Welcome back to the next edition of the fantasy baseball injury report where we take a look at players who suffered significant injuries in 2016 and have red flags all over them heading into the 2017 season. These are impact fantasy players who may see their draft value slip so they can provide great value if you are patient enough to grab them when the time is right in a draft. So without further ado, here is the next installment of the MLB pre-season walking wounded.
Garrett Richards (SP-LAA)
Injury – He suffered a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and opted for rest and stem cell treatment rather than undergo Tommy John surgery.
2016 Season – The ace of the Angels pitching staff only started six games going 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.
Reason for Optimism
- Richards claims to feel 100% and has been throwing regularly thus far in spring training.
- At 28-years old, he is in the prime of his career and young enough to recover from such a serious injury as a UCL tear.
- The Angels will be cautious with their ace starter and likely limit his innings and pitch count during the season to keep him healthy.
Reason for Concern
- Pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery have recently had a greater success rate in coming back than ever before. On the other hand, treating a UCL tear with rest and stem cells is uncommon and leaves room for significant skepticism.
- It’s encouraging that Richards feels 100% coming into spring training, but the real concern will be how he holds up in game action and facing live hitters every five days.
- Richards statistics will be affected and minimized due to the Angels likely limiting his pitch counts and innings all season.
- As good as Richards looked in 2015, the fact remains that his ERA jumped over one full run higher as compared to 2014 despite throwing 41 less innings.
2017 OUTLOOK – The Angels pitching staff was decimated by injuries in 2016, and none as impactful as the loss of Richards last May to a UCL tear. It was surprising that he and the Angels opted for rest and stem cell treatment, but such a conservative approach has given him the chance to be on the mound for Opening Day this year. Richards proved to be a solid fantasy starter in 2014 and 2015, but there are a lot of red flags associated with him heading into this season. It is unknown how well his UCL ligament will hold up pitching in game situations so there is inherent risk in depending on him as a frontline fantasy starter. Being on a pitch count is going to prevent him from going deep into games, so his win total is likely going to be affected. It will also be interesting to see whether he changes any of his mechanics or reduces the velocity of his pitches in an effort to be more cautious or conserve some of his pitches. This could decrease his strikeout totals as well. Overall, Richards is worth a gamble later in a draft as a back-of-the-rotation option. However, he should not be counted on as a dependable source of production in any fantasy league even if he pitches well in spring training and does not have any setbacks.
Michael A. Stein, Esq. is the Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, the industry's premier dispute resolution service, and co-host of the Fantasy Alarm Podcast. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter (@FantasyJudgment),