Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Hamels or Iwakuma? Pujols or Kemp?

by Todd Zola, on March 12, 2014 @ 13:52:47 PDT


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The extended vacation is over. It's time to put the Knights back to work. That said, we don't want to ask too much of them too early. It's best to ease them in to help avoid the dreaded dead-typing-finger syndrome.

We'll officially kick off the 2014 Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable series with a discussion on two pairs of players that are likely causing some pause when their names are at the top of your draft board or nominated in an auction.

Los Angeles Dodgers OF Matt Kemp
No legs-up for Kemp

Who are you more concerned about -- Cole Hamels or Hisashi Iwakuma?

Who's more likely to bounce back -- Matt Kemp or Albert Pujols?

Ryan Carey

Without getting too scientific, I am more concerned about Hamels than Iwakuma mainly because Hamels' injury is to the shoulder, while Iwakuma is dealing with a finger issue. For me anytime I hear the shoulder is involved I get much more concerned.

Add in the fact that Hamels has been hurting for awhile now, all the way back to late last year, and this sure seems like the problem could be a lot more serious than either the player or team is letting on at this point. That of course ties into the fact that the Phillies as an organization don't have the best reputation when it comes to reporting injuries, or for that matter, treating them. 

Iwakuma's injury on paper is more serious, but at least we know what it is and what the timetable back should be. This way we can at least take a better guess at what we can get out of him when he returns and determine how far to drop him in the rankings on draft day.

Pujols vs. Kemp is an interesting question. Honestly I don't really want to own either of them this year if I can avoid it (I have so far). But if I have to choose one to bet on then I will go with Pujols. The biggest deciding factor is I have no faith that Kemp's speed is coming back, and so much of his value was tied to the stolen bases. If that is gone, then he really is just an average OF, and an injury-prone one at that.

Pujols on the other hand just needs to hit, and he sure seems motivated to put last year behind him. I am sure some others can give stronger evidence as to why Pujols will at least bounce-back to 2012's numbers, but simply staying healthy will likely be at it takes. The nice thing is, it seems like Pujols is a little better priced and, it should be easier to hedge your bets him by grabbing another 1B later on. 

Nicholas Minnix

I concur with Carey as far as Hamels and Iwakuma are concerned. I really didn't think Hamels' injury would be a big deal when it first popped up, but how long this has gone on is disconcerting. I still think there's a good chance that it turns out to be nothing serious, based on his scouting profile and relatively clean medical record, but it's too tough to predict, and predictability is worth a little something.

I have an easier time than Ryan does in choosing Pujols over Kemp. Even when Kemp is cleared to return to regular season action, whenever that is, he'll almost certainly be limited in some manner and be spelled, given the club's OF depth. Agreed: The speed has to be in doubt. If we see the real Kemp again this season, when will that be?

I think Pujols is primed for a pretty big rebound. He could play through pretty much anything for so long that we grew accustomed to that M.O. I think he finally did the smart thing last year -- he had no choice, really -- and took the time off, had the procedures and is good to go. The numbers won't be elite, but they'll be really good. I don't see any more risk in him than I do any other player on the wrong side of 30 who's healthy as we speak.

Don Drooker

Seattle Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma
Knights split on Iwakuma

Hamels - always more concerned with shoulders than fingers ... sounds like there's a proctologist joke there somewhere.

Pujols - until Kemp proves he's healthy (even a full off-season hasn't done it), I'm a skeptic ... if I were doing a snake draft (gag) tonight, Pujols goes ahead of Kemp.

Lawr Michaels


I will preface by stating something I said a few years back when I draft B.J. Ryan at an slow mock when asked if I was worried about him getting injured (this was right after he came back from TJ surgery). I said, "I am always worried about all my guys getting hurt."

That said I have Hamels and Kemp ($20 and $21 respectively) in LABR NL, and, well, I did not think of them as a gamble when I got them, but apparently my opponents did.

I am more concerned about Hamels, and I do think both Pujols and Kemp will bounce back nicely. 

Meaning I am foolish or naive enough to believe both teams suggesting Hamels and Kemp will be fine.

So, I am not really answering: I am just hopeful my investments pay off.

Zach Steinhorn

While I agree that Hamels' injury is the more concerning one, I'd be more likely to take a chance on Hamels at the discounted rate due to his longstanding track record as a legitimate ace. And, as Nick pointed out, he's been very durable throughout his career, and that's always a positive when gauging these types of situations.

I won't be drafting either Pujols or Kemp this year, so I haven't thought much about that question. I'll say Pujols if for no other reason than that relative to draft day cost, Kemp has a lot more to do in order to bounce back, with a return to at least the 20-SB level being one of the items on the checklist. But ultimately, both of these guys will be another owner's problem.

Rob Leibowitz

Kemp vs. Pujols - I have to go with Pujols as the better bounce-back candidate. Kemp's recurrent hamstring/ankle issues are more likely an ongoing issue. While plantar fasciitis can indeed be a season killer, once resolved, players have been able to comeback from them and regain their power stroke. 

Hamels vs. Iwakuma - Looks like we may not see either of these guys until May. Shoulder injuries have far greater career-threatening implications than a strained finger tendon, so I'd be more concerned regarding Hamels. However, tests haven't shown any structural damage to his shoulder. Unless new information/relapses arise, I wouldn't be surprised to see both pitchers recovered by late spring and end up being good bargains for their respective owners.

Todd Zola

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Machine back in action?

Is anyone concerned that since Iwakuma's bread and butter is a splitter that a finger injury could be more of an issue for him?

Lawr Michaels

I'm too freaked out about owning Hamels and his issues to think beyond it.

Rob Leibowitz

I'd imagine until he can show he can throw his splitter effectively in extended spring training/rehab starts, he won't come off the DL, but that's wishful thinking on my part. Never underestimate a player's willingness to play through pain. At the very least, if he isn't throwing it effectively, it will be quite visible as soon as we see him pitch.

Tim Heaney

I'm absolutely concerned about the finger issues hurting Iwakuma's signature pitch. The wide grip he uses puts more strain on the tendon. It has the potential for being a chronic pain even when he does come back. Hamels seems like a workload-related issue that I think he can work around. From reports, it seems that once he's back, there probably won't be any lingering effects, or at least those as drastic as Iwakuma's could be.

I believe in Pujols' recovery more than Kemp's. Albert's seems to have followed all the necessary steps to minimize the fear. His age will of course be a detriment, but I don't foresee it being a problem at the price he's commanding. Kemp will have chronic problems but could be a fine value if he slips. I'm not banking on a pace of 20 SB in a full season, but everything else could meet his usual levels, even if it's for four months. That's worth something in, say, Round 5.

Nicholas Minnix

Me! I wasn't worried about how Iwakuma's injury would affect his split-fingered fastball until Rob said something. A player's willingness to play through injury -- and often his team's willingness to trust that he's capable -- is something I didn't consider in a case like this. But it's a very real concern, and it could have a sizable impact here. Having said that, Seattle's staff is acutely aware of the strain that the pitch puts on Iwakuma's tendon, and they're at least giving the impression that they're erring on the side of caution, taking things very slowly, much like they're doing with Taijuan Walker. As long as Iwakuma has adequate time t o heal, he should be fine.

Perry Van Hook

Hamels and Pujols

Lord Zola's Wrap-up.

I'll take the easy one (for me) first. I'm in lockstep with Ryan with respect to Iwakuma and Hamels. That is, I am extremely worried about Hamels. This is an issue that was present at the end of last season and has not gone away. On a personal note I'm a bit bummed since I had Hamels pegged as guy I liked more than the market (if healthy) since last season's numbers would scare some people away. We didn't really hear any news until January, so before that my take was no news is good news, which was a mistake.

I am also concerned about Iwakuma and his finger but much like my brethren, trust the Seattle brass to take it slow and get him healed. As such, I'm more likely to take Iwakuma at his present injury discount than I am Hamels. But, since I started drafting last fall, I have a couple shares of Hamels already so I'll still be sweating that one out.

Comparing the two hitters, I am much more worried about Kemp primarily because due to the nature of the injuries, he's more susceptible to be hurt again than Pujols. Part of the reason is I feel Kemp is not going to want to eschew running, which could lead to further injury.

That said, I highly doubt I'll own either this season unless the discount is extreme. I understand the need to take some chances and perhaps this is a perfect place to do just that, but I'd rather throw my speculative darts elsewhere.

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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