When assembling my National League Tout Wars pitching staff for 2015, I had built my plans around securing four front-line starting pitchers plus a couple bargain starters with some upside.
I thought I executed this fairly well with my top four of Francisco Liriano, Gio Gonzalez, Julio Teheran and Homer Bailey. On the bargain side, I bought two guys from whom I was hoping for a return to past glories in Jeremy Hellickson and Jaime Garcia.
In reality, Hellickson has never been the same since 2012, but the change of league at least looked intriguing at the time. In reality, he has been on my bench since week two and will likely be released.
I fooled myself again by getting Garcia, a pitcher who has great stuff when healthy, but can never seem to stay off the disabled list. The left-hander had looked very good in early spring training, so I paid $4 on draft day.
With the Tout drafts in New York City a full two weeks ahead of the regular season, I did not make my annual trip to spring training in Florida until the week after Tout. That is the reverse of my usual March plan of seeing the players before I draft them.
Literally as I was pulling into the parking lot of the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida for the first time this spring, on the morning of March 24th, I saw a large crowd at the nearest minor league field.
It turned out Garcia was throwing a simulated game, as the last step toward his return to St. Louis’ rotation. I ended up catching most of his 80-pitch outing as my first official action in camp.
It was too much, too soon for Garcia, who suffered a setback as a result of that outing that continues to this day.
Just this week, I returned to Jupiter to catch the Cardinals extended spring training camp during the day and their high-A team in the evenings. Déjà vu was too much for me as when I pulled into the parking lot upon arrival, who was throwing but Garcia. The lefty was completing his final side session in preparation for his first rehab start at Triple-A Memphis this Sunday.
Tout has a rule that allows full FAAB reclaim for any player injured before the All-Star break (and half afterward), but for Garcia, I have decided to hold on. It isn’t like four more FAAB dollars will make my season. I believe that even if I get just seven or eight starts from Garcia before he gets hurt again, at least they will be good ones.
With the season-ending injury to Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals need a fifth starter. It will likely be Garcia if he can prove his health. Of course, that is a huge “if”. Otherwise, top prospect Marco Gonzales is on a similar trajectory, making his first Triple-A start on Saturday coming off the DL.
On the other hand, I did take my $12 back for the loss of Bailey, not that it will get me $12 value now on the free agent market.
As in the case of Garcia, I ignored the warning signs and drafted Bailey anyway.
In my defense, the Reds starter already had surgery. Last September, he went under the knife to repair a torn flexor tendon in his forearm. How did I know a healthy prognosis would turn into Tommy John surgery this spring?
In any case, one pitching gamble in Bailey clearly failed and one in Garcia still has a chance to beat some pretty long odds. Given that I don’t have a Noah Syndergaard or similar starting pitcher stashed on my bench, my 2015 season could end up being Jaime or bust!
I don’t really have much of a lesson for you in this story, other than the obvious - be diligent in your potential interactions with injury risks and don’t load your rosters with them unless you intend to play the longshots.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.