It’s inevitable. Each year players get hurt and miss the remainder of a season, or season entirely, and ends up getting lost in the shuffle come draft time the following year. An adept and well informed owner can use this to his advantage on draft day to get some mid to late round bargains. That being said, who may be forgotten about this year that could cause some face palming from your opponents when you spend your 17th round pick or later on someone who could hit 30 HR? You could target (in no particular order)…
Adam Wainwright – Wainwright missed all of 2011 after having Tommy John surgery in February last year. The Cardinals are planning on him being a part of their opening day roster. When healthy Wainwright is a top 10 pitcher in the fake game, but currently is the 30 pitcher taken off the boards at Mock Draft Central. People might be scared off, but Tommy John surgery generally has an 80% success rate, and with a price tag of round 8 in 12 team drafts everyone should be gambling on him returning to form.
Josh Johnson – When he is on, few players are his equal. The problem is that he gets hurt all the freakin’ time. In 2007 he had Tommy John Surgery, 2008 he missed 91 games recovering from said surgery. He missed the end of the 2010 with shoulder inflammation and then again in 2011 with the shoulder inflammation. While he is supposed to be ready for opening day, his injury history has him falling down the draft boards, and he can be yours with a 7th or 8th round pick. Just make sure you have a backup plan for if (when) he goes down.
Ike Davis – I like Ike. Through the first 36 games of the year he was batting .302 with 7 HR and 25 RBI. Then he collided with David Wright fielding a grounder and missed the remainder of the season with combination ankle sprain/bone bruise/cartilage damage. According to Newsday, Ike is scared his ankle will never be “100%” healthy, so there is some risk in picking him up, but as a late round flier (173rd pick on average) he could yield a hefty profit.
Kendrys Morales – We all know the story, he broke his ankle celebrating a HR by jumping onto home plate in a mob of his teammates. That was 2010. He missed all of 2011 due to setbacks and the break taking an extremely long time to heal. When he was at the top of his game he was a 30 HR, 100 RBI kind of guy. Despite losing his position to Pujols, the Angels will use him at DH this year. Reports say he is looking good, but after missing 1 and a half seasons, there will be some rust to work off. It seems a lot of people have forgotten about him since he is coming off the board, on average, with the 219th pick.
Justin Morneau – Morneau may never be the same player he was before the concussions got him, and it’s a shame, cause he was MVP caliber when he was healthy. The last two years have been rough, with him appearing in only 150 games total. Last year alone he had surgeries on his neck, left knee, right foot and left wrist. He had a concussion in 2010 and another in late last season. According to an espn.com article he has felt great since 2012 began and even dropped 20 pounds this offseason.
Johan Santana – Once the best pitcher in baseball, he tore a capsule in 2010, and missed all of 2011 rehabbing the shoulder after having the same surgery Mark Prior had. He has been working hard, and will be in Mets camp this year, but even as a Mets fan, I wouldn’t recommend Johan for anything more than a RD 20 pick or later lotto ticket. In a 12 team draft that amounts to pick 240 or later. So yeah, I would be OK drafting Santana ahead of guys like Erik Bedard, Carlos Zambrano and Ricky Nolasco.
Buster Posey – A gruesome collision at the plate and the resulting broken fibula ended Buster Posey’s sophomore season early. After propelling the Giants to the championship his rookie year, he was still producing at a top level (for his position) at the time he got hurt. Unfortunately for us, Posey isn’t really under anyone’s radar, as he is currently the 4th catcher off the board.
Ryan Howard - He tore his Achilles in the NLDS then had surgery to repair it. He is expected back sometime in May, but the good news for us is that the time he is missing has caused his price tag to drop significantly. On average he is the 142nd player going off the boards in drafts and there isn’t really any reason to think his power will suffer tremendously once he comes back. At the end of a fantasy season it isn’t how the player has performed, it’s how the position on your team performed. If you can pair him with someone who has first base eligibility like Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli or Michael Young, you’ll play one of them then move them back to whatever other position they qualify at once Howard comes back. You could potentially finish with the top production at that position in your league.