MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Draft 'n stash: 10 injured players to consider

Ramos, Price could have great fantasy value when healthy

Draft 'n stash: 10 injured players to consider

Most fantasy owners focus on drafting a roster that enables them to field an optimal Week 1 lineup.

But those who take a long-term approach to the selection process may find great value in an injured player with the potential to make an impact down the road. Fantasy owners who utilized this strategy last year were able to benefit greatly once players like Yu Darvish, Kevin Gausman, Evan Gattis, Jarrod Dyson and Yasmani Grandal returned from season-opening stints on the disabled list.

Depending on roster construction and league size, each of the following 10 players could make sense for a bench or disabled-list spot at the outset of 2017.

Hitters

Wilson Ramos, catcher (Rays)
Estimated return: May-July
Expected production: 260 AB, 28 R, 9 HR, 34 RBIs, 0 SB, .277 BA

Ramos was among fantasy's top catchers with the Nationals last season, but his year ended on a down note when he sustained a torn ACL in his right knee on Sept. 26. Now with the Rays, the 29-year-old is hoping to return from surgery in the first half of 2017. With the potential to be a top-10 backstop when healthy, Ramos should be stashed on the bench or disabled list in all two-catcher leagues.

Ramos focused on health, return

Devon Travis, second baseman (Blue Jays)
Estimated return: Mid-April
Expected production: 510 AB, 65 R, 17 HR, 64 RBIs, six SB, .280 BA

Travis may open the season on the disabled list after making slow progress in Spring Training while recovering from offseason right knee surgery. But owners who stash the lifetime .301 hitter could be in possession of the Blue Jays' leadoff man by the end of April.

Jason Kipnis, second baseman (Indians)
Estimated return: Mid-April
Expected production: 550 AB, 85 R, 19 HR, 73 RBIs, 16 SB, .276 BA

Kipnis has been a hard player to project throughout his career, as he has experienced wild statistical fluctuations. For example, his single-season highs over the past five years include 23 homers, 31 steals and a .303 average, with one-year lows of six long balls, 12 stolen bases and a .240 batting mark in that span. But with the ability to contribute in all five categories when at his best, the second baseman is a quality starting option in all leagues. Fantasy owners should expect Kipnis to return from his right rotator cuff strain in April and take advantage of the draft discount created by the injury.

Zinkie's bold predictions 2017

Matt Duffy, 3B/SS (Rays)
Estimated return: Mid-April
Expected production: 510 AB, 64 R, 10 HR, 53 RBIs, 8 SB, .280 BA

Those in deep mixed leagues would be wise to draft Duffy, who can be deployed at multiple positions in fantasy lineups once he makes an early-season return from September surgery on his right Achilles. Though he struggled a year ago, Duffy was a solid fantasy option as a rookie in 2015 -- when he hit .295 with 12 homers and 12 steals.

Ian Desmond, first baseman* (Rockies)
Estimated return: April-May
Expected production: 420 AB, 56 R, 18 HR, 61 RBIs, 14 SB, .274 BA

Desmond rebounded from a disappointing 2015 season to hit .285 with 22 homers, 21 steals and 107 runs scored as a member of the Rangers in '16. True, the strikeout-prone slugger (lifetime 23.5 percent K rate) may experience some batting-average regression if last year's .350 BABIP moves toward his career .326 mark. But with help from his new attachment to Colorado's hitter-friendly home park and high-scoring lineup, Desmond could record outstanding all-around numbers once he recovers from the fractured left hand he sustained during Spring Training.

*Note: Also has outfield eligibility in '17.

Zinkie on top prospects for 2017

Pitchers

David Price, starter (Red Sox)
Estimated return: Late April-Early May
Expected production: 180 IP, 15 W, 175 SO, 3.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Although Price finished last season with an unimpressive 3.99 ERA, he still ranked among the top five American Leaguers in wins (17), innings (230) and strikeouts (228). Even with the understanding that the left-hander is expected to miss the start of the season due to an elbow injury, wise owners will view Price as a No. 2 fantasy starter who warrants a spot in the first 10 rounds of '17 drafts.

Price gets good news on elbow

Chris Tillman, starter (Orioles)
Estimated return: Late April-Early May
Expected production: 155 IP, 10 W, 118 SO, 3.95 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Although not an upper-echelon hurler, Tillman has generally been a useful starter in mixed leagues across the past four seasons -- a span in which he's averaged 32 starts and 14 wins while posting a collective 3.91 ERA. The right-hander is expected to miss the beginning of the season due to a right shoulder injury, but he could be back in the O's rotation shortly after Opening Day. Accordingly, those in 15-team leagues should look past the brief absence and grab Tillman with a late-round pick.

Tyson Ross, starter (Rangers)
Estimated return: May-June
Expected production: 120 IP, seven W, 116 SO, 3.60 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Ross was expected to be the ace of the Padres' staff a year ago, but he was limited to one start by a shoulder injury. Now with the Rangers, the 29-year-old is hoping to make a May return after undergoing surgery last October to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Having posted a 3.07 ERA and a 9.2 K/9 rate from 2013-15, Ross is one of the best options for owners to stash on their disabled lists.

Ross' fantasy impact on Rangers

Sonny Gray, starter (A's)
Estimated return: Late April-Early May
Expected production: 168 IP, 10 W, 135 SO, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

Set to open this year on the disabled list with a lat strain following a tough 2016 season (5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP), Gray will fall to the late rounds of many mixed-league drafts. But having recorded a 2.88 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP from 2013-15, the 27-year-old righty is a worthwhile stash option in all leagues.

Huston Street, reliever (Angels):
Estimated return: Mid-to-late April
Expected production: 40 IP, 10 SV, 34 SO, 3.83 ERA, 1.23 WHIP

Street will be temporarily delayed in his bid to rebound from a disappointing 2016 showing (6.45 ERA across 22 1/3 innings), as he was shut down from throwing for three to four weeks upon being diagnosed with a Grade 1 right lat strain in early March. But by using a pair of late-round picks on Cam Bedrosian and Street -- and stashing the latter on the disabled list -- fantasy owners can roster the Angels' two leading closer candidates for a low cost.

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.