Returning Mound Stars  Don’t Really Return

by Eddie Mayrose

We’ve all been there.  Having sat down at the draft table resolved to take big bats  first and fill out our pitching staff in later rounds, we’ve been faced with the dilemma of choosing between a rising young hurler and a big name guy coming off an injury. At that point, the rationalization process kicks in regarding the veteran.

“He’s on a contending team.  If he could just give me 150 IP, he’s a steal.” “Even though he missed all of last season, he says he’ll be ready for Opening Day.” Or, “I know he’s had shoulder problems but he’s still only 28 and his K rate was awesome when he’s healthy.”

That last one is my personal favorite, as it’s the rationale by which Rich Harden has landed on my roster in two of the last three seasons.  And, of course, I was burned each time.  As were the owners that convinced themselves that Erik Bedard or Brandon Webb would somehow be rejuvenated.  All these guys really do for you is inflate your waiver wire costs.

In an effort to prevent Fantasy owners from falling down the rabbit hole, (and maybe as a personal reminder of the pitfalls involved), FantasySportsDirt presents our list of those pitchers with impressive resumes that, sadly, now include a severe injury.

Scott Baker, Twins- He finally started to realize his potential through early August when a bad shoulder shut him down. While he lowered his ERA by more than a run, he’ll be returning to a much weaker Minnesota team and shoulder injuries really scare us.  Alternative: Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Tommy Hanson, Braves
- Did we mention that shoulder injuries really scare us? His motion is anything but graceful, leading us to believe the stress on his injured shoulder will continue.  He gets a little more latitude than the rest of the list because of his youth, but we’re worried that his woes will be chronic.  Alternative: Jaime Garcia, Cardinals

Phil Hughes, Yankees- If we were to take a shot on one guy, it would be Hughes.  His “dead arm” was never diagnosed as any specific injury, and he’ll be moved down in the rotation with the Yanks’ acquisitions of Pineda and Kuroda.  He’s dropped more than 20 lbs and is doing everything asked of him in camp so far.  Keep a watchful eye on him as the spring progresses.  Alternative: Randy Wolf, Brewers

Josh Johnson, Marlins- The biggest tease on the list. An absolute stud, WHEN HEALTHY, Johnson has a tough time staying on the field.  His risk-reward ratio is very high, so he’ll likely go earlier in your draft than he should. Let someone else roll the dice. Alternative: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

Jake Peavy, White Sox
- Do yourself a favor and take Peavy off of your draft list.  This tease has been going on for years; with no level of success.  Disregard the fact that he’s still only 30 and, instead, focus on his rising WHIP and ERA.  Alternative: Mark Buerhle, Marlins

Johan Santana, Mets- The Mets are saying all the right things about Santana being ready for Opening Day, but we’re not buying.  So far, he’s been limited to just 25 pitches per session.  Johan has managed to regain his form after serious injury before but, at 33, it’s less likely now.  Besides, that’s a really bad team he’s pitching in front of.  Wins may be few and far between.  Alternative: Matt Harrison, Rangers

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals-  OK.  If you’re in a keeper league, he’s your guy.  However, for 2012, we’re worried about his command- the classic obstacle for any returning from Tommy John surgery. While his September return was a very important step in his recovery, he’ll definitely be overvalued on Draft Day – Take a pass.  Alternative: Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals- Two consecutive seasons of 230+ IP apparently took their toll on Wainwright’s elbow, resulting in TJ surgery.  Historically, pitchers have struggled in their first season back, and we expect the same here, as Wainwright is just a year removed.  Alternative: Matt Cain, Giants

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