When it comes to spring training, obviously we want to see guys display new skills as they get ready for the start of the season, and it's those players who tend to rise in the rankings leading up to the start of the Fantasy Baseball season. But, what we really want to see more than anything during the exhibition schedule is for everyone to stay healthy.
That's never going to happen, of course. Every baseball game presents a new opportunity for a player to get hurt, and especially when players are getting back into shape coming from the offseason, injuries are inevitable. Hopefully, they'll just be short-term things that lead to little or no risk of real missed time – Max Scherzer's hamstring and Ke'Bryan Hayes' ankle seem to fall under this heading from recent days – but there will always be injuries that linger into the start of the regular season.
And then, of course, there are those injuries players are still recovering from last season, like Ronald Acuña's torn ACL. Or the injuries they entered spring training with, like Jack Flaherty's shoulder. Add it all up, and it's hard to go into the season with a fully healthy roster, even if you tried to avoid injuries.
How you deal with those injuries will depend on your league settings. If you're in a league with unlimited IL spots, you don't really have to worry about it – you can go on waivers and just add every injured player to stash until they are healthy. If you're in a league with no IL spots then you've got some really, really tough decisions ahead of you.
Here's some help. I've gone through every relevant player who has either been placed on the IL or is expected to be in the coming days to rank them in terms of roster priority, from the guys you're stashing even if you don't have an IL spot to the guys who are only relevant if you have unlimited spots.
Note, this doesn't include prospects like Adley Rutschman and Riley Greene, who you might have snagged in drafts. You'll have to stash them on your bench for however long they're out since both are expected to be on the Triple-A IL despite suffering their injuries in big-league camp. In Rutschman's case, that absence may not be long, as his triceps injury is nearly in the rearview mirror. He will likely play for a few weeks at Triple-A before getting the call and belongs in the top tier of stashes. He'll be a top-12 catcher whenever he gets called up.
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Greene is tougher to justify stashing, and I lean toward letting him go. He fractured his right foot and is going to miss 6-8 weeks before restarting baseball activities, meaning he is probably at least two months away from playing in games. He had a chance to break camp before the injury, but I would be surprised if the Tigers called him straight up to the majors off a spring training injury. He's looking more like a mid-season callup at this point, though he'll be worth rostering the closer we get to that point, certainly.
Anyone not listed here is probably only worth stashing if you've got unlimited IL spots:
Ronald Acuna RF
ATL Atlanta • #13 • Age: 25
Acuña is on the IL and likely won't be in the Braves lineup until May, as expected.
SD San Diego • #23 • Age: 24
Tatis had surgery on his left wrist in mid-March and is likely out until June.
Lance Lynn SP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #33 • Age: 35
Lynn had surgery on his right knee and is expected to begin throwing in four weeks. A May return isn't unreasonable.
Jacob deGrom SP
TEX Texas • #48 • Age: 34
deGrom has a stress reaction in the scapula in his right shoulder and has been shut down from throwing until they can reevaluate at the end of April. He would then need to build back up his arm strength, so I'm not expecting deGrom back until June in an absolute best-case scenario – and you can't assume a best-case scenario at this point, given his history.
SEA Seattle • #58 • Age: 30
Castillo is traveling with the Reds to begin the season, so it doesn't seem like he's going to be sidelined long. He'll likely still need a rehab stint, but I'm expecting him back before the end of the month.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #52 • Age: 32
Clevinger has serious question marks coming back from Tommy John surgery, but he's actually expected to open on the IL due to knee soreness. He'll likely go on a rehab assignment to get up to speed and could be back in April.
Chris Sale SP
BOS Boston • #41 • Age: 34
Sale was placed on the 60-day IL Monday, so he's out at least the first two months of the season. He's dealing with a stress fracture, which creates a somewhat uncertain timetable, but it wouldn't be surprising if he was back in the rotation by the end of that IL stint.
STL St. Louis • #22 • Age: 27
The hope here is that Flaherty will be able to begin throwing soon after having a platelet-rich plasma injection in his shoulder, but an April return seems unlikely. I have enough questions about Flaherty's performance even when healthy that I wasn't drafting him, but I would still have to stash him.
Shane Baz SP
TB Tampa Bay • #11 • Age: 23
As far as elbow surgeries go, Baz's was considered a minor clean-up procedure, and he's expected to begin throwing soon. I would expect we'll see a minor-league rehab assignment of decent length to get Baz back up to speed whenever he's ready.
Luis Urias 3B
MIL Milwaukee • #2 • Age: 25
I liked Urias as a sleeper coming into the season, so I'm more willing to stash him than most, but I think even skeptics would say he's worth an IL spot to start the season. Hopefully he can be back by the end of April, because if you only have a few spots, you might have a tough decision to make before long.
WAS Washington • #37 • Age: 34
The Nationals hope they can get 20-25 starts from Strasburg, which suggests a return somewhere between the start of May and June. He's coming back from thoracic outlet surgery, which is a notoriously difficult injury for pitchers to come back from, so my expectations are low. Strasburg might have gone undrafted in many leagues.
HOU Houston • #43 • Age: 29
McCullers is dealing with a flexor tendon strain that has required PRP and stem cell treatments, and he still hasn't been cleared to begin throwing. At this point, I'm not expecting anything from McCullers, so anything will be a pleasant surprise.
Lucas Sims RP
CIN Cincinnati • #39 • Age: 28
Sims has thrown on the side and the hope is he can be back within the first couple of weeks. If nobody in the Reds bullpen steps up to take the closer job, it could still be there waiting for Sims when he gets back.
Ken Giles RP
SF San Francisco • #58 • Age: 32
Giles is a sleeper for saves in Seattle, but he'll have to get past this injury first. The good news is, it isn't to his elbow, but this does make it less likely he'll end up the closer, which would be the only reason to stash him.
Dylan Floro RP
MIA Miami • #36 • Age: 32
The Marlins made a couple of additions to their bullpen in recent days that give them more late-inning options in Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott, so how the ninth shakes out is definitely a question. Floro threw a bullpen session Monday without issues, so the hope is his stay on the IL could be minimal, in which case he hopefully remains in the mix for saves.