High Risk Starting Pitchers in the Post-Tommy John Surgery Death Zone

Injury prediction and prevention is most likely the next “Moneyball”/“The Extra 2%”/“That 1 Weird Trick to Help Boost Your Testosterone” (hint, it’s HGH) that you don’t really hear teams talk about very much. In fact, there is not a single thing that teams obstruct, mislead, and straight up lie about more than injuries (A.J. Preller says hi). One thing has trickled out, though, and that is conventional wisdom around the league holds that Tommy John surgery has a shelf life of about 7-8 years. This is by no means a fact, and every case is obviously different, but if a pitcher who falls in that range has also been having arm trouble recently, it seems to my civilian mind that is a recipe for disaster. Here are the pitchers who are at high risk for a 2nd Tommy John surgery and/or performance decline:

Steven Matz NYM, TJS date: May 2010 – I drafted Matz as my 4th starter in my latest 12 team redraft league. I say this to highlight the fact I don’t hate these pitchers and I’m not completely avoiding them, especially in redrafts. The risk becomes greater in dynasty and keeper formats for obvious reasons. Matz has long been labeled injury prone, and the concerns have only heightened since reaching the Majors. He underwent arthroscopic surgery this off-season to remove a large bone spur from his pitching elbow, which hopefully helps with the shoulder impingement that was bothering him all year and required a platelet plasma injection of its own. This May will be the 7-year anniversary of his first Tommy John surgery. Draft at your own risk.

Stephen Strasburg WASH, August 2010 – Strasburg was basically shut down in mid-August with a small tear in the pronator tendon, which caused his forearm to tighten every time he threw his slider. In an effort to remain healthy this year he will try to limit his slider usage, and if Spring Training is any indication, it looks like he might pitch exclusively from the stretch. I appreciate the willingness to try new things and recognize the elbow tendon grim reaper is looming, but even if the adjustments minimize the risk of injury, it increases the risk of performance decline. Strasburg’s performance wasn’t the problem when he was on the mound. There are more unknowns here than I am comfortable with when drafting an ace.

Danny Salazar CLE, August 2010 – Salazar’s elbow started bothering him around last year’s all-star break, eventually sidelining him in August after saying, “there’s something in my elbow and I don’t know what it is.” He was later diagnosed with the catchall “elbow inflammation.” His strikeout upside is worth hoping his elbow tendon can continue hanging on by what I’m sure is a thread, and he’s looked great so far this Spring, but don’t tell me you weren’t warned.

Jacob deGrom NYM, October 2010 – deGrom had season ending surgery in late September to repair ulnar nerve damage in his right arm. He had been experiencing forearm soreness for about a month before the surgery and his velocity was down all season from where he sat in 2015. It seems the surgery has worked so far, as he has dominated in Spring, so while he could be worth the risk in redrafts, I would be highly skeptical of him in Dynasty leagues.

Carlos Carrasco CLE, September 2011 – The problems have already started for Carrasco this season, as he experienced swelling in his elbow after his March 13th start. The MRI came back clean and he should return to action later this week, but considering the problems the first 4 guys on this list experienced in their 6th post-TJS year, it isn’t a great sign.

Rich Hill LAD, June 2011 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a potential ace’s draft stock discounted more due to injury risk than with Hill this year. I’ve been ending up with him everywhere, but am preparing for under 150 IP.

Adam Wainwright STL, March 2011 – The torn ACL that kept him on the shelf for 5 months in 2015 might actually help preserve Wainwright’s elbow longer than expected. The bigger question is how effective he will be, as he took a major step back in 2016, and almost surely looks to be in the back nine of his career. I’m expecting an ERA under 4 this year, but a return to ace status would be a surprise.

Jordan Zimmermann DET, August 2009 – If I had been doing this list for the last two years, Zimmerman would have made the list both times, and both times you would have been keen to stay away from him. His velocity has now dropped two years in a row, and he pitched in only 105.1 innings last season due to injuries, although unrelated to his arm. He’s been getting pounded this Spring too, and even if you don’t buy into the extra injury risk, the performance decline looks to be in full swing.

John Lackey CHC, November 2011 – Lackey’s 2011 Tommy John surgery seemed to give him a late career jolt, as he just finished up his 4th excellent and healthy post-surgery year at the ripe old age of 38. He did hit the 15-day DL in August with shoulder tightness last year, but I’m not sure there is any increased injury/performance risk here that any other 38-year-old pitcher doesn’t already inherently have.

Francisco Liriano TOR, November 2006 – Liriano’s been a high injury/performance risk since going under the knife over a decade ago, and that has never been more true than it is for this season. Considering the very low draft price, though, it might be a risk worth taking.

Wei-Yin Chen MIA, 2006 – Chen’s velocity was down last year and he pitched only 123.1 innings due to a left elbow sprain that held him out for two months. He has already surpassed the 7-8 year timeline, but there are signs his luck is about to run out, if it hasn’t already.

Edinson Volquez MIA, August 2009/Jaime Garcia ATL, February 2008 – The list of starting pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery before Volquez and Garcia and are still pitching effectively (without needing a 2nd TJS) is very short. Other than Liriano and Chen, the entire list literally consists of Anibal Sanchez and Scott Feldman. And I’m using the word “effectively” very loosely here. Both Volquez and Garcia would have made last year’s imaginary list, and while both stayed healthy, their numbers fell off a cliff.

Dice-K June 2011 – The clock might finally be ready to hit midnight on Dice-K’s long run of stateside dominance 😉

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Rookies/Prospects to Make an Impact in 2017

My old computer came back to life as mysteriously as it died, so everything is back to normal. Except my bank account is $120 lighter because apparently, you can’t return Microsoft Office. Thanks Geek Squad for telling me my computer was toast and that I needed a new one. Just goes to show you can never trust the “experts.” Hopefully Ralph and Halp sharing our thoughts on the possible 2017 impact rookies will help you form your own decisions on when to pounce.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top Rookies/Prospects to Make an Impact in 2017

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Battle of The Dynasty Gurus’ Top 500 Dynasty Baseball Rankings

A few weeks ago, The Dynasty Guru did a quick write-up of my Top 50 First-Year Player Draft Rankings, and now I will return the favor for their two separate Top 500 Dynasty Lists. Let’s get right to the tale of the tape:

The Reigning Champ: Bret Sayre (Click here for Sayre’s Top 500)

The OG Dynasty Guru and founder of TheDynastyGuru.com, Sayre plies his trade in the high-ceilinged, marbled hallways of the prestigious Baseball Prospectus organization. With his experience and insider access, he takes a steady hand approach, and will rarely leave himself exposed to the knockout punch. Think Floyd Mayweather.

The Challenger: Tom Trudeau (Click here for Trudeau’s Top 500)

Trudeau makes his bones on the business side of baseball, currently developing all kinds of great business ideas for MLB.com’s business development department. He is a longtime Dynasty player in expert leagues of all shapes and sizes, and is known for his tenacious and unconventional style. He is not afraid to wind up for the knockout blow, and has a puncher’s chance to take home the belt. Think Vince McMahon.

Round 1: Kris Bryant vs. Carlos Correa

Trudeau throws his first haymaker four seconds into the fight, ranking Correa #4 overall and ahead of Kris Bryant who he has at #5. Sayre easily side steps the punch, though, keeping the already proven MVP-level talent of Bryant at #4.

Boxing-style scorecard for Round 1: 10-9 Sayre

Round 2: Gary Sanchez

Conventional wisdom says to be cautious with young catchers in fantasy baseball due to how much they have to focus on defense and the general wear and tear of the position, but it didn’t stop Trudeau from placing Sanchez 28th on his list. The catcher position wasn’t always this weak offensively and it sure seems to be due to have a shortstop-like revival in the coming years. Landing a truly elite hitting catcher can be a difference maker. Sayre has Sanchez at #57, which is a fair ranking, but sometimes you gotta be bold to beat savvy competition. Trudeau lands his first punch.

10-9 Trudeau

Round 3: Trevor Story

Anyone who has read/listened to me for any length of time knows I love me some Trevor Story, so Round 3 easily goes to Trudeau for ranking Story #43, while Sayre has him down at #75. Gotta respect Coors.

10-9 Trudeau

Round 8-ish: Justin Turner vs. Edwin Diaz

I’m noticing established vets get under drafted in re-draft leagues, so you can imagine the discount you can get them at in Dynasty leagues. The experienced Sayre knows not to undervalue very good win now production, ranking Turner 96th, while Trudeau leaves himself exposed by taking a high upside closer like Edwin Diaz at #94, dropping Turner to #156 overall. It’s much easier to figure out saves on the waiver wire and in trades than it is to find all-star level production at 3B.

10-9 Sayre

Round 12

Trudeau maintains his aggressive strategy throughout the list, ranking youngsters like Ozzie Albies and Jharrel Cotton very high, while Sayre sticks with his safe, disciplined approach. None of Trudeau’s homerun punches knock Sayre out in the short term, although they could take a toll on him years down the line in the form of an aging roster and CTE. Remember kids, always choose baseball over boxing, football, MMA, etc …

Final Decision:

I’ll let you decide, this shit’s only for fun. Both lists are excellent and valuable resources for the Dynasty Baseball community.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Underrated/Sleeper Fantasy Baseball Prospects

Things are never easy. My computer broke this week and the mic on my new computer sounds like I’m recording from inside the Midtown Tunnel. I apologize in advance for the subpar sound quality. An official podcasting mic is in the mail, so hopefully the sound will never be better starting next week. Fortunately, the sound was still good enough for me to pat myself on the back for all the great sleepers I hit on last year, while we also bullshit about our favorite guys for this year.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Underrated/Sleeper Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

I Hate Technology

Without modern technology, my “website” would be me handing out pamphlets on the streets of Manhattan and my “podcast” would be me yelling about it into a megaphone. And instead of an “Imaginary Brick Wall,” I would likely be standing in front of a very real brick wall. But when my computer breaks, I want to smash it on the ground and yearn for a time when ground rule doubles were counted as home runs. If you haven’t figured it out yet, my computer won’t start, and if I don’t buy a new one it might take a few days to get this one fixed. There is a chance I won’t have a new post up until next week.

-Michael Halpern

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals Prospects

Halph finishes what we/he/it starts. Today is the conclusion of the team farm system previews as Ralph Lifshitz and I talk Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals prospects. We also get Ralph’s blissful reaction in real time to the news David Price will not need surgery.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training

I just couldn’t help myself. After a long off-season with no baseball, the first week of Spring Training games has got me amped up for the 2017 season. Lots of legitimately exciting stuff happened already too. Here is the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training:

Aaron Judge NYY, OF – It was the homerun heard round the Twittersphere. Judge smashed a 93 MPH fastball that didn’t so much land as it did get stopped by the tippy top of the outfield scoreboard. I love a fundamentally sound 4-3 putout as much as the next guy (I was an expert at them), but bombs like this are what make you hit rewind on your DVR like 25 times.

Tyler Glasnow PIT, RHP – Glasnow came out throwing fire with his newly refined delivery, striking out 6 batters in 2 IP. The fastball clocked as high as 98 MPH, and he didn’t walk a single batter. If there is a real competition for Pittsburgh’s 5th starter spot, Glasnow jumped out to the early lead.

Harrison Bader STL, OF – Bader’s quick and powerful swing is still being underrated on mainstream prospect lists, and it is scorched bullet shots like this that makes you scratch your head as to why he doesn’t get more love. I guess he’ll have to settle for being another in a long line of Cardinals prospects who gets the “came out of nowhere/Cardinals voodoo” tag, even though he has been raking since freshman year in the SEC.

Cody Bellinger LAD, 1B – On last week’s Razzball Prospect Podcast: The Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Show, I wondered if Bellinger’s extreme uppercut swing is the future of baseball with launch angle and swing path being all the rage these days. This absolute moon shot only reinforced that thought. Of course, that same extreme uppercut is why I was a bit conservative on him in my Top 200, ranking him 26th overall.

Matt Chapman OAK, 3B – If those pull side homers didn’t do it for you, how about an opposite field dinger from one of the best power hitting prospects in the minors. There isn’t a clear path to playing time for Chapman at the moment, but there is no reason for Oakland to not trade Trevor Plouffe at the deadline if he has any value at all.

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – One of my favorite pitching prospect sleepers for two years running, Faria struck out 3 batters in 2 IP. Unless Tampa Bay’s rotation stays unusually healthy, Faria is almost sure to have his number called at some point this season.

Rhys Hoskins PHI, 1B – Non-Reading aided homer alert! Non-Reading aided homer alert!

Brad Zimmer CLE, OF – Drove in 5 runs in his Spring debut. Lined a single to center and showed off his raw power with an opposite field homer that he didn’t even get the sweet part of the bat on. With Cleveland’s shaky outfield situation, Zimmer could force his way into the lineup sooner rather than later.

Billy McKinney NYY, OF – Here’s a quick reminder of why McKinney was a former 1st round pick. He’ll have to keep showing off that power to regain his lost prospect shine.

Rowdy Tellez TOR, 1B – This is the play-by-play of Tellez’ 2nd at-bat on Sunday: late on a 1st pitch fastball, looked completely lost on a 12-6 curve, and finally whiffed bad on a breaking ball in the dirt. Drawing conclusions from one at-bat sample sizes in Spring Training is fun.

Carson Fulmer CHW, RHP –  Pitched two scoreless innings, striking out Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, and Franklin Gutierrez. Also unveiled a new, toned down delivery that will hopefully allow him to remain a starter.

Mark Appel PHI, RHP – I’m old enough to remember a time when Mark Appel vs. Kris Bryant was an actual debate. Feels like an eternity ago. He’ll get a fresh start in Philadelphia this year, and his stuff looked legit in his two inning, 3 K performance on Saturday. A wild pitch and hanging breaking ball were his only blemishes on the day.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects

The time has finally come for the Top 100 Podcast! Ralph Lifshitz released his Top 100 last Wednesday over on Razzball.com to much fanfare. My Top 200 dropped a couple weeks ago. Check them out if you haven’t already, and then give the podcast a listen to hear Halph BS a little bit about some differences.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Updated 2017 Top 50 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings

Things have changed since I wrote my 2017 Top 40 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings back in mid-October … I’m about five pounds heavier. The first-year player draft rankings changed too though. This update is a tiered ranking with just a few thoughts on each tier. For a more detailed look at most of these players, you can check out my 2017 Top 200 Dynasty/Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings and my above linked Top 40. Here is the Updated 2017 Top 50 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings:

Top College Bats

1) Nick Senzel CIN, 3B
2) Zack Collins CHW, C
3) Kyle Lewis SEA, OF
4) Corey Ray MIL, OF

The very top college bats usually have the best combination of safety, proximity, and upside, and this year’s class is no different. I wouldn’t argue too hard against ranking these guys in any order.

The #1 Overall Draft Pick and the #1 International Signing

5) Mickey Moniak PHI, OF
6) Kevin Maitan ATL, SS

The risk is inherently higher with teenagers, mostly because they have a long way to go, but I’ll take the top “high school” bats after the best college players are off the board. Maitan has that mysterious, limitless upside, so if you like to live on the edge, I wouldn’t blame you if you took him #1 overall.

Top 100 Worthy

7) Will Craig PIT, 3B
8) A.J. Puk OAK, LHP
9) Ian Anderson ATL, RHP
10) Jason Groome BOS, LHP
11) Matt Thaiss LAA, 1B/C
12) Cal Quantrill SD, RHP
13) Heath Quinn SF, OF
14) Bobby Dalbec BOS, 3B
15) Bryan Reynolds SF, OF
16) Taylor Trammell CIN, OF
17) Blake Rutherford NYY, OF
18) Alex Kirilloff MIN, OF
19) Braxton Garrett MIA, LHP
20) Adrian Morejon SD, LHP
21) Lucas Erceg MIL, 3B

Alex Reyes’ injury is just another reminder of how risky pitching prospects can be. I do like to keep a relatively balanced farm system, though, so I would start to consider the top pitchers in this group of lower upside college bats and far off high school hitters.

Boom or Bust

22) Jorge Ona SD, OF
23) Matt Manning DET, RHP
24) Delvin Perez STL, SS

Tons of unrefined raw talent. Perez actually didn’t look all that raw at the plate in his pro debut, so this ranking admittedly might be too reliant on pre-draft reports.

Close Proximity and Sneaky Upside

25) Eric Lauer SD, LHP
26) Dakota Hudson STL, RHP
27) Lourdes Gourriel Jr. TOR, 2B
28) Peter Alonso NYM, 1B
29) Justin Dunn NYM, RHP
30) Norge Ruiz OAK, RHP
31) Randy Arozarena STL, INF

Gourriel and Dunn’s upside might be less sneaky than the others, but you get the point.

Pu Pu Platter

32) Anfernee Grier ARI, OF
33) Will Benson CLE, OF
34) Joey Wentz ATL, LHP
35) Forrest Whitley HOU, RHP
36) Vladimir Gutierrez CIN, RHP
37) Jordan Sheffield LAD, RHP
38) Luis Almanzar SD, SS
39) Lazaro Armenteros OAK, OF
40) Freudis Nova HOU, SS
41) Chris Okey CIN, C
42) Josh Lowe TB, 3B
43) Nolan Jones CLE, 3B
44) Cionel Perez HOU, LHP
45) Victor Garcia STL, OF
46) Bo Bichette TOR, SS
47) Yasel Antuna WASH, SS
48) Ronnie Dawson HOU, OF
49) D.J. Peters LAD, OF
50) Dane Dunning CHW, RHP
* Riley Pint COL, RHP

At this point in the player pool, it should be more about picking your favorites and/or team needs (position, speed/power, upside/proximity, etc …), rather than a rigid ranking. There is still a ton of talent in this group, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the best player from this entire class ended up being one of these players. Pint gets singled out because he was my top pitcher before Colorado drafted him, but I avoid Coors pitchers like Major League Baseball avoids free market principles.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers Prospects

Ralph Lifshitz and I are powering through these team systems on the podcast this week with the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. We start by talking about the 2017 Razzball Commentator Leagues opening up, then move into how the Alex Reyes injury affects his value, and finally we dive deep into the Rays and Rangers systems.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)