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2024 Fantasy Baseball: Injury Risk for Designated Hitters

When assessing the future stats of a player, it’s imperative to consider player health and injury risk when speculating on playing time. After all, getting onto the field and being given a chance to succeed only happens if the player is healthy enough. That’s why looking at a player’s track record of health gives credence to whether someone is worth drafting. A fantasy team could have all the talent in the world, but if they’re on your Injured List or bench, they lose a ton of value.

We are moving toward draft season, and all eyes will be on the top players at each position. Knowing of any inherent risk to drafting someone can help teams in the long run. That’s why today will be a part of positional examinations of injury risk. I will be going through the Injury History of the top players at every position and making notes of their healthy or troubled pasts. Seeing trends in their health could help determine any future problems.

The players listed below will be separated into one of three categories: red light, yellow light, green light. The timeframe that will be examined will primarily be from 2021 to 2023, though looking into the distant past might also take place.

Red Light: any players listed here have an extensive and/or concerning injury history that seems likely to come into play in the future. The potential for injury outweighs their production on the field and their selection could lead to roster problems down the line. The reoccurrence of a particular injury or multiple injuries also creates the need for a red light. Fantasy owners should be wary of drafting these players because the risk for injury is high.

Yellow Light: any players listed here have had their injury problems before, but they’re not necessarily prone to injury. These players here have situations to monitor, especially during the off-season and Spring Training, but it’s not necessarily as bleak as it could be. The types of injuries could also be freakish or due to bad luck with events leading to it being out of the ordinary. Fantasy owners should be aware of the injury history, but know the possibility for health is there too.

Green Light: any players listed here have had minimal problems and their future doesn’t appear to be in any jeopardy. There is nothing from their past that would indicate an injury-prone future. While injuries could happen at any time, there are no red flags in this player’s history to suggest it will lead to another one. Fantasy owners can feel safe in drafting these players.

Things to remember:

  1. The players listed are in the general order of how they’re being drafted.
  2. The level of confidence has to do with their health and nothing to do with their abilities on the field.
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Injury Risk for Designated Hitters

Once you get done here make sure to check out the entire Injury Risk Series.

1. Shohei Ohtani – Los Angeles Dodgers

Ohtani comes to the Dodgers after spending the first part of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. He also comes to his new team after having some sort of internal brace procedure inserted into his arm, as an alternate measure to having Tommy John Surgery. He is not expected to pitch at all this season, but he is expected to hit. Some reports have him being ready for Opening Day, but the future is by no means clear. The operation was completed in the middle of September, with Opening Day being around six and a half months from then. This seems very optimistic for an Opening Day debut, but Bryce Harper did something similar last season, so it would appear that it is possible. How he will perform as a hitter only after this operation is anyone’s guess. Harper struggled initially upon his return last season, and Ohtani, when he had his first Tommy John operation, performed well at the plate. While he will likely play for most of the season, there’s no way possible that a green light can be given. He could be played sparingly to start or he could aggravate his injury. Draft with attention.

2. Marcell Ozuna – Atlanta Braves

Ozuna has had a complicated history of injuries that pale in comparison to his off-the-field lifestyle. Over the past few years, his only major injury was a fractured middle finger that he sustained while sliding into a base. He missed the rest of the season because of this and an arrest for aggravated assault. In 2022 he was also arrested for a DUI. He came back with a vengeance in 2023 with one of his best seasons to date, sustaining health for most of it. While his injury risk isn’t anywhere what it used to be, his other off-the-field lifestyle needs to be remembered for the sake of fantasy baseball. That being said, the fantasy game is far less important than him and his family getting their lives back in order. Draft with attention.

3. J.D. Martinez – Free Agent

Martinez is approaching the end of his career, and the way he is being utilized is telling. Over the past two seasons, he has made just three appearances in the field and 36 appearances over his last four seasons. Even with this, he has had a lot of smaller ailments that have required DTD maintenance. While nothing he has sustained has been overly serious, they’re still worth monitoring as Father Time might be quickly approaching. He has failed to eclipse 600 plate appearances over each of his last two seasons. His playing time might be lowered even more, depending on how he performs. Draft with attention.

4. Eloy Jiménez – Chicago White Sox

Jiménez might be the most polarizing player in baseball. For years, he’s been lauded as an elite talent, but his inability to stay on the field has hurt his value. Over his career, he has five trips to the Injured List, with one of them resulting in an extended stay of 60 days. He also has a separate 60-day Injured List stint that resulted in him almost four months with a torn pectoral muscle. Over his five-year career, he has spent 259 days in-season on the Injured List, and those don’t include any off-season rehabbing. He’s also played in just 61.5% of his team’s games over this career, which works out to 436 games played. He has changed himself into more of a designated hitter-type player because of his propensity to get injured when running. All that being said, it remains to be seen if he will play in the outfield this season. The low ADP makes him somewhat attractive given the massive upside. Draft with caution.

5. Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins

Another player who has seen his fair share of injuries over the years. Buxton was moved to be the Twins’ designated hitter last season, and the results are still disappointing. Despite sparingly using his catching glove, he still went to the Injured List twice last season for a bruised ribcage and a strained hamstring. He finished the season playing in fewer games than he did in 2022 when he played most of his games as the team’s center fielder. The disappointment for him stems from the fact that the team changed the structure of their lineup to help facilitate his health. As the team’s designated hitter, other players were given less of a chance to rest from the field and still get at-bats. Next season, he will be returning to center field for the Twins. Over nine seasons, he has eclipsed 500 plate appearances one time and has played more than 100 games just once as well. He is beyond injury-prone and his ADP reflects that fact. Draft with caution.

6. Joey Meneses – Washington Nationals

Meneses has nothing in his past to suggest an injury risk at this time. It was revealed after the 2023 season that Meneses was playing through a knee injury. He should see everyday at-bats for the Nationals and should play at first base. Draft with confidence.

For more of the great fantasy baseball rankings and analysis you’ve come to expect from FantraxHQ, check out our full 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit! We’re here for you all the way up until Opening Day and then on into your championship run.

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