There are few guarantees in life, but one of them is that baseball players will inevitably get injured throughout the season. In order to succeed at fantasy baseball, you must be prepared to deal with the loss of players at any point during the season. This means drafting smartly, building roster depth and accumulating players with multi-position eligibility. All things being equal, injuries can happen to any player at any time. While they cannot be predicted, we are aware of certain players’ propensity for being injured more than others are. I call this the “Tulowitzki Effect” in honor of the former Colorado Rockies’ shortstop.

Troy Tulowitzki was one of the best players in baseball for several years thanks to the elite statistics he produced while playing the scarce position of shortstop. Unfortunately, injuries took their toll on him as he missed a significant amount of games year after year. He became a punchline in my Fantasy Alarm Injury Report because it seemed as though I was writing about him every week, year after year. He became an annual conundrum in terms of where he should be taken in fantasy baseball drafts because of the huge risk he presented. Most years, that risk did not pay off. He epitomizes the angst that fantasy baseball players have when it comes to considering whether to draft a player who has a lengthy and well-documented injury history.

The term “injury-prone” is defined as being frequently injured. “Frequent” is defined as repeated or habitual. These are very vague definitions when it comes to determining whether a player should be considered injury prone. Fantasy baseball players likely have varying criteria when it comes to concluding whether a player is injury-prone, ranging from one stint on the injured list to missing an entire season due to surgery. It is purely subjective based on each individual’s own analysis, but the common thread here is risk. Once a player sustains an injury, there are immediately questions raised about his future health and propensity for additional injuries.

There is a distinction between injury-prone players and injured players. You need to distinguish a freak injury from recurring ailments. A pitcher who undergoes Tommy John surgery is considered an injured player who should be given the benefit of the doubt once he returns. A pitcher that undergoes multiple surgeries can be considered injury prone. Hitters who spend multiple stints on the injured list over the course of multiple seasons can be considered injury-prone as opposed to a player sustaining a season-ending fracture from getting hit in the hand by a pitch. However, it is fair to consider the possibility that one injury increases the likelihood that future injuries are more probable. This is especially true for a pitcher such as Max Scherzer who dealt with recurring ailments in 2019, and he is not a spring chicken anymore.

Determining whether to draft players who are frequently injured comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. There is likely a significant upside to drafting these players because they possess the talent and resume that GMs desire for their rosters. However, there is also a downside since it can be reasonably expected that these players will miss a certain amount of time during the season. The factors to consider are what your appetite is for risk along with whether you can maximize these players’ value by drafting them in the right spot.

It is sound strategy to target frequently injured players in later rounds than they normally would be drafted because you are getting better value for them. If you decide to do this, you should make sure you have already drafted enough depth to offset their inevitable loss of time. In other words, do not draft an injury-prone hurler as your first pitcher. While it is understandable to hope for the best, you should expect the worst.

The safest strategy most GMs employ is to avoid injury-prone players altogether. Many feel there is enough risk already so it makes most sense to avoid exacerbating it even more. That conservative mentality is fine for risk-averse fantasy players, but you should be flexible enough to pivot during a draft if a player is suddenly available later than expected. Sometimes it becomes a no-brainer to take a frequently injured player if he is still hanging around in later rounds. GMs should be open-minded to taking such risks assuming they are not relying on these players to be the cornerstone of their rosters.

Here are some examples of players who are considered injury-prone and might be available for a discount in drafts this year:

Chris Sale (SP-BOS)

The Red Sox signed him to a massive extension after acquiring him in a trade from the White Sox and they may already regret it. Sale has had multiple stints on the injured list throughout his career including elbow inflammation which ended his season in August 2019 after having the worst statistical year of his career.

Clayton Kershaw (SP-LAD)

There is little debate that Kershaw is one of the best pitchers of this generation and a future Hall of Famer. However, he has dealt with arm and back injuries on an annual basis over the past several years which has cost him several starts. Fantasy owners that draft him should not expect 30 starts as he has not reached that benchmark since 2015.

Giancarlo Stanton (OF-NYY)

2019 was a lost season for Stanton after he missed all but 18 games due to a variety of injuries. He has missed significant time in five of the past eight seasons due to a myriad of issues including a freak incident when he was hit in the face by a pitch. He is still one of the best sluggers in baseball but will have to earn the trust again of fantasy owners who were severely burned by drafting him last year.

Carlos Correa (SS-HOU)

The 1st overall pick of the 2012 draft is well on his way to becoming the next Troy Tulowitzki as he has had three consecutive injury-marred seasons. He has missed 192 games since 2017 with a variety of injuries and will need to stay healthy for a full season in order to garner some trust by fantasy baseball GMs.

Yoenis Céspedes (OF-NYM)

Insert your wild boar joke here. Cespedes has not played since mid-2018 and has undergone surgeries on both heels along with recovering from an ankle fracture sustained doing non-baseball activities. Even before that, Cespedes missed 30 games in 2016 and half the season in 2017 due to injuries. He helped lead the Mets to the World Series in 2015 but has been barely visible on the field ever since. He is highly motivated to stay healthy and perform at a high level after having his guaranteed salary reduced by $18,000,000 and will be a free agent at the end of the season.