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2024 Injury Bounceback Candidates: Hitters

Recapping last year's injured hitters

Context is critical and tracking injuries is often a big part of the fantasy puzzle. I rummaged through depth charts and listed starters (and some platoon players) who went on the injured list last season. I’m sure I missed more than a few as plenty of depth charts are in flux this early in the spring. However, I hope this can serve as a decent summary of which position players were hurt and might seem like decent values this upcoming draft season. We’ll go through position-by-position while eyeballing some projections from the BAT X.

Note: ADPs per NFBC from 1/1/2024 through 2/26/2024.

 

Catchers

 

Henry Davis isn’t technically a bounce-back candidate but he should serve as Pittsburgh’s primary catcher due to the season-ending injury to Endy Rodríguez. Davis posted a .436 wOBA across 41 games with Double-A Altoona, so the upside is there. However, he played just two games last year at catcher so we’ll have to wait for eligibility. The Pirates also added Yasmani Grandal in the offseason.

Danny Jansen lost about the last month of the season with a broken right middle finger. He’s exceeded 100 games played once (2019:107). But if you’re punting in a two-catcher league, he offers worthwhile pop. The BAT X projects Jansen for 18 home runs in 95 games, tied with Jonah Heim and Adley Rutschman (!!) for 14th among all catchers.

A shoulder injury torpedoed Logan OHoppe’s rookie season. Shoulders can be tricky so it wasn’t surprising to see him hit just .217 with a .759 OPS over his final 35 games. However, it seems as if he’s put the injury past him and is raring to go.

O’Hoppe showed off great power with 14 home runs in only 51 games. Going back further, he posted a .487 wOBA across 29 games with Double-A Rocket City in 2022. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the BAT X giving him a .339 wOBA, sixth among all catchers behind William Contreras and ahead of J.T. Realmuto. He’ll get all the at-bats he can handle and should hit in the middle of the Angels’ lineup. In other words, he checks all the boxes if you’re punting catcher.

 

First Base

 

Rhys Hoskins seems like a cut-and-dry bounceback. He’s had a normal offseason training-wise after missing all of 2023 with ACL surgery. His new home park, American Family Field, isn’t quite as good of an overall hitter’s venue as Citizen’s Bank Park. But AFF still rates well in power with a 109 three-year rolling Park Factor for right-handed home runs via Baseball Savant (111 for CPB).

Hoskins hit .246 with a .353 wOBA and banged 57 dingers from 2021-22 (1,115 PA). Similarly, The BAT X projects him hitting .240 with a .348 wOBA. His projection of 27 home runs is tied with Spencer Torkelson and Bryce Harper for fifth among first basemen. The batting average isn’t great but his power makes him a solid buy as the 19th first baseman off the boards via NFBC (ADP current from 1/1/24 through 2/24/24).

Vinnie Pasquantino played in the Royals’ spring opener, following last year’s shoulder surgery. Pasquantino has an unusual profile for a first baseman in that he has exceptional contact ability (131 last year via PLV) but average-ish power (99). Sure enough, the BAT X has him hitting .273 (5th among 1B) but with only 18 home runs (25th), so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

Anthony Rizzo finished with a career-low .312 wOBA. But as Scott Chu mentioned here, he was hitting .305 with 11 home runs right around the end of May when he collided with Fernando Tatis Jr. at first base. His performance nosedived before being diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome in early August. I still have no idea what took so long. Anyway, projections aren’t too optimistic given that he had a career-low year at 33. Still, trying to hit a baseball while concussed seems difficult, so we should probably give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s only a year removed from tying his career-high with 32 home runs.

Ryan Mountcastle finished with a .333 wOBA while hitting .270 across 115 games, so it wasn’t necessarily a bad year. However, it was somewhat disjointed by bouts with vertigo and a shoulder issue. In the end, he finished with a dreadful .281 wOBA against right-handers while seeing a hot-hitting Ryan O’Hearn pilfer playing time. I can’t discount O’Hearn or Keston Hjerstad as threats. But this being a straight platoon situation, at least from the start, is a little overblown considering Mountcastle’s career wOBA against right-handers is .320. He also finished the season trending up.

The BAT X has him hitting .271 across 125 games, eighth among all first-baseman. He’s also projected for a .338 wOBA, one point behind Spencer Torkelson and Nathaniel Lowe for 14th among first basemen. The rate stats make Mountcastle an interesting buy if you’re willing to gamble on his playing time. Judging by his NFBC ADP as the 24th first baseman off the board, it’s not a bad risk to take.

After a career-best 599 PA, Rowdy Tellez crashed hard last year. However, he had two separate issues last year that didn’t help. The first was a forearm issue that gradually worsened precipitating an IL stint starting on July 5th. And then he somehow broke his finger while shagging flyballs. By the time he returned in late August, his playing time had all but dried up with the Brewers having acquired Mark Canha in the thick of a Wild Card race. Tellez is a straight platoon bat that could be useful in daily formats against righties provided he bounces back with the Buccos.

 

Second Base

 

The Rockies’ third overall pick from the 2015 draft, Brendan Rodgers reached 500 PA for the first time in 2022 but dislocated his shoulder last March and didn’t return until July 31st. His profile doesn’t stand out much; PLV charted him with just about average contact ability (102), power (100), and below-average decision value (88). I’ll admit, at this point, I want to cross him off. But the BAT X projects him hitting .288, behind Luis Arraez and a point ahead of Mookie Betts for second among second basemen. He’s also projected for a .344 wOBA, fifth at his position. Well, it is still Coors Field. Crazier things have happened, right?

A strained right oblique ended Matt McLain’s impressive rookie season in late August. Six months later, he tweaked his oblique prompting the Reds to put him on ice for five to seven days. However, the injury was not the same as last season and the MRI results were encouraging. We can perhaps breathe a sigh of relief. His combination of speed and power (112 via PLV) is tantalizing. However, his contact ability (79) indicates that the floor is probably a little lower than you’d like. The BAT X agrees with Scott Chu’s assessment, pegging McLain with a .258 average, a big drop from last year’s .290.

Plantar fasciitis robbed Jonathan India of 39 games. Reds skipper David Bell recently mentioned that he imagines using India all over the place, including the outfield. India also mentioned that he likely would’ve been traded if he weren’t willing to move around defensively. In the end, the Reds signed him to a two-year deal worth $8.8 M. However, the foot issue flared up again in the offseason, forcing him into a modified running program that curtailed his reps in the outfield. If you’re willing to overlook the playing time uncertainty, India is an intriguing late buy as a way to get exposure to what should be a pretty decent Reds lineup. The BAT X has him with a .334 wOBA, tied with Edouard Julien for tenth among second basemen.

Jorge Polanco is the boring, veteran buyback among the group. He dealt with three trips to the IL last year with a balky left knee and hamstring. Regardless, he managed to bang out 14 home runs in 80 games. Now in Seattle, the BAT X projects him hitting .243 with 22 home runs and the latter is tied with Ketel Marte for eight among second basemen. The last time he played a full season two years ago, Polanco hit .269 with 33 home runs. He’s being overlooked as the 22nd second baseman off the board.

A torn right ACL and LCL kept Gavin Lux on the sidelines last year. Lux carries upside as a former top prospect occupying a near-regular role in one of the most powerful lineups we’ve seen. He recently had his first at-bat in almost a year. And, plus, he went to Driveline before last year’s injury.

Brandon Lowe lost most of June to a bad back. However, he hit .259 with a .836 OPS in 59 games upon returning in early July. And then… he broke his knee on a foul ball. The good news, though, is that he’s been training without restrictions since early December. Poor splits should curtail his playing time against left-handers, but he’s got enough power to be a difference-maker, and he was on quite the roll before the unfortunate foul ball. Don’t forget he hit 39 home runs in his only full season two years ago.

 

Shortstop

 

Oneil Cruz fractured his left ankle on April 10th, depriving us of one of the game’s most extraordinary talents. It sounded like he had a chance to return late last year, but he didn’t quite get the green light. Anyway, he recently said he’s 100 percent. Strikeouts (34.9% strikeout rate) were a problem when he debuted two years ago but his contact ability trended up toward the end. He’s currently the 11th shortstop off the board in NFBC with an ADP right around the end of the 5th round. I have a hard time coming up with a comparison for him. Imagine prime Giancarlo Stanton but with the wheels to steal 30 bases. This feels like the last chance to buy an all-world talent.

Not a bounce-back candidate, of course, but just a reminder that Corey Seager finished tied for sixth with 75 extra-base hits despite missing 43 games.

It’s weird. I remember Trevor Story taking Zack Greinke deep twice in his debut. But time doesn’t still and now he’s a 31-year-old vet trying to kick the injury-prone tag after two down years in Boston. As tempting as it might be to ignore Story, The BAT X projects him for 20 home runs and 20 steals in 120 games while hitting .240. Last year, he returned from Tommy John surgery in early August. A bruised hand and heel held him to 94 games in 2022. However, if he can shake the injuries you have to at least consider his power/speed ability, currently with an NFBC ADP of 175.

Zach Neto hit just .225 with a .302 wOBA across 84 games while landing on the IL three times during his rookie season. It’s awfully hard to get settled that way. He’ll get a ton of at-bats and will look for better things with the Angels in year two. The BAT X has him hitting 18 home runs with a handful of steals. He’s a middle infielder you can get really late (SS #27).

Bo Bichette is far from a prolific base stealer but last year’s total of five felt underwhelming given that he had 38 on 47 attempts over his previous two seasons. However, two leg injuries held him back last year, and although he wasn’t on the IL long, it seems like it might’ve nagged him over the year. Expecting a slight rebound in steals seems like a fair expectation. Sure enough, most projections have him between 11 and 15 steals. And, hey, he took up pilates, swimming, and Muay Thai in the offseason.

Carlos Correa didn’t go so far as to outright blame plantar fasciitis for last year’s .309 wOBA, a career-low save for 2020. But he more or less pointed the finger at his foot by saying it messed with his swing mechanics. Either way, he says it’s healed, although it took longer than expected (late Dec.). He’s been hitting six times a week since early February and is ready to show off a better swing.

 

Third Base

 

Anthony Rendon needed to see five doctors before being diagnosed with a fractured left tibia after fouling a ball off his shin on the fourth of July. Although Phil Nevin and the Angels training staff were adamant that it didn’t change his prognosis following the original diagnosis of a deep bone bruise. Either way, Rendon hasn’t cleared 60 games since 2019. There are countless more exciting things to chase at this point than a dead cat bounce from Tony Two Bags but hey, he’s a career .283 hitter with a .360 wOBA who will start the season as the Angels’ cleanup hitter.

Matt Chapman posted a sweltering .481 wOBA in April and not much else afterward. He jammed his right middle finger racking a dumbbell sometime in August before being placed on the IL on August 28th. I’m not sure if it affected his output much considering the timeline. Regardless, he’s an interesting buy-back based on the BAT X’s .349 wOBA, the sixth highest among third basemen. He could provide dividends late in drafts (3B #25) provided he, you know, signs somewhere.

Josh Jung broke his left thumb while fielding a groundball costing him about five weeks of the season. Still, he finished with 23 home runs hinting at what he might do across a full season in a loaded Rangers lineup.

Royce Lewis more or less lit the world on fire last year when he played. My favorite stat of the year was when he became the first player to reach five grand slams within his first 16 home runs. However, after finally returning from two tears to his right ACL, Lewis lost more time to oblique and hamstring injuries. Whether he can finally play a full season and what it might look like is one of the biggest mysteries in fantasy land. One thing is for certain, you’ll have to pay a steep price to find out as he’s the sixth third baseman off the boards after Gunnar Henderson and ahead of Manny Machado

Speaking of Machado, he finished last year hitting .258 with a somewhat underwhelming .334 wOBA. However, he noted that the tennis elbow issue he’s dealt with for most of the past two years worsened toward the end of the season. He underwent right extensor tendon surgery in October with a timetable of four to six months and hit a double in his first at-bat of the spring. He noted his elbow feels a lot better than it did last year and appears on track for Opening Day.

After hitting .246 with a .317 wOBA over his past three seasons (340 games), it’s difficult to have much interest in Yoán Moncada. However, he recently mentioned having an offseason free of back troubles that have plagued him for a while. This could be his final season in Chicago as he has a club option for 2025.

 

Outfield/UTIL

 

After breaking his hamate on July 3rd on a swing against the Padres, Mike Trout returned on August 22nd, after missing 38 games. However, the pain was too much after a few swings and the Angels sent him back to the IL a day later.

The fluky injury extends the narrative that Trout can’t stay healthy. Still, if you’re willing to gamble on the stars finally aligning (he hasn’t played 140 games since 2018) he’s going at a considerable discount as the 16th outfielder off the board per NFBC ADP (1/1/24-2/26). At this point, you almost have to anticipate an IL stint. However, he still has game-changing power. The Bat X projects him for a .392 wOBA, sixth in baseball. He’s ready to go and recently played his first spring game.

Trout’s teammate, Taylor Ward, took three months to recover from fractures to his orbital bone, temple, and jaw thanks to an errant 92 mph sinker. I couldn’t even imagine. Thankfully, he’s alright and we can talk about him playing ball again. He recently said he’s ready to go and eager to move past it. He’ll also be wearing a C-flap on his helmet. I was admittedly bullish on Ward heading into 2023 but he is difficult to assess after the truncated season during which he posted a somewhat underwhelming .329 wOBA. Still, he was trending up before the catastrophic injury. The BAT X projects Ward for a .353 wOBA, 30th among all hitters making him a tempting target now that he’s entered afterthought territory (OF #54).

An appendectomy held Eloy Jiménez to 120 games, a total he’s eclipsed once back in 2019, his rookie year. He lost most of the 2021 season to a torn pec while trying to rob a home run from Sean Murphy during a spring training game. In 2022, hamstring strains in both legs limited him to 84 games. However, he along with teammates Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada expressed their goal of playing in 150 games. Given his power upside, he’s an interesting dart with an ADP of 224. However, he only had 14 starts in right field last year, limiting him to utility in most formats.

Riley Greene had a stress fracture in his left leg that cost him all of June. And then in late September, he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right (non-throwing arm). He faced live pitching for the first time since the surgery about a week ago without a problem. The unfavorable dimensions in Comerica Park won’t boost Greene’s power, but he offers an otherwise well-rounded profile as a former top prospect seeking to crack 100 games played in year three.

Few names have become more synonymous with perpetual pain than Byron Buxton. A balky hamstring and rib bruise held him to 85 games last year. He also aggravated a knee injury during a rehab assignment which required knee surgery this offseason. He’s since recovered and said he plans on stealing 30 bases, a mark he missed by one back in 2017, the only time he played 100 games. But, hey, he’s got the speed. Whether his body or Rocco Baldelli, will cooperate is another thing. Limited to DH duty last year, Buxton will begin with utility eligibility. The BAT X forecasts him hitting .236 but providing pop with a .340 wOBA.

Jarren Duran demonstrated sensational speed last season with 24 SBs before being done in by a sprained left toe. He also posted a .354 wOBA while holding his own against left-handers with a .328 wOBA in 48 PAs. He and Josh Lowe are interesting parallels as speedy outfielders with shaky track records. To be transparent, I’m not yet sold that either one is a slam dunk, full-time starting player but if I’m taking a shot, it’s with Duran as outfielder #41 versus Lowe as outfielder #18. Duran has recently been cleared for takeoff and will make his spring debut this Friday.

Tyler O’Neill cleared 130 games once back in 2021 when he posted a glorious .286 BA, and .384 wOBA with 34 dingers and 15 steals. A low back strain sent him to the IL in early May before a foot sprain ended his season. O’Neill’s final year in St.Louis was a forgettable struggle during which he saw his playing time juggled by skipper Oli Marmol. However, he’s been saying all the right things on the eve of making his Red Sox debut, including spending the offseason with his eye on playing 160 games.

 

Outfield/UTIL (cont.)

 

Cedric Mullins dealt with a recurring groin strain that undoubtedly impacted his performance, leading to a dip in playing time late in the season, particularly against left-handers. But he was off to an excellent start with a team-leading .835 OPS through the first 53 games before getting hurt. He’s ready and confident he can be the player he was in 2021. You know, the one who became the first Oriole to go 30/30. The BAT X has him hitting .242 with 21 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He’s currently outfielder #33.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. tried to return after banging his left toe while catching a ball up against the left-center wall in Loan Depot Field. The Marlins initially called it a contusion but he underwent treatment, and returned after missing about four weeks, only to be done in a few days later by a pulled oblique that cost him another four weeks. Despite that, he finished one home run short of becoming the first Marlin to go 20/20 since Hanley Ramirez in 2010. He underwent turf toe surgery in October that kept him from running for three months. However, he recently made his spring debut in center. Chisholm’s splits against left-handers remain less than ideal (.214 wOBA in 94 PA). Still, his power/speed upside is indisputable. The BAT X forecasts 24 home runs with 35 steals in 130 games. We can only imagine what a full season might look like.

Starling Marte and Giancarlo Stanton are former stalwarts who seem firmly on the downslope. And, they’re being drafted as such as the outfielders #51 and #72, respectively. Despite a groin issue stemming from core surgery, Marte still showed prowess on the basepaths with 24 steals in about half a season. He also dealt with migraines that have since subsided and no longer require meds. He recently played in the Dominican Winter League and is preparing to be the Mets’ everyday right fielder. The BAT X projects 31 stolen bases in 112 games, making him an interesting buy-back if you want to gamble on him staying healthy.

Stanton spent the offseason tweaking his swing while trying to regain mobility. The BAT X has him hitting .232 with 27 home runs in 105 games. If everything bounces right, he might eclipse 30 home runs while approaching 100 RBIs, similar to 2021. However, dreadful splits against right-handers (.275 wOBA in 341 PA last yr.) might eventually sap his playing time if they don’t improve.

Jarred Kelenic started strong with a .409 wOBA in April (26 gms) but hit the skids in May. And then he kicked a water cooler and broke his foot. In the end, what looked like a breakout ended as an underwhelming .321 wOBA across a career-high 105 games. Still, if there was ever a better place for him to turn the corner and prove himself as a former top prospect, it’s in Atlanta, right?

 

Outfield/UTIL (cont.)

 

Kris Bryant played 42 games in 2022 thanks to a low back strain and plantar fasciitis. Last year, a broken left finger and bruised heel held Bryant to 80 games in year two of his seven-year pact with the Rockies. The BAT X has him hitting .271 with a .347 wOBA, providing some hope as a late dart if he can shake the injuries. He’ll also be the Rockies’ primary first base this season, which might help him stay healthy.

Lars Nootbaar was a popular breakout candidate last year but early injuries, including a low back contusion, held him down. However, he took off in the second half with a .363 wOBA. Seeing is believing.

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

One response to “2024 Injury Bounceback Candidates: Hitters”

  1. Dug says:

    FYI, it seems like Pittsburgh has said that Grandal is going to be at the top of the depth chart.

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