Like any market, player values in drafts remain fluid due to injuries. Depending on how risk averse an owner prefers to be when building a roster could create unique buying opportunities. However, incurring too much risk provides a high level of variance. Wrinkles of how many injured reserve spots exist in a league along with replacement value on the waiver wire affect how one attacks a draft or auction. With this in mind, seven players of interest in light of recent injury issues or a track record of them will be put to the test in order to determine if targeting one of the “maleficent” seven. 

Aaron Judge

  • 2019 End of pre-season NFBC ADP: 15.86 Minimum Pick: 3 Maximum Pick: 86

  • 2020 January-to-February ADP: 29.95; Minimum Pick: 13; Maximum Pick: 53

  • 2020 March ADP: 62.67; Minimum Pick: 29; Maximum Pick: 126

A mix of injuries with a bevy of home runs and patience at the plate, Judge remains alluring to fantasy players but with a hint of risk. This reflects the wide array of ranges within his draft picks the past two years. Weighing his 52 home run season in 2017 with a robust .284/.422/.627 slash line versus his back-to-back seasons of 27 home runs in less than 115 games in each causes some concern about durability. Plus, Judge enters this year with an injury migrating between his shoulder and pectoral muscle. He maintains hope to play on Opening Day, but there’s no clarity on this matter: 


Before delving into Judge’s projections, a look at his injury issues to this point with the Yankees: 

Over the last two seasons, Judge’s decreased in the following categories:

  • Walk percentage: 18.7 percent in 2017, 15.3 percent in 2018, 14.3 percent in 2019

  • Average: .284 in 2017, .278 in 2018, .272 in 2019

  • Contact percentage: 67.6 percent in 2017, 65.9 percent in 2018, 65.1 percent in 2019

  • Launch Angle: 15.8 degrees in 2017, 12.4 degrees in 2018, 11.4 degrees in 2019

Hope lies in his home run per fly ball rate rebounding to 35.1 percent last season close to his 35.6 percent from 2017. His expected batting averages of .284 in 2017, .277 in 2018 and .281 last year and hard hit percentage spike to 57.1 percent in 2019. Judge recorded 48 barrels in only 239 batted ball events which ranks as the 29th best total in the majors despite playing in 102 games. Over the last three years, Judge averages 123 games played which factors into his projection sets: 

  • Steamer 2020 Projection: 131 games, 586 plate appearances, 93 runs, 36 home runs, 89 RBI, five stolen bases; .254/.372/.525

  • ATC 2020 Projection: 120 games, 524 plate appearances, 86 runs, 33 home runs, 78 RBI, four stolen bases: .268/.388/.547

  • THE BAT 2020 Projection: 131 games, 565 plate appearances, 89 runs, 33 home runs, 84 RBI, five stolen bases: .261/.376/.526

Given his inability to stay on the field the last two years, it’s affected Judge’s average draft position and owners tolerance to reaching for him. With this in mind, here’s a poll for Judge’s market pulse: 


As news evolves with Judge’s health, he could be worthy of a fourth-to-sixth round reach, but it also comes with balance. With home runs available later in drafts, letting Judge drift makes sense but if he’s there in the sixth round as his present ADP suggests, there comes a point that his upside of the THE BAT projections becomes a factor. But chasing 2017 will be a mistake. 


Giancarlo Stanton

  • 2019 end of pre-season ADP: 23.50; Minimum Pick: 9; Maximum Pick: 233

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 59.12; Minimum Pick 29; Maximum Pick: 109

  • 2020 March ADP: 86.80; Minimum Pick: 66; Maximum Pick: 113

Like Judge, fantasy owners cannot get past the career year turned in by Stanton in 2017 when he launched 59 home runs with a .281/.376/.631 slash line. Since then, he appeared in 158 games in 2018 with 38 home runs and then only 18 games in 2019 due to injury issues. It feels like bad luck finds Stanton, but at some point, it needs to be baked into his price point: 

Some career notes on Stanton. He’s hit at least 35 home runs three times since 2011. Stanton’s scored at least 85 runs in three seasons as well with 100 RBI in you guessed it, three seasons. This represents a nine year sample size. With this in mind, Stanton’s owned a strikeout percentage below 25 percent once, in his career year of 2017 which looks like the outlier rather than the norm. Since 2015, Stanton’s expected batting average (.250), expected slugging (.528), hard hit percentage (48.5), strikeout percentage (28) and walk rate (11.1 percent) need to be accounted for. Yes, he’s atop the average exit velocity charts from 2016-to-2018 and in terms of maximum exit velocity. However, paying full retail for an oft injured flawed power hitter gets dicey as evidenced by his poll:


One-fourth of the responders agree with my assertion of avoiding Stanton. Especially with batters like Franmil Reyes , Kyle Schwarber and Khris Davis available later in drafts. A part of the worries lie with how Josh Donaldson suffered multiple setbacks returning from a calf injury with the knowledge of Stanton’s size and the support needed by the muscle. For clarity, here’s Stanton’s projections: 

  • Steamer 2020 Projection: 123 games, 541 plate appearances, 89 runs, 43 home runs, 102 RBI, two stolen bases: .268/.355/.590

  • ATC 2020 Projection: 115 games, 489 plate appearances, 75 runs, 33 home runs, 85 RBI, two stolen bases: .264/.350/.549

  • THE BAT 2020 Projection: 123 games, 530 plate appearances, 80 runs, 37 home runs, 87 RBI, two stolen bases: .259/.349/.546

Now, if somehow Stanton drifted to the late ninth or 10th round, he’s worth a shot. However, he rarely lasts this long in most formats. Read the market and react accordingly. 


Chris Sale

  • 2019 end of pre-season ADP: 13.88; Minimum pick: 3; Maximum pick: 30

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 35.43; Minimum pick: 21; Maximum pick: 68

  • 2020 March ADP: 72.33; Minimum pick: 27; Maximum pick: 226

From the “life comes at you fast” department, Sale’s on the verge of being dropped or considered undraftable. Diagnosed with a “flexor strain”, Sale will attempt to throw in the coming weeks before potentially being lost for the season due to injury: 


Definitely for the faint of heart, Sale took an injection into his elbow last August and struggled to a 4.40 ERA last year with a 2.93 xFIP and 1.09 WHIP. Sale still recorded 218 strikeouts in 147.1 innings but could not overcome bad luck with his left-on-base percentage or results. Once again, the voters seem to be on the right path with how to handle Sale but everyone has a price right? 


Personally, the discount must be steep but this appears to be heading in the wrong direction. 


James Paxton

  • 2019 end of pre-season ADP: 54.96; Minimum pick: 32; Maximum pick: 105

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 143.94; Minimum pick: 69; Maximum pick: 268

  • 2020 March ADP: 166.47; Minimum pick: 132; Maximum pick: 207

One can note the rise and fall of Paxton’s ADP with the news regarding his back surgery. At first, an extreme hesitance by drafters transitioning into optimism when news broke about Paxton progressing well and targeting a return in May. This will not be guaranteed, but it’s caused his market to fluctuate. Knowing Paxton’s never been a model of consistency, here’s his injury chart: 

Even with lost innings at the start of the year, taking Paxton at the lower ADP makes some sense. Especially given his first season with the Yankees during which he finished 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 150.2 innings with 186 strikeouts. He won 10 straight starts from August second through September 21st with a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings of work. In fact, from the start of July to the end of the season, Paxton went 10-3 with a 3.44 ERA including nine of his 16 starts resulting in two or fewer runs spanning 86.1 innings. His latest projections account for the reduced workload: 

  • Steamer 2020 Projection: 11-7, 143.7 innings, 147:40 K:BB, 3.82 ERA, 1.19 WHIP

  • ATC 2020 Projection: 8-4, 97 innings, 116:30 K:BB, 3.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP

  • THE BAT 2020 Projection: 9-6, 129 innings, 154:41 K:BB, 3.63 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

These numbers feel like the three bears with THE BAT’s feeling just right. Not sure Paxton will accrue over 140 innings, but with a positive rehab, the 130 inning plateau makes for a reasonable expectation. As for the market: 


It appears the 13th-to-the-15th round seems to be the sweet spot if targeting Paxton. Act accordingly. 


Mike Clevinger

  • 2019 end of pre-season ADP: 61.02; Minimum pick: 29; Maximum pick: 134

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 29.14; Minimum pick: 14; Maximum pick: 65

  • 2020 March ADP: 36.80; Minimum pick: 29; Maximum pick: 52

Unlike other starting pitchers with a depressed price in terms of ADP, Clevinger remains stable to this point with news on his rehab from meniscus surgery going well. 


On the heels of a breakout 2019 during which Clevinger went 12-1 his last 15 outings with a 1.76 ERA, 134 strikeouts, 25 walks from July third forward. He ranked third in strikeouts and fourth in ERA in the majors during this sample. Clevinger also finished the year third in swinging strikes with his four-seam fastball and fourth best with his slider. With starting pitchers being pushed up in drafts, there’s not going to be a bargain on Clevinger: 


Although the market prefers him in the fourth round of a 12-team draft, he may not be there if the news on his rehab continues to trend up. All of Clevinger’s projections from the three sites see 12 wins with between 190-to-202 strikeouts, an ERA below 3.66 and a WHIP of 1.14-to-1.18. 


David Dahl

  • 2019 pre-season ADP: 70.62; Minimum pick: 41; Maximum pick: 140

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 149.68; Minimum pick: 88; Maximum pick: 200

  • 2020 March ADP: 144.67; Minimum pick: 131; Maximum pick: 159

What a difference a year makes for Dahl? As a fantasy darling in 2019, he missed the rest of the season suffering an ankle injury on August third. Prior to his injury, Dahl recorded a 302/.353/.524 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBI in 100 games. A ribs injury cost him 87 games in 2017, a foot injury 57 games in 2018 and the oblique plus ankle injury last year. So, like Stanton, either bad luck or the dreaded injury prone label. 

It appears his injury cut short a mini-breakout for Dahl and he could provide some batting average insulation for prospective owners in 2020. Knowing Coors Field inflates batting average on balls in play (BABIP), Dahl could exceed his projections, if he can stay on the field. Both Steamer and THE BAT project Dahl for 128 games with 22 home runs. Steamer sees 71 runs, 75 RBI and eight steals with a .276/.331/.480 line. THE BAT forecasts 80 runs, 78 RBI and 10 stolen bases with a .281/.336/.499 line. Given 130 or more games, Dahl could be an Austin Meadows -lite at a reduced price for those who miss out on him early in drafts. 

As for Dahl’s market pulse:


It’s apparent he’s burned one-third of voters making for an intriguing option at his current price. 


Byron Buxton

  • 2019 pre-season ADP: 154.93; Minimum pick: 63; Maximum pick: 270

  • 2020 January-February ADP: 157.33; Minimum pick: 110; Maximum pick: 201

  • 2020 March ADP: 147.47; Minimum pick: 134; Maximum pick: 162

For fantasy purposes, it’s time for the real Buxton to please stand up. Either he’s on a path to becoming the next Melvin Upoton Jr. or he will breakout fulfilling his former top prospect status. Buxton displayed signs last year with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases in his limited 87 game sample slashing .262/.314/.513 over 295 plate appearances. But, he once again lost too much time to cement his status. 

Of intrigue, Buxton recorded the lowest strikeout percentage (23.1) of his career last year. He also increased his average exit velocity by more than three MPH to 89.3 in 2019. It’s not definite Buxton can carry over his gains in launch angle of 19.3 degrees last season, but it’s worth watching when he returns. Which again, provides the gray area regarding taking Buxton in drafts: 


Buxton’s labrum surgery happened to his non-throwing shoulder but it also comes with a five-to-six month recovery clouding his playing on Opening Day. Which brings into question how many games will Buxton appear in and how effective will he be? Again, both Steamer and THE BAT project 123 games for Buxton with a range of 65-to-75 runs, 17 home runs, 56-to-65 RBI, 21 stolen bases and an average between .246-to-.262 in 2020. ATC takes a more aggressive stance with 128 games but with fewer home runs (15) and a .252 average. However, with stolen bases a hot topic in drafts, there will not be much of a discount: 


In an effort to determine the baseline markets for these seven players, hopefully this column achieved its goal. Hit your marks, take chances where provided and build a roster to win. There’s a price to pay in any draft, know your risk tolerance and act accordingly. 


Statistical Credits:

ATC projections courtesy of Ariel Cohen

THE BAT projections courtesy of Derek Carty