2023 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Player Spotlight: Spring Training Injuries to Kodai Senga and Carlos Rodon
Ivar Anderson breaks down Kodai Senga and Carlos Rodon and their fantasy baseball expectations for the 2023 MLB season.
Fantasy baseball drafts tend to cluster around the end of spring training, and just before Opening Day arrives. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, such as having final rosters set and knowing what rookies are not quite ready for a big-league roster slot yet, which improves the confidence of fantasy owners in having full time players populate their lineups, at least to start the campaign. Another purpose served in delaying drafts until the last moment is highlighted by the two starting pitchers profiled below: SPs that head into the season, sidelined for a time due to a spring injury. Often a top arm will suffer an ADP drop due to an injury that may potentially provide the owner willing to exercise patience with an ace at a value price or draft position. The key is to determine just how serious the medical condition is and its expected duration. To that end, let’s take a peek at the prognostications for a couple of potential aces that are banged up currently.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, New York Yankees ADP: 58.21
The Yankees went all in, winning the bidding war to add the southpaw to their starting rotation, so the team is going to be cautious with him as he deals with what is described as a mild forearm muscle strain to his pitching arm. He did suffer a similar injury last season when he was a member of the San Francisco Giants’ pitching staff, and he has not been a pitcher of strong health, missing time due to Tommy John surgery in 2019 and then a shoulder injury after coming back from the TJS procedure. So, there is a definite injury history in his MLB career, although his performance over the past two seasons with the Giants led to the big payday for the 30-year-old lefthander. Some caution needs to be exercised when looking at the 2021 and 2022 stat lines, as he did call one of the most pitcher-friendly parks his home while racking up the superb sub-3.00 ERA, and incredible WHIPs: 0.97 in 2021, 1.03 for 2022. The strikeout rates are superior, as well, coming in at 12 whiffs per nine innings on average. His new home ballpark is not nearly as favorable for pitchers, and as Rodon is more of a flyball inducer than a groundball encourager, look for his HR/9 ratio to regress negatively. The upside is that he has been effective at Yankee Stadium in his career consisting, admittedly, of an extremely small sample size of four games.
The bottom line is that if Rodon’s ADP drops because he cannot start the season on the active roster, he would be a fantastic small gamble to add to your pitching staff. Injuries are a matter of course in today’s MLB, and aside from the last two seasons in Chicago, his injury woes have been minimal.
Kodai Senga, RHP, New York Mets ADP: 173.51
Senga joined the Mets this offseason, after spending a decade plus one as a member of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. He recently missed his second scheduled spring start, due to what turned out to be a mild case of tendinitis in the index finger on his pitching hand. He bounced back quickly from that issue, however, and held the Nationals to one run on three hits, collecting five Ks over the three innings he was on the hill. He was extraordinarily successful in Japan, helping lead the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to six titles during his tenure with that squad, and although success in leagues outside of the MLB does not always carry over once joining the major leagues, he brings considerable long-term achievements as part of his qualifications. He also brings a valuable weapon in the form of a “ghostfork” pitch, a forkball that drops off the table similar to a split-finger pitch. This compliments his other offerings of fastball, sinker, slider and curve. His control is somewhat questionable, and his strikeout production has the potential to suffer some slippage as he takes on major league hitters this coming season, but as a middle of the draft SP that can provide both ratio and counting stats, his recent injury may be a benefit for those willing to gamble on a player with no MLB experience. At 30 years old, there is potential for a number of years that he provides value for his fantasy owners, even as the novelty of his multiple pitch offerings wears off.
Fantasy owners at times will become cautious about drafting any player who seems injury prone, especially if they were burned by an injury or two in recent memory. With proper research into the extent of the injury, though, the decision to take the gamble may yield results that lead to envy from the rest of the league. It should also be understood that spring injuries are often treated more cautiously than a minor regular season issue, allowing the team to take a longer look at some players that are on the ledge of major league readiness. If you feel confident that the injury is so serious as to significantly cut into regular season playing time, then take the chance on the player.