What to do with Bryce Harper, what to do?
The thought of shedding a player of Harper's potential might seem absurd, but in an ESPN standard league, roster spots are precious. A two-plus-month absence -- Harper's most widely reported recovery timetable being "out until at least July" -- means perhaps half or more of the remaining season lost, and that presents challenges to owners faced with three bench spots and one disabled list spot.
Even in larger leagues -- deeper mixed, deep-bench, NL-only or unlimited-DL -- there's still a conundrum: How patient should one be during a player's extended absence, regarding either a cut or trade scenario? There's a price point at which every player fits either description. And yes, while the rankings in this space each week provide a rough "price guide," with the Harper news, it's a good time to examine.
So let's check out some names currently on the DL by rank, original prognosis for recovery, and where that puts their timetables today:
1. Clayton Kershaw (No. 22 overall): DL'ed March 30 (retroactive to March 23) with a back injury, originally out at least 2-3 weeks, now due back around May 5.
2. Chris Davis (No. 33): DL'ed April 27 (retroactive to April 26) with oblique injury, likely out longer than 15-day minimum, meaning at least May 11.
3. Chris Sale (No. 45): DL'ed April 22 (retroactive to April 18) with flexor muscle injury, originally expected a minimum stay, but now unlikely ready for May 3.
4. Mike Minor (No. 63): DL'ed March 23 (retroactive to March 21) with finger injury, originally out until late April, now expected back May 2.
5. Aroldis Chapman (No. 91): DL'ed March 30 (retroactive to March 21) with facial injuries, originally out approximately 6-8 weeks, but will begin a rehabilitation assignment May 1 and could be back by mid-May.
6. Josh Hamilton (No. 104 overall): DL'ed April 9 due to thumb surgery, originally out 6-8 weeks, putting his approximate return between May 21 and June 4.
7. Manny Machado (No. 105 overall): DL'ed March 30 (retroactive to March 21) while recovering from knee surgery, due to return April 30.
8. Hisashi Iwakuma (No. 106 overall): DL'ed March 29 (retroactive to March 21) with finger injury, originally out until early May, now expected to return May 2 or 7.
9. Michael Cuddyer (No. 108 overall): DL'ed Apr. 21 (retroactive to Apr. 18) with hamstring injury, no initial return date was set, but not expected to miss considerably longer than a minimum stay.
10. Anibal Sanchez (No. 109 overall): DL'ed April 27 due to a blister, expected a minimum stay, still on track and eligible to return May 12.
11. Ryan Zimmerman (No. 125 overall): DL'ed April 13 with fractured thumb, originally out 4-6 weeks, still on schedule to return between May 11 and 25.
12. Mark Trumbo (No. 134 overall): DL'ed April 24 (retroactive to April 22) with fracture in foot, originally out six weeks, which would put his return at June 5.
13. Doug Fister (No. 135 overall): DL'ed March 29 (retroactive to March 23) with lat injury, originally expected to miss one month, now on track to return May 7.
14. Alex Cobb (No. 154 overall): DL'ed April 13 with oblique injury, originally out 4-6 weeks, still on track for return between May 11-25.
15. Mat Latos (No. 174 overall): DL'ed March 30 (retroactive to March 21) while recovering from knee surgery, originally expected to miss only 1-2 weeks, but setbacks (including an elbow injury) have resulted in an unclear timetable.
16. Chase Headley (No. 193 overall): DL'ed April 25 with calf injury, originally out 2-3 weeks, still on track for return in mid-May.
17. Bryce Harper (No. 197 overall): DL'ed April 27 (retroactive to April 26) due to thumb surgery, out until at least July.
18. Devin Mesoraco (No. 208 overall): DL'ed April 26 with hamstring injury, not expected to require much more than a minimum stay.
19. Adam Lind (No. 216 overall): DL'ed April 19 (retroactive to April 16) with back injury, unclear whether he'd need more than a minimum stay.
20. Jason Grilli (No. 231 overall): DL'ed April 26 (retroactive to April 21) with oblique injury, unclear whether he'd need more than a minimum stay.
21. Wilson Ramos (No. 240 overall): DL'ed April 2 (retroactive to April 1) with fractured left hand, originally out 4-8 weeks, now could return by mid-May.
As Kershaw, Minor, Machado and Iwakuma are due back within the week, that leaves only 17 "roster-worthy" DL names on the list, with Sale and Sanchez not far behind. It places Harper 13th (11th if you discount Sale and Sanchez), meaning he's not nearly as deserving of your DL spot as you might think. It makes sense: He's also the one of this bunch expected to miss the most time, and a player who has since the beginning of last season fallen short of preseason projections, having finished just 125h on the 2013 Player Rater and currently ranking 302nd on this year's.
In short, do your best to keep Harper around for his potential contributions the final three months -- especially in deeper formats -- but don't do it at the expense of leaving a more immediately useful player out there. Certainly, I wouldn't place him in my DL spot ahead of the names ranked before him above; though a case could be made that he's more deserving of the spot than the comparably ranked Latos and Headley.
Jose Abreu's skyrocketing value
As I said on Monday's Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast, I cannot remember a player having moved up as many spots within four weeks of a season as Jose Abreu has. With a 98-spot gain since the conclusion of spring training, he's tied for tops on that list (Matt Wieters is also at plus-98, Jimmy Rollins is plus-89, Cole Hamels is plus-67, Dan Haren is plus-66 and Mike Minor is plus-64 as the next five).
At this stage, the primary concerns about Abreu are his swing-and-miss tendencies against breaking pitches -- his 43 percent miss rate on swings against curveballs and sliders is 20th-worst of 193 qualifiers -- and whether opposing pitchers might adapt to him the lengthier their scouting reports of him become. Simply point, he has answered the majority of the remaining concerns:
K rate: 22.6 percent (133rd of 193), major league average is 19.1
BB rate: 7.3 percent (114th), major league average 8.7
Chase rate: 33.2 percent (154th), major league average 27.8
Miss rate: 30.1 percent (165th), major league average 22.8
Though I tend not to be one to overreact to early trends, the Abreu case was special, a Cuban import who had little in the way of reliable statistical or scouting leads, at least relative to most current major leaguers. Moving him up is a necessary adjustment, though at 53rd, he still has a requisite amount of caution not to overrate him based upon one month's worth of historic statistics.