With Opening Day just around the corner, many fantasy owners are focused on their Week 1 lineups. But those who take a long-term approach to the coming season may be able to stash an injured player who has the potential to make a strong impact down the road. Depending on your current roster construction and league size, each of the following 10 players could be a fit for a bench or disabled-list spot.
Michael Brantley, outfielder, Indians
Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Brantley is hoping to miss just a few weeks at the outset of the season. Having hit .319 with 35 homers and 38 steals over the past two season, this five-category asset would have been an early-round mixed-league selection if healthy for Opening Day. But even with the shoulder concern, Brantley should be selected during the initial 10 rounds in leagues that have disabled-list slots.
Jarrod Dyson, outfielder, Royals
Yet to register 300 at-bats in any big league season, Dyson has nonetheless stolen 126 bases over the past four years. The speedster will likely miss the first two weeks of 2016 with a right oblique strain, but he could still finish the campaign with 400 trips to the plate thanks to an expanded role vs. right-handers. The Astros' Jose Altuve led the American League with 38 steals in 2015, and Dyson could match that total if he can avoid setbacks or additional injuries.
Devon Travis, second baseman, Blue Jays
Having hit .304 with eight homers in 217 at-bats, Travis could have challenged for the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Award had he not fell to shoulder woes that required offseason surgery. Although his expected return date remains unclear, Travis could be Toronto's leadoff hitter by June. Of course, hitting in front of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki would give the second baseman a chance to make a notable mixed-league impact.
Jung Ho Kang, third baseman, Pirates
Kang had a strong rookie season in 2015, with his second-half stats (.310 average with 11 homers in 197 at-bats before a major knee injury) offering great reason for hope entering '16. Eligible at third base and shortstop, Kang warrants a mid-round mixed-league selection on the basis of an expected return to the lineup before the end of April.
Jhonny Peralta, shortstop, Cardinals
Having averaged 19 homers and 73 RBIs across two seasons with the Cards, Peralta would have been selected in all leagues had he not torn his left thumb ligament in Spring Training. But now that he is expected to miss the first half of the season, the 33-year-old will fall to waivers in mixed formats. Those who are left with a low-end shortstop on draft day could stash Peralta on their disabled list in hopes that he can provide a boost in the second half.
Yu Darvish, starter, Rangers
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Darvish is hoping to headline the Rangers' rotation by the end of May. Some fantasy owners might forget that the right-hander compiled 277 whiffs in 2013, and he was on pace for a similar total before being shut down after 22 starts in '14. Even if his workload is limited early on, Darvish could strike out more than 150 batters in four months of work. Combine four months of Darvish with two months of a replacement-level starter and fantasy owners could get 200 whiffs from that roster spot without paying an ace-level premium.
Alex Cobb, starter, Rays
Having posted a 2.82 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP across the 2013-14 seasons, Cobb was targeted as a No. 2 starter in early '15 drafts before his season was wiped out by Tommy John surgery. The right-hander is not expected to return until August and will open the season on waivers in many mixed leagues, but owners with ample disabled-list space could consider him as a final-round selection.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, starter, Dodgers
The southpaw ranked 22nd among qualified starters with a 3.17 ERA in 2013-14, but he missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. Ryu will be hard pressed to pitch until May, but he is a prime fantasy DL candidate given his potential to provide helpful stats across four months of the upcoming campaign.
Homer Bailey, starter, Reds
Like Ryu, Bailey is hoping to return to a big league rotation in May. But unlike Ryu, Bailey might not have the necessary support to make an immediate impact in mixed leagues. While a 3.65 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP since the outset of 2012 offers optimism that he can be a shallow-league asset, Bailey will have to work off his rust while pitching for a rebuilding club that is expected to compile a low win total in '16. Still, those in deeper formats will want to clear disabled-list space for the 29-year-old right-hander.
Zack Wheeler, starter, Mets
The Mets righty has so far posted an impressive 3.50 ERA and 8.5 K/9 rate during his young career, making him a fine stash option for owners willing to wait for his return from Tommy John surgery this summer. True, Wheeler owns a mediocre 1.34 WHIP that likely won't drop in his first handful of 2016 starts, but most owners would be happy to have his ERA and high whiff total.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.