There comes a moment in everyone's draft where you're staring down an ages-old dilemma: do I go for that outfielder I just kind of like ... or do I draft the injured All-Star who may not be back until June?
Sure, you could gamble on Jayson Werth coming back and having a 2010-type year; but you could also really gamble and draft Ryan Howard, a man who will occupy a bench or DL slot on your roster well into May. And when he returns, there's no telling how much rust he'll have to shake off.
Some of these gambles pay off -- in 2011, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley came off the DL and, after a slow start, rattled off seven multi-hit games and stole three bases in his first month of action -- others flame out brilliantly, as Johan Santana was expected to return in late June or July last season, then mid-July, then August, September, and, eventually, 2012.
So who do you stash? And who do you let fester on another owners' bench? Stashing isn't an exact science, but here are this year's most-buzzed about stashees and their prospects for 2012. "Stashability" is based on the player's ability to help your team this season, combining time of return, setback possibility, and skill/value.
Victor Marinez, Tigers
Stashability: 5 (out of 100)
Out until: 2013
Analysis: Martinez should be kept in every keeper format. Chances are that owners who already had him in keeper leagues at $25-$30 likely threw him back, where he was drafted by some forward-thinking Fantasy owner for about $7. If he doesn't take up a bench spot -- and can be put on the disabled list -- it's a tremendous bargain for next season. Owners in single-season leagues who picked up Martinez hoping for a miraculous recovery and late-season return aren't being hurt by his occupying of a DL slot, but if you have DL limits and another injured player, cut him loose; the chances of Martinez playing in 2012 are miniscule, at best.
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Ryan Howard, Phillies
Stashability: 90 (out of 100)
Out until: Mid-May
Analysis: Howard has hit 30 or more home runs in each of the last six seasons. While his batting average has its peaks and valleys, he's still a very valuable Fantasy commodity when playing. As a further boost to his value, he's a tremendous second-half player, with his average rising to .290 (from .262) post-All-Star Game, and his OPS increasing almost 130 points (.867 to .996) after the break. He's as solid a stash as there is this year.
Brian Roberts, Orioles
Stashability: 37 (out of 100)
Out until: June-ish?
Analysis: Roberts was limited to 39 games last year, after playing just 59 in 2010. He told MASNSports.com in late March that, while he feels hopeful he'll play this year, he doesn't know when he'll make a return. He has yet to play in a rehab game this year but has been taking batting practice with the team, working out, hitting off a tee and playing catch. He's had a laundry list of injuries over the last two seasons, including back spasms, a root canal, and an earlier set of headaches and concussive symptoms that he received from hitting himself on the helmet with a bat after striking out. Head injuries are tricky to predict, and there's no guarantee the oft-injured Roberts won't tweak a hamstring even after returning, but he has a good deal of speed, is a career .281 hitter, and is the textbook example of "flashes of power," so he's worth at least a DL stash until a superstar needs to occupy that spot.
Chipper Jones, Braves
Stashability: 71 (out of 100)
Out until: At least mid-April
Analysis: It's no secret what Jones is capable of and with this being his last season, you know he's going to do everything he can to get on the field. Which begs the question: does an overzealous Chipper (dibs on that as a band name, by the way), rush himself back from injury -- or play a little harder -- causing more injury? Or does he blow off some of the more minor injuries he usually incurs in order to play as many games as possible in one last, stellar season? I'm going with the latter. And while he isn't the 30-homer hitting Chipper of earlier vintage, he still has the ability to hit .290, with 20 home runs and a couple steals. Especially when you throw in the extra motivation of a final season. He's only owned in 36 percent of leagues right now; that number should probably be at 60.
Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Stashability: 49 (out of 100)
Out until: Late April
Analysis: Drew's problem isn't that he might hit some complications in rehabbing his surgically-repaired ankle, it's that nobody knows what to expect from him when he returns. Thousands of Fantasy owners have been burned by the promise of the Stephen Drew Breakout Year, having to instead be content with 15 home-run seasons and the occasional steal. "Maybe this is the year" is a familiar refrain to Drew drafters, which makes him a fairly decent stash candidate. He'll be back within a month, his ankle seems to be holding up nicely so far, and ... well ... maybe this is the year. Only owned in 47 percent of leagues, though, it seems like the majority of owners would rather wait and see him do it on the waiver wire first.
Stashability: 33 (out of 100)
Injury: Bone in head
Out until: The 51st game of the season
Analysis: Ramirez is an interesting stash candidate, because he can't occupy a DL spot on your team -- he has to be put on your bench, a spot usually reserved for the Brian Matuszs and Pedro Alvarezes of the world. Serving out a suspension, Ramirez has to sit out the first 50 games, at which point he hopes to improve on the forgettable truncated run he had with Tampa Bay in 2011 (.059 average in 17 at-bats) and Chicago in 2010 (.739 OPS in 24 games). Ramirez still has skill as he turns 40, but his value may lie more in batting average than in the power categories.
A.J. Burnett, Pirates
Stashability: 88 percent
Out until: Possibly Mid-April
Analysis: Laugh all you want, but Burnett could be a great candidate to slide into your DL spot until he comes back from the broken orbital bone he suffered earlier this spring. He was horrible in his run as a Yankee, but so are a lot of players. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage worked wonders with the staff in 2011, and if there's anyone in need of a reclamation project, it's Burnett. His recovery is pretty far ahead of schedule and he can be a great source of strikeouts. He also has career ERAs of 3.84 and 3.86 in April and May, so a hot start and then quick trade could pay off.
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