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The Best IL Stashes For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft

Does your fantasy baseball league include roster spots for players on the Injured List? In this day and age, that sure seems like a good idea. It’s the best way to spare managers from having to make very tough decisions about injured players. Instead of throwing them back into the player pool, one can simply store them away while still adding a replacement. If your league provides this option, this article is for you. I wanted to compose a list of the best late-round IL stash targets.

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Late-round IL Stashes As a Draft Strategy

Having IL roster spots also changes the complexion of draft day. Players who would normally go undrafted because they’ll be of no use for the first month, two months, or even a half season, now become worthy of your attention. Though I wouldn’t recommend filling all the IL spots you have right away – because we know you’ll probably end up needing them eventually – I personally like to draft at least one or two players who I know will start the season on the Injured List. This not only provides you with reinforcements for later, but has the bonus advantage of allowing you to roster some promising upside players in the meantime. This is particularly advantageous in a shallow league where there will likely be some very intriguing names in the free agent pool. But even in a league that goes over 300-players deep, the below names are certainly worth considering.

Late-Round IL Stashes to Target in Your Draft

Kodai Senga SP Mets ADP (since injury) 204

2023: 29 GS/166.1 IP/12-7 W-L/202 K/2.98 ERA/1.22 WHIP

Estimated Return from IL: Early May

After 11 seasons playing in Japan, Kodai Senga made a very smooth transition to the Major Leagues last season. He performed so well (stats above) that fantasy managers were routinely taking him in the 6th round of standard drafts. That all changed about three weeks ago when the 31-year-old strained his pitching shoulder. And though the righty has still not begun a “throwing program,” the Mets’ new manager, Carlos Mendoza, has stated that it is scheduled to begin on March 22nd. Assuming that date holds, an early May return does seem plausible. Since the injury, Senga’s ADP has fallen outside the top 200 picks. In fact, over the last week on NFBC, it’s actually fallen even lower (226 from March 8th to March 15th). There are no sure things at this range of the draft. Might as well stash someone who has recently proven he can return early-round value.

Lars Nootbaar OF Cardinals ADP (since injury news) 248

2023: 117 G/74 R/14 HR/46 RBI/11 SB/.261 AVG

Expected Return: Early-to-Mid April

Lars Nootbaar was a popular breakout candidate heading into last season. Aside from WBC heroics, that was on the strength of some pretty impressive plate discipline (14.7% walk rate ranked 98th percentile, chase rate ranked 92nd) and solid underlying Statcast numbers (average exit velocity 90th percentile, hard-hit rate 80th) in 2022. The 26-year-old’s stock has gone down a bit since then thanks to an injury-plagued 2023. He suffered through thumb, back, and groin injuries, limiting him to just 117 games. They were flukey sorts of injuries, though, all classified as contusions.

Speaking of freak injuries: the 26-year-old suffered another one this spring. He broke his ribs while making a catch against the wall last week. Though he hasn’t yet resumed swinging a bat, he shouldn’t miss more than a week or two of the regular season. So this wouldn’t be a long-term IL stash. That makes his steep drop in APD a little puzzling. A 21st-round pick seems like a bargain for a player with a top-of-the-order starting job (especially against righties), with 73rd percentile foot speed, at a thin position, and with some decent power and average upside. I say, take the discount.

Shane Baz SP Rays ADP (since latest injury news) 309

2023: Did not play

Estimated Return: Some time in May

I wrote about Shane Baz way back in December as a great late-round target. To sum that up: the now-24-year-old was absolutely dominant in the minors in 2021 (2.06 ERA/0.80 WHIP/12.9 K/9) and was a leading candidate to win Rookie of the Year entering 2022. Sadly, Tommy John happened after just 27 innings. After missing 2023, the righty was penciled in for the 5th starter job entering the spring. Since then, we found out the Rays preferred to ease Baz in slowly, likely in an effort to limit his innings and have him pitch later into the season. He was just about to start throwing last week when he “tweaked his oblique.”

The good news is, he’s fully recovered from his surgery. And the other good new is, this new information has caused his ADP to crash. It’s gone from about 190 to 309 this past week. That’s after the last pick of most standard-league drafts. We already knew the Rays would limit his innings. We know the potential fantasy impact. Add it all up, this seems like one of the best IL stashes out there.

Max Scherzer SP Rangers ADP (last 30 days) 364

2023: 27 GS/152.2 IP/13-6 W-L/174 K/3.77 ERA/1.12 WHIP

Expected Return: June

After 16 seasons and a career 3.15 ERA/1.08 WHIP/10.7 K/9, I don’t think I have to say too much about Max Scherzer. You want some more recent numbers? How about his last three seasons: 2.83 ERA/0.96 WHIP/11.0 K/9? OK, so he’s probably still got it.

Fine, the veteran will be 40 before this season is over. And he’s only averaged 159 innings over those same three seasons. And, oh yeah, he’s likely out until June after requiring surgery to repair a herniated disc in mid-December. But as of earlier this month, the Rangers claimed the righty was ahead of schedule and June is the current target. So, at his current ADP, this seems like a classic, no-brainer, stash-and-wait sort of situation. The innings he will give you will likely be worth it.

Kyle Bradish SP ADP (last 30 days) 377

2023: 30 GS/168.2 IP/12-7 W-L/168 K/2.83 ERA/1.04 WHIP

Expected Return: Early May

I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited about drafting Kyle Bradish early in draft season. He was going inside the top 100 then. Given his numbers above, which earned him a 4th-place finish for the AL Cy Young Award, the value made sense. But given that the expected numbers didn’t match too well (3.77 xERA, .300 xwOBA vs. .268 wOBA), and that his solid walk rate (6.6%) came out of nowhere (10.3% in his minor league career), the upside didn’t quite overcome the risk.

But now the 27-year-old is not being drafted in most standard leagues. He’ll start the season on the IL because he sprained his elbow in January. Tommy John surgery appeared on the table, but he elected instead for the PRP injection combined with rehab. That seems to be going well. The righty threw his first bullpen session just this Wednesday. All fastballs, but still. It’s a positive step and with all-systems-go afterwards, a May return doesn’t seem outrageous. Ironically, the injury has made me way more likely to draft him. If he ends up needing surgery after all, it costs nothing. If he comes back in May and proves last season was for real, this IL stash could be game-changing.

Gerrit Cole SP Yankees ADP (since MRI announced Monday) 129, and (since MRI results on Thursday) 184

2023: 33 GS/209 IP/15-4 W-L/222 K/2.63 ERA/0.98 WHIP

Estimated Return: Late May/Early June

If you haven’t heard the recent news, Gerrit Cole will start the season on the IL with inflammation in his pitching elbow. The situation has been evolving for the last week, but a few days ago the Yankees ace saw a specialist. And then on Thursday, it was announced that he will not require Tommy John surgery. This is good news. Kinda. Some reporters are using tricky wording in their articles. “At this time” and “not yet” are some common ways to express the lack of surgery. In any case, he’ll miss at least 10 to 12 weeks. If this news worries you, you’re sure not alone.

But before the injury, Cole was a borderline 1st-round pick in standard drafts. He’s the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. To have that level of production on your roster, even for four months of the season, would be very valuable. But with the great risk, what price is worth it? Since it was announced that he’d require an MRI on Monday, his NFBC ADP is at 129. That would put him between Bailey Ober and Michael King, two healthy pitchers with decent upside. To be honest, I’d rather have them “at this time.” But since the news on Thursday broke, and a clearer – but longer – timeline emerged, the veteran has been going off boards at 184. That’s roughly between Nick Pivetta/Bryan Woo and Ryan Pepiot. Given their lack of track record, this seems more like the right landing spot. This would also put Cole just ahead of other starting-on-the-IL injury risks like Walker Buehler and Kodai Senga.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t reach for him, but if he’s still around when I’m making my 16th-round selection, I’ll be very tempted to grab him as an IL stash.

Jacob deGrom SP Rangers ADP (last 30 days) 523

2023: 6 GS/30.1 IP/2-0 W-L/45 K/2.67 ERA/0.76 WHIP

Estimated Return: August 2024

Much like with his teammate Max Scherzer, not much needs to be said for the talent and track record of Jacob deGrom. Though his innings have been few over the last three years (average of just 62), they’ve been unequivocally dominant (186.2 IP/2.03 ERA/0.65 WHIP/14.1 K/9). Will a second Tommy John surgery, performed last June, decrease his effectiveness? With anyone else, I’d probably say yes.

But the 10-year veteran is already throwing again. In fact, he’s been throwing for about a month already. Since his injury, he’s expressed a strong desire to return in August. So far, that still seems well within reason. That would sure be a nice addition for the last month of your regular fantasy season and then the playoffs. His ADP reflects the length of time you’ll require for a successful IL stash. Over the course of four months, though, the odds of needing at least a couple of your IL roster spots is pretty darn high. So, if you do grab the 35-year-old with the last pick of your draft, perhaps make him your only currently-injured player. Or pair him with someone like Lars Nootbar who should return very soon.

Jasson Dominguez OF Yankees ADP (last 30 days) 557

2023 (minors): 118 G/89 R/15 HR/76RBI/40 SB/.265 AVG

Estimated Return: Mid Season

After only nine games above Double-A, the Yankees promoted Jasson Dominguez to the highest level in September of last season. The 21-year-old had an extra strong cup of coffee (cold brew maybe?), smashing four home runs in just eight games and compiling a .980 OPS. Sadly, the Yankees’ top prospect then injured his elbow and required Tommy John Surgery. The rehab seems to be progressing well. He’s throwing again and recently started swinging from both sides of the plate (switch hitter). A return to the majors around the All-Star Break seems very possible.

The only caveat: whether he returns to the big league club or plays in the minors first is still a question. But with the Yankees, a team with injury-prone veterans like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, a roster spot might simply present itself. Or the future star, with only Alex Verdugo standing in his way, can simply force the issue with a dominant rehab assignment. In either case, seems worthy of a free roster spot if all the other names are gone.

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