Over the course of the season, every fantasy owner has to respond to an injury to a player on their roster. The decisions made at the time of an injury can have a significant effect on a team's championship hopes. Success in this area involves knowledge of your league's rules, effective use of roster flexibility, and good scouting to find replacement players via waiver transaction or trade.
While the reality of injuries and the need to manage them crosses all formats of our game, the tools available for this task can vary greatly from league to league. For online players, the challenge is perhaps the greatest of all. Typically, a traditional league might feature liberal rules on disabling players, where a player could be reserved and a roster spot opened up for a replacement. Online leagues do not feature such flexibility. These leagues have minimal roster spots for bench players. Additionally, we must keep in mind the difficulty of trading in an online league, and waiver wire rules that may be more restrictive than in a traditional league.
The resulting picture is not a pretty one. Online players typically have the fewest options when it comes to injury management. However, that does not mean that online players have no options in handling injuries. With some creativity and strong awareness of your circumstances, an online player can in fact manage this situation to its maximum benefit. Or, at least, manage it to minimal damage. Here's a step-by-step process to successful injury management.
1. Assess the damage to the player. Get a best estimate about the length of time you will be without the player. Also, assess whether the injury may linger after the player's return. For instance, a hamstring injury to a base stealer may cause a decline in SB production long after the player returns to the lineup.
2. Assess the damage to your team. Take a look at the player's year-to-date numbers, as well as his (pre-injury) balance of the year projections. What had he provided you, and what were you looking forward to? Next, look at the standings and try to gauge the potential loss in the categories where the injured player was contributing. Of particular importance is any quantitative category where your team is "in the pack", and figures to lose ground because of this injury.
On the other hand, you may encounter a situation where there is little or no standings impact for this injury. In this case, you may simply choose to ride out the injury without activating a replacement. Or, you may use the opportunity to try to strengthen a different category, even if the injured player was not contributing in that area.
3. Look inward for help. Self-reliance is critically important for online players, since other owners may not be accessible. Look at your bench players and look at positional flexibility that you have with other players in your lineup. Can you manipulate your lineup in such a way that you can replace the injured player? At a minimum, can you at least move the hole in your lineup to a position that is easier to fill? It is far easier to find a fill-in OF than it is a fill-in SS.
4. Try to free up a roster spot. If you have a 'disabled list' available to you, where you can retain a player and free up a roster spot, use this feature to its full advantage. If you do not have such an option, or you have already filled your DL, take a look at the rest of your roster for expendable commodities. Do you really need all of your middle relievers? How long are you going to wait for that struggling SP to get straightened out? Are you holding both halves of a platoon, and flipping them in and out of your lineup daily? Even if you are rotating players into the lineup regularly, you must consider making a tough drop. Your quantitative numbers may fall back a bit, but that may be an easier gap to close later in the season.
5. Weigh multiple injuries. If you have multiple disabled players, it is unlikely that you will have any kind of roster flexibility. In this case, it may become necessary to release an injured player. Consider the length of the injury, and the potential impact of the injured parties upon their return.
6. Assess the market for replacements. Once you have freed a roster spot, your first course of action should be to claim your injured player's MLB replacement, if available. In active online leagues with unlimited roster moves, your opponents will typically be quick to claim anyone who figures to get consistent playing time, virtually without regard to skill level. As such, you will want to beat your opponents to that claim, if possible. You may not necessarily use that player, and you can still shop for more suitable replacements. But, you will have at least assured yourself of some level of coverage.
7. Complete your due diligence on the trading market. If your league is not an active group of traders, this may be an exercise in futility. But, it is important to explore all avenues of strengthening your team. Browse the rosters of your opponents, and see who has a strength at the position where you have been depleted. Consult the online trading essay for assistance in this process.
8. Choose a course of action. By the time you reach this step, you should have made several courses of action available to yourself. First, you can sit on the player and wait out the injury. Second, you can put that player's MLB replacement into your lineup. Third, you can release that MLB replacement and claim someone else, if a better option becomes available. Fourth, you can pull the trigger on any acceptable trade offers you receive.
An injury to any of your players can be a blow to your team's chances this season. But, over the course of the season, just about every fantasy team must make injury-related adjustments. For online players, there are rarely quick fixes to be had to these problems. But, an advantage can still be gained by the owner who best manages his team's injuries.
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