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Fantasy Fix: Broken Arms

It's a wonder Cy Young's arm didn't fall right off of his body at some point. His 511 career wins, 749 career complete games and 7,356 innings pitched are baseball's most unbreakable records. Sure, things were different back then - games were managed differently, pitchers didn't throw as hard and they were never pulled from games. Still, I think the "Cy" may have been short for "Cyborg."

This year, we are being reminded again why no modern pitcher will ever come close to those numbers. Not only has bullpen micro-management made the complete game virtually a thing of the past, the best pitchers in the game today simply can't stay healthy. Since the start of spring training, at least 18 pitchers have either had or are waiting to have reconstructive Tommy John surgery on their elbows, according to the USA Today.

Many of them, including the latest slated for season-ending surgery - Marlins ace Jose Fernandez - were considered to be in the top tier of fantasy pitching stat contributors.

Even aside from those catastrophic injuries, several more top pitchers - including Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Chris Sale - already have spent time on the disabled list this season with various maladies.

The trend is a troubling one, and has the potential to radically change how young amateur and professional pitchers are trained and handled. In the long term, it could also change the art of pitching and the game itself. Already, it is changing fantasy baseball.

As a fantasy manager, you can no longer place a premium value on pitchers - particularly starting pitchers. That's a big change from a few years ago, when it seemed like the best bet for winning a daily head-to-head fantasy league was to load up on top-tier arms early in the draft, then spend the season cycling them in and out of the rotation, piling up wins and strikeouts throughout the week.

With the current higher risk of injury among the best starters, it's starting to look like a better idea to focus more on offense early on, then in later rounds focus on drafting No. 2 and No. 3 starters from teams that are likely to contend.

I expect that for the time being, young pitchers will still try to bring up triple-digit readings on the radar gun, and as long as they do, the game will continue to be filled with massively-hyped SPs who will be hard to turn down come draft time.

No one will blame you for drafting an obvious stud like Fernandez in the second round, but do so with the knowledge of the increasing likelihood that seven weeks into the season you could very well be dropping a hotshot like Fernandez on the waiver wire for some undrafted schmo named Jason Hammel.

Expert Wire
* ESPN says it's hard to guess which pitchers will get hurt, which is why you need to adjust your whole concept of pitching value.

* CBS Sports eyes two-start starters for this week.

* Fantasy CPR is monitoring the status of new Cubs ace Hammel.


Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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