Every year I'm shocked at how few owners that I play fantasy baseball with fail to take advantage of disabled list (DL) spots. This seems odd because owners don't often leave a bench spot unfilled, so why DL spots? The cost of drafting a player that will open the season on the DL is often cheap. If you know who is hurt and the extent of their injury, and you can stash a player that pays off later in the season. In head-to-head leagues, the payoff can be huge. Below is a list of some of the notable players who may qualify as stash options to start the year. I'll be rolling out more players in the coming days.
Injury: Torn Flexor Tendon
Surgery Date: July 27, 2012
Anticipated Return: Hopeful to return around the All-Star Break.
Lewis was in the midst of a season that would have rivaled his breakout return to the states if not for the elbow injury shortening his 2012 campaign. His flyball approach will keep his home run total high, but if he regains his control he can be a useful back of the fantasy rotation arm. His fastball velocity was has dropped each of the past two seasons, so hopefully his rehab to return to the hill will help him find those missing ticks. His money pitch was a put away slider, and if that pitch returns with the bite it had prior to surgery he should be fine.
Relevant Leagues: 12 team mixed leagues or larger and AL-only leagues with two DL spots or more.
Injury: Torn UCL
Surgery Date: July 9, 2012
It is still early in the rehab process, and while Hudson's hard work and optimism are admirable, a July/August return is probably more realistic than anything earlier. He struggled with the long ball last season, and while his 7.35 ERA was in part the product of bad luck, all of the advanced measures of his performance agreed that he regressed from his solid 2011 campaign. He's young enough that he remains a moderately interesting stash option in large keeper and dynasty formats, but he'll have his work cut out for him in helping re-draft owners.
Relevant Leagues: Large mixed keeper and dynasty leagues and large NL-only leagues with two or more DL spots.
Injury: Torn labrum, bone impingement, and cyst (hip)
Surgery Date: Scheduled for January 16.
The much maligned A-Rod took a lot of heat for his postseason struggles, and it's now clear that he was playing injured. That said, he was coming off his second consecutive season in which he failed to hit at least 20 home runs, and the rest of his stat line did little to pick up the slack. He's 37 years old, and it's possible he'll turn 38 (his birthday is July 27) before he sees the field again. It's unwise to expect him to recapture much more than a smidge of his former offensive prowess. Third base lacks depth, so it's possible he could make a modest impact in 2013, but I wouldn't bank on it.
Relevant Leagues: 14 team or larger mixed leagues and large AL-only leagues with more than two DL spots.
Injury: Torn UCL
Surgery Date: May 23, 2012
Anticipated Return: Midseason.
After an introduction to the majors as a reliever, Luebke turned heads starting for the Padres from the end of June in 2011 to the end of the season. According to FanGraphs data, he pitched 100.2 innings as a starter that year, walking 29 batters and striking out 111 which helped him record a 3.31 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. That eye popping finish made him a favorite sleeper of many last year, which made it all the more disappointing when Luebke wasn't able to make it out of the month of April healthy. He made five starts in 2012, and in those starts he retained his low walk rate, saw his groundball rate up significantly, but his strikeout rate dropped from 9.92 K/9 in 2011 to 6.68 K/9. When healthy he'll call pitcher friendly PETCO Park home again. He'll also be 28 years old when he returns to the bump. The package of past performance, friendly home confines, his age, and the success rate of pitchers returning from Tommy John makes Luebke a potential fantasy asset to owners in leagues of all sizes.
Relevant Leagues: All leagues with DL slots and larger mixed leagues or NL-only leagues with large benches.