Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Try as you might, injuries are one of the unavoidable dilemmas in fantasy sports. And an injury doesn't simply hurt the fantasy owner who had the player in his starting lineup. In many cases it has far-ranging effects.
Lets look at one key injury and analyze all the changes in fantasy values which result.
Here in Philadelphia, we have been watching all throughout spring training as Phillies star second baseman Chase Utley has dealt with a knee injury. It's officially listed as "right knee tendonitis" and Utley has been doing everything to avoid possible season-ending surgery.
Because the injury had been known for a while, Utley's fantasy value dropped significantly in the offseason and as we approached Opening Day. Whereas last season, Utley was a high first-round selection (2010 ADP 4), his injury left him still on the board as the fifth round began in many leagues (2011 ADP 49). Even there it was a gamble for a fantasy owner to select him as there is a chance that he might not play at all in 2011.
But the effect of not having Utley batting in his customary third spot in the Phillies lineup changes many things.
To start with, manager Charlie Manuel decided to move his leadoff hitter, Jimmy Rollins, to the third hole, at least for Opening Day. Rollins isn't really a middle of the order guy, only once knocking in more than 85 runs and twice in his 11-year career hitting more than 22 homers. His career OPS of .763 also tells you he's not a true No.3 hitter.
Not only does he not have the credentials to bat third, but hitting in front of Ryan Howard will likely eliminate much of Rollins' running game. Very few managers will allow a base runner to get thrown out in front of their best home run hitter and Manuel almost always follows that strategy.
So without his speed, Rollins becomes a mediocre-at-best fantasy value. He was No.4 at the shortstop position to start the season (ADP 57), but without being able to utilize his speed, he could drop behind Alexei Ramirez (more power) and Deter Jeter (better average and more run scored).
And of course, without Utley on base in front of Howard (Utley has averaged 107 runs scored over the past five seasons), that's a lot less RBI opportunities for the "big guy," who has averaged 136 RBIs per season over the same five-year span.
Howard will also see less "hittable" pitches because opposing pitchers will now be able to pitch around Howard as both Rollins (.328 career OBP) and Raul Ibanez (career OBP .347) don't get on base as often as Utley (career OBP .380).
The Utley injury could also effect the Phillies pitching staff.
If the Phils score less runs, how many fewer wins will be earned by the starters who were high on everybody's fantasy list on Draft Day?
Less runs produced likely results in games being won in the later innings rather than right away which means the Phillies starters will have to go deeper into games to collect the win.
While this may not have much of an effect on Roy Halladay who averaged a league-leading 7.581 IP-per-start or Cliff Lee (No.2 at 7.575 IP per start) what about Roy Oswalt (6.583), Cole Hamels (6.323) and Joe Blanton (6.238)?
In conclusion, the injury to Utley effects more than fantasy owners of Utley, but also Rollins and Howard at the very least and likely the entire Phillies starting pitching staff as well.
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