return.
Evan Longoria’s return to play estimate is six weeks, Gabe Kapler said. So… mid-May. Wilmer Flores will be the opening day third baseman.
– Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 30, 2022
We’ll have to wait to see if Longo’s excellent plate discipline and superb batted-ball data from last year translate to 2022. Nevertheless, he’s my favorite stash option. Longoria should be stashed in the same formats noted for Soroka above.
James Paxton (SP – BOS): 565.5 ADP / 512.0 ECR, 5%
James Paxton is on the rehabilitation path from Tommy John surgery on April 13, 2021. As Peter Gammons noted in an article for The Athletic, the timeline for return is closer to 15 months than the 12 months that have traditionally been thrown around. Additionally, Gammons reported that Boston expects Paxton back by July.
Paxton was lousy in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, returning from offseason back surgery and struggling with decreased velocity before hitting the shelf early with forearm flexor pain. The forearm pain was a precursor to blowing out his elbow in hindsight.
Thus, Paxton’s last healthy season was 2019. That year, he made 29 starts spanning 150.2 innings, twirling a 3.82 ERA, 3.75 xERA, 3.93 SIERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.7 BB%, 29.4 K%, and 28.6 CSW%. If Paxton returns to pre-injury form, its 2019 output should be within its range of outcomes.
I’m most interested in Paxton in head-to-head formats. A July return that could drift into August if Boston handles him with kid gloves does not give him much time to pile up innings and move the needle in roto formats. However, a bounce back to 2019 form would make Paxton a useful hurler in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixed leagues in head-to-head formats. Further, you can assess the southpaw’s rehab work in the minors and even keep him on your bench or a start or two after his activation from the IL before determining if he’s a usable arm in your fantasy playoffs.
Drew Pomeranz (RP-SD): 565.5 ADP / 555.5 ECR, 2%
San Diego’s closer role is unsettled. However, Drew Pomeranz isn’t a candidate for the job to start the year. Sadly, he’s on the 60-day IL, rehabbing from flexor-tendon surgery last August.
Still, Pomeranz might vault into the saves mix in the summer. The left-handed former starter has been lights out in relief since 2019. In 75 appearances totaling 73.0 innings since 2019, he has had a 1.73 ERA, 2.68 SIERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10.0 BB%, 38.8 K%, 47.6 GB%, and 32.4 CSW%. So, even if Pomeranz isn’t a save source when he returns, he’s a candidate to help fantasy teams with elite ratios. Moreover, he’s a tantalizing stash in leagues of all sizes that use holds or saves-plus-holds.
Kirby Yates (RP – ATL): 615.5 ADP / 698.5 ECR, 2%
Kirby Yates is a niche injury stash. I only suggest stashing him in 14-team mixed leagues or deeper with at least a medium-sized bench, three IL spots, and a holds or saves-plus-holds category. Further, I’m less interested in him in roto formats than head-to-head leagues since an August return from Tommy John rehab is a realistic target, per Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta’s bullpen is stacked, and Yates isn’t being pushed hard in his rehab since this is his second Tommy John surgery recovery. The veteran righty last pitched in a game on July 25, 2020. So, he may struggle after a lengthy layoff.
Regardless, from 2017 to 2019, Yates was a dominant force in the bullpen. He made 187 appearances totaling 180.1 innings, saving 54 games, and dazzling to the tune of a 2.40 ERA, 2.22 SIERA, 0.97 WHIP, 6.8 BB%, 38.5 K%, and 31.6 CSW%.
I’m doubtful Yates will approach anything resembling those sterling marks. However, there’s nothing wrong with stashing him on an IL spot in the formats I suggested above until you need to use it for another player on your fantasy roster.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @ BChad50.