This is why you wait until as long as possible to set your Fantasy draft. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner was making his likely final tuneup start of the spring Friday, when a Whit Merrifield liner caught him on the pitching hand.
He exited the game, and was diagnosed with a fractured fifth metacarpal, an injury that will require surgery. He will have pins removed from the hand after four to six weeks, and will then begin the rehabilitation process. As TheAthletic.com's Andrew Baggarly said Friday, "This is not going to be a short DL stint." Bumgarner can't throw until the pins are removed, so I wouldn't expect to see him pitching in MLB games until June.
This is crushing news for those of you who have already drafted Bumgarner as your ace. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2017, but has been dominant in the spring, and looked like he was going to jump right back into action as one of the top pitchers in baseball. There really isn't any way to replace him, but I can suggest a few pitchers who have been drafted in less than 50 percent of CBSSports.com leagues to target on waivers if you're looking to catch lightning in a bottle:
- Steven Matz, NYM: Matz looked to be picking up where he left off last season early in spring, and that wasn't a good thing. However, he tightened things up over his last few outings, striking out 16 with three walks over his last 14 ½ innings of work. If he's right, he still has ace upside, even if I'm wary of trusting him without his slider.
- Sean Newcomb, ATL: If he can throw strikes consistently, Newcomb can be a difference maker. In 15 1/3 innings in the spring, he's issues three walks, a promising sign, if far from a guarantee. One concern is, Newcomb is likely to face the Nationals the first time out, so you may not want to trust him right away.
- Vince Velasquez, PHI: Velasquez is recovering from his own hand issues in the offseason, but has been healthy and effective in the spring. He's never quite put it together, but the flashes we have seen have been impressive. With series against the Braves, Mets, and Marlins to open the season, Velasquez may not face a lineup you want to avoid for his first two turns through the rotation.
If you have Bumgarner on your roster, you need to come up with a contingency plan on the fly. It's going to be tough, but you should aim for upside.
"What if I haven't drafted yet? What should I expect from Bumgarner?"
If you haven't drafted yet, you have the luxury of coming up with a plan beforehand. You obviously have to drop him way down your draft board. Bumgarner is likely to miss the first two months of the season, which isn't as much as he missed in 2017 when he had shoulder surgery. But it's not nothing.
This should cost Bumgarner about 10 starts, at a minimum. The good news is, once the injury heals, it's not necessarily something we would expect to have lingering effects on his effectiveness, the way a shoulder or elbow injury might. That's not to say there's no risk here, of course; a pitcher's grip is obviously vital to his success.
But, once Bumgarner returns, you would generally expect him to pitch like Madison Bumgarner, more or less. You could still expect him to pitch like a top-15 starter, in other words, just for about 120 innings instead of 200. That's probably enough to make him worth drafting around 30th among starters. In terms of ADP, that would put him in the Rich Hill/Alex Wood/Zack Godley range, which seems like the right mix of risk and reward for Bumgarner.
It's a big loss, but if Bumgarner can return and pitch like himself, the season certainly isn't lost. You'll need to snag an extra starter early with upside to slide into your rotation, like Michael Clevinger (202 ADP), Blake Snell (204) or Taijuan Walker (193), which could hurt your offense. The good news is, if that extra pitcher hits, you've got yourself a valuable trade chip to fill any holes come June.
It's not going to be easy, but if Bumgarner falls to the right spot, he can still be a value. The silver lining here is, if you're in a head to head league, Bumgarner should still be there when you need him in the playoffs. Having an extra ace available in September could be what carries you to a championship.