Injuries are a part of the fantasy game that can’t be ignored. There will undoubtedly be parts of every fantasy team’s lineup that will need replacing throughout the season. Whether it’s with a short-term stopgap or a needed long-term solution, all are necessary changes that can help propel these fantasy teams to the finish line.
For that to happen, one needs to better understand the injury, how the team is handling it, and what steps have and might be taken regarding replacement players. After all, all big and small decisions need to be made with the ultimate goal in mind, bringing home a championship. With that in mind, here are the current injuries that you need to know going forward.
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Armed with one of the most complete offensive games in baseball and a very high ADP to boot, Fernando Tatis Jr. was drafted as the top overall pick in fantasy for months, despite the shoulder injury history that aligned itself with him. It was revealed midway through March that he also suffered a fractured left wrist that would require surgery and up to three months’ worth of recovery time. He has since been placed on the 60-day IL, meaning he cannot play until mid-June. This has devastated fantasy owners everywhere who had invested so much stock and trust into the superstar.
First and foremost, the injury takes a lot of time for a full heal since the power from a swing is generated within the wrist. Often, injuries such as this limit the hitter’s power, and it can take a little extra time to recoup. As someone who hit 42 home runs last season, power is a big part of his game, which could derail him even when he returns. Even last season, despite suffering multiple shoulder injuries, he produced elite numbers for the Padres.
Secondly, three months is such a long time to miss for any player, much less one of the best players, making it an adamant player to replace in the lineup. As for the Padres, one of the biggest benefactors will be Ha-seong Kim, who will likely split the shortstop duties for the team. As a right-handed batter, he will likely face left-handed pitchers. While it’s true that he struggled to do much of anything in his debut season last year, he does come with a long track record of success in the KBO, where he had excellent bat-to-ball skills to accumulate elite power and speed numbers. Still, there is uncertainty as to whether or not last year’s numbers were an indication of bad luck or his skills not translating to the talent upgrade of Major League Baseball.
Another option is C.J. Abrams, one of the franchise’s top prospects, who has made the big league club, despite having played in only 42 games at Double-A last season. Still, he comes to the Padres with an 80-grade speed potential and a Plus-Plus hit tool that has the potential for some real impact. As a left-handed batter, he will likely face right-handed pitchers, which could lead to many more opportunities. While his value is more tied to dynasty potential, he is someone who could either hit or exceed expectations sooner rather than later and is one to monitor going forward. He cannot only earn playing time but maintain it.
Conclusion: What it boils down to is that the Padres have an opportunity for someone to step up. There will be a chance for playing time, whether it’s Kim, Abrams, or someone else on the roster. What these players do with it remains to be seen, but both Kim and Abrams have the potential to keep San Diego afloat until Tatis Jr. returns later this Spring. It will be necessary for fantasy owners to monitor the situation to see if either takes the spot and runs with it. Once Tatis Jr. returns, there could be other opportunities to play later this summer, as their talent in the outfield doesn’t necessarily have the historical track record of health and success.
Almost one year ago, the baseball world saw Ronald Acuña Jr., one of the most electric players in the game, tear his ACL while tracking a fly ball in the outfield. He would miss the rest of the regular season after getting surgery to repair his knee while also training diligently throughout the offseason. His progress to health has been well documented on social media, leading many to believe that he would be back at full strength for the minimum time of nine months for baseball-related torn ACL injuries. While the possibility isn’t entirely out of the question, there is concern that a re-injury of the knee or his other knee could occur. As a result, there could be some cause for concern on Atlanta’s behalf, not wanting to have their best player go all out so soon and risk another injury.
Luckily for the defending World Series Champions, they have done a great job of preparing themselves with a plethora of outfielders that can hit. Marcell Ozuna is returning to baseball this year after being on administrative leave in 2021 and missing the team’s World Series run. Personal opinions aside, when he is on the field, Ozuna can flat out hit the baseball, as he has hit more than twenty home runs in five of his first seven years. Despite struggling in Spring Training, look for him to right the ship and get back on track to being a productive player.
Eddie Rosario re-signed with Atlanta after a tremendous postseason in which he helped propel them to a World Series title. He came to Atlanta last season after quietly becoming a steady contributor for the Twins, where he hit almost 100 home runs and batted over .280 over four years in Minnesota. His production is under-rated because, before you know it, his totals always look to be quite impressive. As someone who is projected to hit more than 25 home runs again, Rosario seems poised to be arguably the best of the remaining outfielders in Atlanta.
Raise your hand if you had Adam Duvall hitting 35+ home runs in 2021 on your BINGO card last year. Not many people did, as he was the season’s surprise. He struggled to find his stroke after having left Cincinnati, but Duvall looks to have regained his confidence in Atlanta, slugging 54 home runs over the past two seasons. There’s little reason to doubt that the home run barrage can’t continue, but fans should know what they’re getting with Duvall, as he hits for power, not average. That said, he’s talented enough to hold Atlanta over until Acuna Jr. gives them an upgrade, potentially moving Duvall over to DH.
Conclusion: This looks to be a short-term solution, as Acuña Jr. is eligible to return from the Injured List during the last week of April. Whether or not that’s the case is another story, but assuming he does, the three outfielders mentioned above should be able to provide enough substance and productivity for Atlanta until the All-Star is back full-time. We likely see Acuña Jr. return first as a Designated Hitter, giving way to more time for Ozuna, Rosario, and Duvall to play more often. This should result in the current DH, Alex Dickerson, being relegated to a spot on the bench or the short side of a platoon.
As one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy, the Mets and their fans will miss Jacob deGrom; earlier this month, the future Hall of Famer was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his scapula, which resulted in the inflammation that he suffered in his shoulder. The Mets decided to shut him down from throwing for four weeks, eliminating all hope of him pitching in April. The plan would likely lead to a month of rehab after the shutdown, delaying his 2022 debut into late May or early June.
While deGrom is optimistic that he can fully recover on time, a lot has to go right for him and the team for that to happen. First, he will need to come back as strong as ever after the shutdown and feel nothing out of the ordinary. After that, his ramping up through rehab would consist of an escalated process that begins with playing light catch (the very thing that spiked this injury to pop up) into in-game minor league pitching. The entire situation has a lot of potential holes here, meaning that a return by the All-Star Break should be on the table of all possibilities.
This is a massive problem for the Mets, who need one of the game’s elite hurlers in their rotation to help appease their postseason aspirations. And while they do have another one of baseball’s best in Max Scherzer, it should be noted that when deGrom is on the mound, he is significantly better than almost anyone else. He is one of those pitchers who can single-handedly win you a game even when our offense is struggling. There’s no comparison between his stats and the MLB Average pitcher.
Luckily for the Mets, they have options and have been exceptionally proactive in building a rotation to help sustain the blow this offseason. As was seen on Opening Day, Tylor Megill looks primed and ready to take off this year, as evidenced by the uptick in velocity:
While it’s just one game under his belt, this could be the appetizer to the main course of 2022. As Nick said after his outing, Tylor was electric and legit. This could be the beginning of a massive breakout here, giving the Mets everything they would need while deGrom gets healthy. Fans everywhere should be excited for the Marvellous Megill, and he needs to be added to fantasy leagues where possible.
Chris Bassitt came to the Mets this past offseason in a trade with the Athletics and immediately made an impact on his new team. He thrived in Spring Training while working on refining the delivery of his curveball and cutter, both of which he would like to improve upon using this season. After having a personal breakout season last year, he recorded career highs in strikeouts and wins while posting a career-best walk percentage; Bassitt looks poised to build off that success and help keep the Mets in contention all year. His six-inning shutout in his 2022 debut should give fans confidence in him going forward.
The Mets’ rotation is currently rounded out with both Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, with varying levels of success and injury. Carrasco comes into the season feeling about as healthy as possible, which includes a full range of motion in his elbow. He was ahead of schedule with his ramp-up, which was noted with a massive uptick in velocity during Spring Training.
Meanwhile, Walker, who struggled this Spring, looks to return healthy from a knee operation in January and should make his season debut in the first week. After an incredibly shortened season in 2020, Walker regressed last year but remained an excellent fifth option for the Mets this year if he can stay on the field.
Conclusion: The Mets will miss deGrom while he is out, and the potential for this injury to be long-term is legitimate. With contract negotiations looming, both sides of the table understand how important getting back to full health is for the pitcher, looking for a massive payday soon. In the meantime, the team seems more than prepared to move on without him, as their rotation is locked and loaded as they start their quest to win a World Series.
Yoán Moncada was recently diagnosed with a Grade 1 oblique strain that will cause him to miss the start of the season. While missing anytime due to injury is unfortunate, the Grade 1 strain that Moncada has suffered is considered to be of the mild variety, and thus approximately three weeks of missed time is expected.
Still, all oblique injuries are ticky in nature because they can happen so quickly since that part of the body is used so often during swings and throwing. The muscles in the abdomen and rib area can get tender because athletes these days are stronger than ever. As a result, the oblique injury (or re-injury) happens more often.
In the case of Moncada, he looked fine physically, but apparently, every time that he laughed or sneezed, he would be in massive pain. Thus, the idea to shut him down and let him heal was made. It’s an unfortunate beginning to the season for Moncada since he was hoping to elevate his game and get back to his successful ways of 2019, where he seemingly put everything together. He looked to be transforming himself into one of baseball’s elite, as he offered a unique mix of power and speed alongside a high batting average. Alas, his attempt to return to glory will have to wait.
In the meantime, this opens a door for the White Sox that the team may not have wanted to be opened. They don’t necessarily have a replacement on their roster that warrants additional playing time at the hot corner. On Opening Day, Jake Burger started at third base and batted ninth, but he has struggled to regain the power he displayed in college ever since being drafted by the White Sox.
That said, the main reason for this opportunity was because of the two-game suspension of Tim Anderson, which caused Leury García to play shortstop for the team. Despite showing small flashes of ability last season, Garcia is more of a utility bench player who doesn’t have the talent to sustain himself on the field for long periods.
However, a darkhorse option could be Andrew Vaughn, who has been spotted taking grounders at third base during practice. If this is the case, and the White Sox are thinking of utilizing their superstar to make it this way, there is the potential for something more here. After all, this isn’t the first time he’s been considered for the spot, but with his power potential at the plate, there might be enough playing time for him to develop into the player many think he can be finally.
Conclusion: While the likeliest option is a Leury Garcia and Jake Burger platoon at third base, the sexiest option is Andrew Vaughn developing into a complete utility-type player and thriving at the hot corner. Whether or not a team poised to win a World Series lets their budding star try something new like that remains to be seen.
Jack Flaherty has struggled to remain on the field with any consistency after an incredible 2019 season where he set career bests in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and walk rates. Whether due to the team’s Covid issues of 2020, an oblique strain, or an injury to his shoulder, Flaherty has missed a lot of time over the past two seasons and will continue that trend in 2022.
In March, he received a PRP injection to help reduce the inflammation he suffered in his shoulder due to bursitis and was shut down; there isn’t a concrete timetable for him to return. He has since been diagnosed with a SLAP tear, known as a tear of the “Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior.” He will need to begin throwing again first but will also need to meticulously ramp his arm strength back up to where it needs to be, which could mean additional time or possible setbacks. It is a lot to overcome, some of which may require surgery, making it look like Flaherty might be gone for a while.
There are a lot of question marks when looking at the Cardinals’ rotation and arguably not many answers. While Adam Wainwright hoped to quell those concerns with his Opening Day masterpiece, the rest of the rotation is wrought with injury-related distress.
Of the top five players from the Cardinals that were on the roster last year, four lead the team in days on the Injured List with varying ailments. Despite coming back from Tommy John Surgery this year, Dakota Hudson is arguably the best of the bunch. His career numbers suggest a pitcher who can maintain a low ERA and a respectable WHIP, but it’s unclear how well his body will respond after significant surgery.
Jordan Hicks was surprisingly added to the rotation late in Spring Training, but he has never thrown more than 39 pitches in a Major League outing. Since returning from a 2019 Tommy John Surgery, he hasn’t pitched much. He can throw hard, as the former closer turned starter did opt out for health reasons during the Covid season of 2020.
Miles Mikolas had multiple injuries and setbacks himself in 2021 but has always been good at keeping batters off base. He was fine in his season debut, but the outing was a short one. Finally rounding out the rotation is Steven Matz, who the Cardinals signed in the off-season; he has had many elbow and forearm injuries over the years and doesn’t have the cleanest bill of health.
Conclusion: There may be no bigger hit or miss rotation in all of baseball this season. Other than Wainwright, the combination of Flaherty, Hudson, Hicks, Mikolas, and Matz can be effective and efficient on the field but have a significant health hurdle. This could crash down on the Cardinals, resulting in a lost season that was within reach.
The National League Central is winnable due to the lack of quality up and down the board. While the Brewers look to be the best of the bunch, the rest of the division is filled with their questions and concerns. It’s possible to see the Cardinals acquire one or more starters if the injury concerns come to fruition. For now, there are too many questions and not enough clarity to trust anyone not named Adam Wainwright.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)