Fantasy Baseball: Where Should We Be Drafting Jason Kipnis?

The Indians' second baseman will miss the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury. How should we handle him in fantasy baseball drafts?

The baseball season is a 162-game marathon, which means people shouldn't be overly concerned when a productive fantasy player doesn't start the year right away with his team.

It's a long, hot, grueling slog, and sometimes, rest is actually beneficial for the season-long viability of the player. That appears to be the case for Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.

Kipnis will miss the first 4-5 weeks of the season due to an inflamed shoulder. He is expected to resume hitting and throwing again in about a week, which means he could miss the first few weeks of the regular season. Career utility man Michael Martinez is expected to take his place for the time being.

And before you ask, no, Martinez and his career wRC+ of 35 (100 is considered a league average run producer) in 267 games is not a viable fantasy substitute.

Kipnis, now 30, has become a valuable fantasy player at second base over the last couple seasons, filling multiple stat lines with aplomb in 2015 and '16.

2012 672 .257 .335 .379 14 86 76 100
2013 658 .284 .366 .452 17 86 84 127
2014 555 .240 .310 .330 6 61 41 82
2015 641 .303 .372 .451 9 86 52 124
2016 688 .275 .343 .469 23 91 82 117

While Kipnis has generally been a guy who provides a decent batting average and some reasonable pop, he posted career highs in slugging percentage, homers and runs scored last year, while coming within two RBI's of his career high. The increase in homers is directly related to a reversal in his ground-ball (GB%) and fly-ball rate (FB%), as well as his pull-rate (Pull%).

His 38.9% ground-ball rate was a career low, while his fly-ball rate of 37.4% was a career high. Both were drastically different than his 2014 and '15 numbers. He also hit the ball a lot harder -- 35.7% of his balls were considered "hard hit" by FanGraphs. He started pulling the ball more, too (40.8%), which was way up from the year before (35.3%).

As a result, he saw his home-run-per-fly-ball rate (HR/FB) jump dramatically, making him one powerful little second baseman, even if it was at the expense of his batting average.

Season GB% FB% HR/FB Pull% Hard%
2012 47.0% 30.1% 9.7% 37.7% 27.3%
2013 43.1% 32.2% 12.4% 36.7% 35.1%
2014 46.2% 31.2% 4.8% 39.5% 26.6%
2015 45.0% 28.1% 6.9% 35.3% 30.6%
2016 38.9% 37.4% 13.1% 40.8% 35.7%

There's no doubt Kipnis is valuable for fantasy, but the only question is whether him missing the first few weeks should keep you from drafting him where you normally would.

According to FantasyPros, Kipnis' ADP is 102nd overall. In a 12-team league, that's in the 8th round, and he's the 14th second baseman being taken overall. Our numberFire projections have him rated 16th among second basemen with an nF score of 1.58, off the strength of a .274 average, .764 OPS, 13 homers, 85 runs, 68 RBI's and 14 stolen bases.

A shoulder injury is always a bit worrisome, and there's no way to know for sure how it will heal and how effective he'll be upon returning. If everything is OK when he comes back, I wouldn't knock him down a whole lot further than his current ADP value. If all you're missing is a few weeks at the start of the season but will then have him for the next 4-5 months fully healthy, take him right where you ordinarily would.

Unfortunately, we don't know if the injury will nag him all season, either. So for the risk averse, wait and see if you can snag him a round or two later than where you ordinarily might.