It's been a tough week to be Colorado Rockies fan. Just a few days after it was announced that star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would miss the rest of the year due to hip surgery, the club revealed Carlos Gonzalez will also miss the rest of the year following knee surgery. The news has also played a major role in Fantasy leagues. Both guys came into the season with injury concerns, but the hope was that they would miss 25 or so games and be fine. Tulo and CarGo played just 161 games combined this season.
The frustrating part of this for Fantasy owners is that both players cost a significant price on draft day. In some leagues, both players may have been selected in the first round. Gonzalez struggled throughout most of the year, making him a bust early on. Tulowitzki, on the other hand, pumped out his usual elite numbers before injuries ruined his season. With both of their seasons finished, it's time to look at the future. Considering the injury histories of both players, where will they be drafted next year?
In Tulowitzki's case, not all that much has changed. He's proven to be elite when healthy. We're talking a top-5 Fantasy asset here. On top of that, he plays one of the thinnest positions in Fantasy baseball. The injury concerns probably drop him to the second round next season, but he has way too much potential to fall much further. Smart owners will probably pick him up early, and then take a promising youngster like Xander Bogaerts (if he's eligible at short) or Javier Baez (eligibility may also be in question) a bit later. There's no guarantee you'll hit on the later shortstop in the draft, but Tulowitzki warrants protection next season.
Gonzalez presents a more interesting case. He's never played in over 145 games in a season, and has topped 130 once in the past three years. It would be one thing if Gonzalez put up All-Star calibur numbers before going down this season, but that wasn't the case. Outfield is fairly deep in most leagues, meaning Gonzalez is going to see his value drop.
Taking a look at this year's leaders in the outfield, there are at least seven players I would take over Gonzalez next season. Those players are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig and Carlos Gomez. That list doesn't include Michael Brantley, who could emerge as a top-10 option next year. Brantley's current numbers suggest he should go before CarGo, but there's concern about this being a fluke season. I'm not sure I would select him over Gonzalez next season, but I get the argument.
With those seven (or eight) guys clearly ahead, what does that leave? Bryce Harper will enter the year in the similar situation, but less of a track record. That's good and bad. Harper doesn't have any elite Fantasy seasons on record, but he also doesn't have as long of an injury list as Gonzalez. Hunter Pence, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun and Justin Upton might make up the next tier of outfielders, and that seems like a good place for Gonzalez. All four of these players have warts. Pence is never regarded this high, even though he's performed well throughout his career. Ellsbury has injury concerns, and doesn't hit for power like these other players. Braun has elite potential, but he's dealt with injuries and declining performance for two seasons now. Upton really came on this season, but he's been shaky in the past.
Looking at it that way, Gonzalez will probably enter next season somewhere between the eighth and 15th best outfielder. The potential for dominance is great for Gonzalez, but you can get strong production (and health) from other players at his position.
In a draft I did this season, eight outfielders went in the first three rounds. The 15th didn't come off the board until the sixth. The third round seems high to me on Gonzalez right now, while the sixth seems like a potential steal. If we view him as a fourth or fifth round next season, is that a fair value? Would you take the plunge at that price? Or are the injuries finally too much?