For most, just the sound of the words "injury prone" hurts the ears, almost to the point of bleeding. Not us -- or I, at least.
Some non-debilitating injuries actually make our ears perk up. Heck, the Fantasy pariah J.D. Drew is a guy this writer winds up getting -- happily -- on all his Fantasy teams, for better or for worse.
It's all about injury-risk sleepers. Guys who fall to you on Draft Day because people are usually running the other way due to some perceived lack of health, durability or mere good fortune. It's the final part of our intensive series on finding sleepers and breakouts in the depths of your Fantasy draft.
You've heard about the 27-year-olds, third-year starting pitchers, first-time starters, overlooked sophomores and free agents to be.
But taking on some injury risks is how you get some of the biggest rewards so affordably on Draft Day.
A Cy Young-caliber talent and a player Hall of Famer Peter Gammons pegged as his 2006 AL MVP are two of the shining examples. These two we speak, er, write of here are being drafted, on average, 208th and 218th overall. They are Mark Prior and Bobby Crosby.
Like the late Jack Buck so perfectly once said, "Go crazy, folks; Go crazy!"
Sure, Prior's shoulder hasn't yet allowed him to crack 90 mph in his few innings this spring. And Crosby just recently took his first big-league cut in a batter's box since Aug. 21 because a bad back.
But both of these facts should be bandages to your bleeding ears.
You can get them late and have the potential to get early-round rewards. After all, that's what it is all about in Fantasy leagues, stocking a roster with the most big-time talent.
Now, there is risk involved still with both -- considerable when you read Cy Young, Prior and him throwing in just the mid-80s in the same sentence -- but we should remind you: Only one person will win your league.
|Sleepers and Breakouts|
|Top 27-year olds|
|Third-year starting pitchers|
It won't be the one who played it safe.
"There are still some things I need to fine-tune and iron out," Prior said after his most encouraging outing of the spring Thursday, when he topped out at 89 mph. "We got a week left and I'm ready to rock and roll and get out of this place and move on. ... I think about one more outing, work on some things and build up some stamina. I think I'm pretty close ..."
"... I felt good and the arm feels great. There weren't too many good swings off me and they didn't really hit too many balls hard."
Sounds good to us. Sign him up ... in Round 17?!? That is where his Average Draft Position slots him on CBS SportsLine's Head-to-Head mixed leagues.
Rich Harden, by comparison, was equally injury-prone the past few years and is getting drafted more than eight rounds earlier on average (114th). While that's still a bargain, if you miss on Harden, Prior is a potential steal much later on.
The Cubs will take it easy with Prior, perhaps starting him on the DL -- even though he says he will be ready for opening day and "there wasn't ever a doubt."
Harden is a teammate to Crosby, another ridiculously undervalued talent coming off his injury-plagued 2006. He really hasn't been healthy for a full season yet, but this could be the year we finally see the best of him.
He returned to the field Wednesday, hitting a double and generally looking like the impressive talent he is.
"He looked good," manager Bob Geren said. "He looked like his strike zone was good. I was happy to see him out there. He dove for a ball and made a couple of athletic plays. He showed he was healthy."
Take note and cover the ears when the injury-prone tag is getting tossed out there. It's a new year.
"Last year was definitely a step in the wrong direction," Crosby said. "I didn't play the way I expected. I had injuries but didn't bounce back from them the way I did the year before. I have to prove something, I guess."
Fantasy owners apparently think so.
Currently, on CBS SportsLine's Draft Averages, Crosby is the 17th-ranked shortstop -- behind fellow injury risk Khalil Greene and scrubs like Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez might be the reigning NL batting champion but he is the Bill Mueller to Eric Chavez. Don't remember Mueller, the 2003 AL batting champ? Yeah, there's a reason for that.
Punchless, base-clogging contact hitters cannot hold a candle to a talent like Crosby.
Stop drafting the past. Make your picks for this year's Fantasy team, not last year's.
Injury-risk sleepers by position
There are far too many players with injuries in the past or currently to name all of them here. But here are some of the top ones who do appear in our Draft Averages. All of them have some measure of injury stigma attached to them and can fall to you on Draft Day. There are no guarantees they will be healthy, but we can guarantee they are more talented than where they will be drafted.
|All-injury risk sleeper team|
Catchers -- Jason Varitek (knee), BOS; Mike Piazza (age), OAK
Outfielders -- Manny Ramirez (knee), BOS; Bobby Abreu (side), NYY; Hideki Matsui (wrist), NYY; J.D. Drew (shoulder, knee), BOS; Rocco Baldelli (various), TB; Carlos Quentin (shoulder), ARI; Austin Kearns (various), WAS; Ken Griffey (various), CIN; Moises Alou (age); NYM; Jim Edmonds (various), STL; Jeremy Hermida (knee), FLA; Scott Podsednik (legs), CHW; Jason Kubel (knee), MIN; Trot Nixon (back), CLE; Brad Wilkerson (shoulder), TEX
Starting pitchers -- Josh Beckett (various), BOS; Ben Sheets (shoulder), MIL; C.C. Sabathia (various), CLE; John Smoltz (age), ATL; Andy Pettitte (elbow), NYY; Jered Weaver (shoulder), LAA; Cole Hamels (various), PHI; Rich Harden (various), OAK; Brad Penny (various), LAD; Randy Johnson (age), ARI; Freddy Garcia (shoulder), PHI; John Patterson (elbow), WAS; Cliff Lee (side), CLE; Anibal Sanchez (shoulder), FLA; Mark Prior (shoulder), CHC; Josh Johnson (arm), FLA; Bartolo Colon (shoulder), LAA; Carl Pavano (various), NYY; Pedro Martinez (shoulder), NYM; Jon Lester (lymphoma), BOS; Mark Mulder (shoulder), STL
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