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How should fantasy owners approach Ian Desmond?

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Colorado Rockies infielder Ian Desmond #20 poses for a photo during the Colorado Rockies photo day on Feb. 23, 2017 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire)

As if the first base position didn’t have enough potholes.

The news broke on twitter Sunday that Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond suffered a fracture after being hit in the hand during a Cactus League game. After seeing a hand specialist Monday it was determined that surgery would be required, which will take place on Wednesday.

There has been no time-table given for how long Desmond will be out. Teammate Mark Reynolds suffered a similar break last year to his fifth metacarpal, and it was nearly three months before he was cleared to swing a bat. The main difference between the injuries is that Reynolds did not require surgery. That said, if we use this as an estimate, that means Desmond may not be cleared to swing a bat until sometime in June.

When you factor in the rehab time and minor league games needed to get into game shape, we could realistically be looking at sometime after the All-Star break. That is a best-case scenario if everything breaks right (no pun intended).

So what should fantasy owners do about Ian Desmond for 2017?

If you have not drafted yet, move Ian Desmond down the draft board – all the way down. It would be one thing if he was only going to miss a month or so. Now you’re looking at three, possibly four months. That is not worth a pick in the first 20 rounds of a 12-team league – at least not in my world.

Even if he does return for the final few months there is still the risk of lingering pain. This could affect his grip, which in turn could sap his power and throw a wrench into the batting average gears. Now, there is that chance he returns, there are no ill effects, and he is a productive hitter over the final two months. This is why I say he is worth a late-round flier, but only if you have more than one DL slot or a very deep bench. This is no different from drafting a prospect to stash – it either works out or it doesn’t.

If your draft is already complete, my condolences to you. Hopefully you were not the guy that drafted A.J. Pollock last year. In your case, the options (outside a trade) are limited to the waiver wire. The obvious in-house option is teammate Mark Reynolds. With an ADP outside the top-500 he is probably sitting on waivers. Last year Reynolds batted .282 with 14 home runs in just under 400 at bats. He could repeat that again from April through July.

June 14 2016:  Colorado Rockies Infielder, Mark Reynolds (12) during a regular season interleague major league baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting New York Yankees at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)

Gerardo Parra would be option B and should also be available with an ADP of 415. He had 19 games at first base last year so he may come up short if you use 20 games. Parra could spell Reynolds from time to time while also seeing time in the outfield. David Dahl hopes to be ready to start the season, but back and rib issues could linger longer than expected. This could give Parra the opening he needs to get his foot in the door. His .348 batting average this spring should help force the playing time issue. The at bat issues make this a risky play.

Looking at the NFBC ADP board, there may be a few viable options outside the Colorado system.

Justin Bour would be my first choice. His 302 ADP means he could be available or was taken late enough you could get him cheap in a trade. The Marlins are giving him a chance to play against lefties this year. This may harm the batting average some, but any extra counting stats are appreciated. I would consider Bour even if you are not a Desmond owner.

Mitch Moreland should be more readily available with a 335 ADP. He is not the most dependable name, but beggars can’t be choosers. Moreland is good for 20-22 home runs, with run and RBI totals dependent on which batting average shows up. The early talk is to bat him primarily against righties, so you run the risk of having your starter on the bench several times a week.

Lucas Duda is another wild card at 342. Health issues are the big concern here, but he has looked good so far this spring. A healthy Duda can hit 27-30 home runs and is someone I would target over Moreland. I’m not sure I would take him over Bour, but I might consider both (if available) to hedge my bets.

Danny Valencia and Dan Vogelbach are my final fallback options. I love the upside and potential of Vogelbach, but he is not guaranteed to break camp with the big club. If he does, both men will share time and not be worth a roster spot. A demotion to Triple-A would leave Valencia with the full-time gig. After playing in Oakland, the spacious Safeco field should not be an issue. He is a stronger batting average option than the players above, but he has the lowest power ceiling.

*****

Injuries are all part of the game. Thankfully, this one happened early enough that fantasy owners should be able to recover. At least you have some options available to you. Odds are most (if not all) the players listed above will be rostered by the time May rolls around.

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