Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Atlanta Braves

by Nicholas Minnix on January 23, 2012 @ 13:42:09 PDT


KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Atlanta Braves?

How serious is Tommy Hanson's shoulder injury?

Any time a fantasy baseball manager hears "shoulder injury," especially regarding a pitcher, he cringes, with some justification. The nature of the woe doesn't really matter; mere discomfort or inflammation seems like it always leads to something more serious. Doesn't it?

Atlanta Braves OF Jason Heyward
Onward, Heyward?

Hanson's should be no different for roto folks, not without receiving an explanation that satisfies their doubts about his capacity to pitch for the entire season, basically. As spring training approaches, their consensus seems to be that they haven't.

But is that really the case? Hanson, 25, has been building up the strength of some muscles in his back and in his shoulder. He and Atlanta's staff believe that an issue that caused discomfort in his back in 2010 took its toll on his shoulder and led to the slight tear in his rotator cuff. He hasn't had any significant injury problems prior to this one.

Other players with seemingly greater question marks surrounding them will probably be as or more desirable to fantasy owners. Unlike many of them, this right-hander has an encouraging outlook and just this one strike against him. The buyer has trouble buying this story, although it's perfectly reasonable. Unanticipated complications could arise from Hanson's newly reinforced back and shoulder, or medical personnel could be way off-base.

But unlike the stories of other health risks, Hanson's comes with detailed information. Do rotisserie players prefer to be in the dark? Or is Hanson a smarter pick than he appears to be?

Before his five-start tailspin in 2011, Hanson was shaping up as a leading Cy Young Award contender 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA, with 109 strikeouts as well as 70 hits, nine home runs and 35 walks allowed, in 103 1/3 innings. Is this shoulder problem all it takes to rob him of previous optimism that he would one day soon be one of the best in the league? Probably not, so go get him.

Why was Jason Heyward such a huge bust?

First, what were all the reasons why he was overvalued last year? He was just 21 years old. He hadn't made a single appearance above the Double-A level, when time spent at the farm's highest level is beneficial to most players' development. In his stellar rookie campaign, he'd experienced nagging injuries that suggested he was a modest risk in the health category.

Second, what went wrong in 2011? Shoulder and back injuries crippled Heyward's ability to perform, and they never seemed to improve. When he returned to the lineup, he was awful, or pretty close to it. In the second half, he lost some playing time to the overachieving Jose Constanza.

Third, why be bullish in 2012? Frank Wren stated at the end of last season that Heyward may even have to compete for a job this year. Does that scare you? When a 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder struggles with injuries of this nature, growing pains - or, perhaps better, how his rapidly developed body is filling out and adjusting - could to some degree be responsible. His offseason routine was to be designed specifically to strengthen the areas in which he's had trouble.

And, of course, there's the fact that Heyward is a top-notch athlete, with a keen sense of what he's doing. The discipline he's used to deploy his whipping, line-drive swing in his brief professional career belies that of a more experienced player. He could be a top-15 mixed league outfielder, and it would surprise no one. He could be yours.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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