Almost every fantasy format includes at least one disabled list slot as part of the roster. The DL can be handy when, for instance, one of your star performers tries to hold back a sneeze and ends up sidelined for several weeks (Mat Latos). Toss your player in the DL slot, which typically does not count as an active roster position, and you can pick up a temporary replacement from the free agent pool without having to drop anyone. It is this fantasy writer’s opinion that the DL slot(s) on any fantasy roster should pretty much never be empty.
Your DL spots may be filled by necessity. It is certainly not wise to drop a Ryan Zimmerman or Evan Longoria just because one of them lands on the 15-day disabled list. DL the gimpy 3B and add Ryan Roberts while he’s hot. That’s obvious. But even if you are one of the lucky few owners blessed with a team full of bacterially and virally immune Iron Horses, you can use your DL to your advantage. At any given time, there are usually a handful of players that, though ownable when healthy, are floating in the fantasy free agent pool due to being sidelined in real life. Find one droppable player on your roster, and you can snag one of these ownables and stash him on the DL, then add another player with the vacated roster position. It’s pretty much fool-proof. If one of your regulars goes down with injury, you can simply swap him with your stashed DL player and drop the latter, if you wish. If the injured player returns to action but underperforms, you can wait out a few games while he’s still on your fantasy DL, then drop if you see fit (as an active player on the fantasy DL normally precludes you from adding/dropping other players). Plus, in the covetous world of waivers and free agents, stowing solid injured players keeps them out the hands of your opponents.
Here are some examples of arguably ownable, DL-eligible players who, as of the writing of this article, are owned in less than 50% of both Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy leagues:
Jose Contreras, RP (37.1% ESPN, 41% Yahoo!) – He was perfect as the Phillies fill-in at closer during Brad Lidge’s extended absence. Temporarily out with a strained arm, Contreras should be back in 3 to 4 weeks and ready to resume ninth-inning duties. Lidge has been transferred to the 60-day DL and will return no sooner than the All Star break – probably later.
Johnny Cueto, SP (44.0% ESPN, 42% Yahoo!) – He’s progressing solidly in his rehab en route to his first start of 2011, and has significantly lowered his ERA in each of the past two seasons. He still has dynamite stuff reminiscent of Pedro Martinez and is capable of higher strikeout rates. He should get loads of run support from the potent Reds offense.
Johan Santana, SP (14.3% ESPN, 32% Yahoo!) – The dominant, strikeout-king Santana of old is probably gone forever. However, in 29 starts last year, Johan still logged a sub-3.00 ERA. Recent reports suggest he may not play until as late as August or September, but if you have a DL slot for him, use it. Most owners wouldn’t argue with a handful of quality starts during the fantasy playoffs.
Angel Pagan, OF (39.7% ESPN, 43% Yahoo!) – He won’t be out too long with a strained oblique and, when healthy, is a good bet to bat around .300 and score some runs. He stole 37 bases last year and, while not a slugger, is not a power drain. A solid player to round out most fantasy outfields.
Rafael Furcal, SS (32% ESPN, 45% Yahoo!) – Beyond the big two (the struggling Han-Ram and mashing Tulo), the 2011 shortstop crop is frightfully thin. Furcal is certainly not in his prime but, when healthy, he is still as serviceable as most of the 2nd tier of fantasy shortstops. His recovery timeframe is up in the air for now, but he is by no means out for the year and by all means worth a DL spot.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS (22.8% ESPN, 20% Yahoo!) – Again, the thin shortstop position makes this a reasonable speculation. No one has stepped up for the Twins middle infield in Nishioka’s absence and he is reportedly making a rapid recovery from his broken leg. Though a rookie in the US, he has the potential to hit for average and steal some bases before the year is out.
Brandon Webb, SP (5.1% ESPN, 18% Yahoo!) – Too much time and too many setbacks in rehab have elapsed, it seems, for people to remember that the last time Webb pitched more than 4 innings in a season, he won 22 games. Webb is still a little ways off, but he will return this year. Those who fret about the hitter’s ballpark in Texas should recall Arizona isn’t much better and Webb is a sinkerballer.
Domonic Brown, OF (2.8% ESPN, 19% Yahoo!) – At the start of the season, he was taken in the late rounds of many fantasy drafts after being rated one of the top prospects in baseball in the pre-season, and being considered a front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year. One rough spring training and one fractured wrist later, Brown just began his minor league rehab four-for-eight with two bombs. He remains largely unowned.
Hong-Chi Kuo, RP (12.3% ESPN, 28% Yahoo!) – He may not seem a logical add even when healthy, but as Kuo is slowly rehabbing, Jon Broxton is quickly digging his grave as Dodgers closer. Padilla may snag a few opportunities in the short term, but Kuo is a more logical fix for the season. Here’s one of those guys you keep in the DL slot and give a couple outings after he returns – then activate or scrap him.
Stephen Strasburg, SP (1.4% ESPN, 14% Yahoo!) – This is Strasburg. He’s given ample reason to believe he’s for real. I can’t believe more people aren’t willing to stash him on the DL in the hope of a single month, even a couple weeks of action at the end of 2011. In keeper and dynasty leagues this should not remotely be a question, even with the Tommy John surgery.