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We’re under a month away until pitchers and catchers report to two of the worst states in the Union. This is a good time to check-in with some of those idiots who ruined your fantasy season last year. Each week I’m going to be taking a look at any player who is listed as injured or is about to come back from injury or who is just an injury waiting to happen–looking at you Mike Stanton–I’ll call you Giancarlo when you start acting like Giancarlo. This first article might be a little long, but hopefully I won’t have to cover 14 injuries in a single week during the regular season.

Hitters:

Michael Brantley, CLE, Right shoulder inflammation, surgery, soreness since 9/22/2015

Diagnosis: Depending who you listen to, Michael Brantley either laid his shoulder on a landmine and is done for his career or he’s progressing nicely from his shoulder injury. Baseball writer Jonah Keri called in to a Toronto 1050 radio show on December 23rd and said, “I actually have some worries that he might ever be okay. This is a horrific, horrifically bad injury.” Contrast that uplifting story with Indians reporter Jordan Bastian tweeting out on January 3rd, “Michael Brantley began some non-contact swinging over the holiday break while back home.” So which is it? Is Brantley’s arm hanging on by skin and sinew or is he enjoying some hot cocoa in his backyard while swinging around his brand new Louisville Slugger that Santa brought him for Christmas?

Treatment: This is a hard one to predict. The only thing to really do is to track his participation at Spring Training. If reports are rolling in that he isn’t participating in drills and is getting extra days off, things might be more serious than the Indians are leading on. He has missed plenty of time already so hopefully that has given his shoulder enough time to recover. I expect him to be limited in Spring Training, but only missing the first week or two of games.

Billy Hamilton, CIN, Strained left oblique, September 5, 2016

Diagnosis: Oblique muscles are located on either side of your abdominal muscles and are extremely important in baseball while swinging at the plate or turning your body to attempt a stolen base, according to science. One of those tasks Hamilton does extremely well, the other task…Hamilton actually did surprisingly well last year. Sure, a .260 average is just that–average–but compared to Hamilton’s .226 in 2015, .260 is damn near Ichiro-ian for him. Especially when you pair that with Hamilton’s 59 stolen bases.

Treatment: Oblique injuries do worry me–especially for a twitchy fast type of player like Hamilton whose value depends on his stolen base on on-base ability. And the fact that oblique injuries tend to linger for players due to the muscle’s everyday life use should also worry you. However, reports are that Hamilton is fully recovered and working out without restrictions. Another good sign for Hamilton is the Reds rumored interest in trading the lightning-quick center fielder. Hitting in front of a better line-up would mean a huge boost to Hamilton’s run total. If you’ve gone through the first 5 rounds of your draft with only 10 stolen bases projected for your team, what’s wrong with you? Hamilton could be the panacea your team needs.

Brett Lawrie, CHW, Hamstring strain and fluid in knee: June 27, 2016

Diagnosis: Is it water on the knee? It’s a whole bucket, see?! OPERATION! Lawrie went down with a hamstring injury in late July that lingered in the minors for the rest of the year. As a minor leaguer, Lawrie flashed 5-tool potential, but due to injuries and overall underwhelming performance he hasn’t lived up to that potential. Hopefully the White Sox acquisition of Cuban uber-prospect Yoan Moncada will light a fire under Lawrie’s over-muscled, over-tatooed ass. Sorry for the visuals.

Treatment: Watching Lawrie play you can see he is a fiery competitor. I’m thinking with Moncada nipping at his heels, Lawrie will have a breakout season in 2017. Your league mates have probably written him off, but spending a late, late, late round pick on Lawrie as your middle infielder could pay off.

Mike Moustakas, KC, Right knee ACL tear, May 26, 2016.

Diagnosis: At the end of the 2016 season Mike Moustakas had everything going for him: he had bounced back from that embarrassing .212 average in 2014, he made the all-star team, his Royals had just won the World Series, he had accomplished all this while having the last name Moustakas. Then, in only the second month of the season, Moustakas was done for the year and he took Alex Gordon down with him.

Treatment: With 10 months of recovery, Moustakas should be fine. He’s a solid tier 3 third basemen you could end up with in the later rounds after your friends draft Machado, Donaldson, Arenado, Bryant in the first round and make the playoffs.

David Peralta, ARI, Right wrist surgery on 8/10/2016

Diagnosis: What a mess. After a promising 2015 season, everyone was expecting  another step forward for Peralta in 2016. What no one expected was that the step would be right into the direction of oncoming traffic on Arizona Interstate Route 10. Peralta bought a timeshare on the disabled list last year: May 9th – right wrist inflammation, returned on June 6th and played 8 games until June 20th when he was back on the DL again with a lower back sprain. He came back on June 29th, played 7 games until August 11th–ran into the outfield wall, had right wrist surgery, done for the year.

Treatment: Ted Williams used to say that wrist strength and hand-eye coordination were the two most important keys to consistent contact so you can see why Peralta’s surgery is so concerning. But with around 8 months of recovery time between his surgery date and Opening Day, I think Peralta will be fine. As your 3rd outfielder? Maybe not. But as a 5th OF and maybe 4th? Grey can tell you more.

Wilson Ramos, TB, Torn ACL and meniscus in right knee on 9/26/2016

Diagnosis: This is the worst news regarding Ramos since–well, you know. He was one of the best breakout stories of 2016 after years of experts telling us that this was his year. In 2016, he set career highs across the board: hits, runs, HRs, RBI, OBP, SLG, games played, at-bats, assists, rebounds, penalty minutes, rushing TDs–literally everything. This off-season, Ramos has been playing the role of his own PR-rep telling anyone who will listen that he is progressing nicely and that he’ll be ready to DH by early-May and slowly ease back into catching for his new team, the Rays.

Treatment: He tore his ACL and meniscus on September 26th, didn’t have surgery until October 14th and expects to be back in early May? I think he’ll be in a AA Montgomery Biscuit’s uniform playing rehab games in early May with the hopes of returning by June 1st. Draft Ramos and another catcher late who won’t hurt you (think: Yadier Molina or Francisco Cervelli) and just stash Ramos on your DL-spot until he’s back.

Trevor Story, COL, Torn UCL ligament in right thumb, August 2, 2016

Diagnosis: The 22-year old rookie exploded for 27 HRs and 22 doubles in 2016 leading all of Colorado to ask “Tulo-whoski?” Story was challenging the Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager for National League Rookie of the Year honors before the injury. Shortstop is seeing such an impressive renaissance of young talent with guys like Story, Seager, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell all being major contributors to their team right from the get-go. The talent of this group could surpass the 90’s shortstop revolution lead by A-Rod, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter.

Treatment: In early October, Story told the Denver Post that he was hoping to pick up a bat in early-to-mid November. Since then we ain’t heard jack. According to my expert Google skills, it seems like a typical recovery time frame for torn UCL surgery is around 3 months. That gives Story five extra months of recovery time between his surgery and opening day. If things look good during Spring Training, confidently draft Story as your starting shortstop in round 2 or 3 of your draft, especially since he had 27 HRs in 372 at-bats. Even if that number seems unsustainable, he’s playing in Coors Field where even Ben Revere could muscle 10 out.

 

Pitchers:

Carlos Carrasco, CLE, Broken bone in throwing hand, September 17, 2016

Diagnosis: That dastardly Ian Kinsler and his line drives. On the second pitch of the Tigers/Indians game on September 17th, Kinsler hit a ball right back at Carrasco, breaking a bone in Carrasco’s hand–ending his season. A huge loss for the Indians and Carrasco as he was one of Cleveland’s best starting pitchers at the time. Who knows how the World Series would have ended up if the Indians had a healthy Carrasco starting two games for them.

Treatment: As of late December, Carrasco is claiming to be 100%. Draft him with gusto as your #1 or #2 starter in the 5th or 6th round.

Matt Harvey, NYM, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Surgery, July 6, 2016

Diagnosis: Current New York Met and future New York Yankee Matt Harvey was just a turd out there on the mound in 2016. Thoracic Outlet Snydrome is a compression of the nerves, arteries or veins that lead from the neck to the arm. Harvey was complaining of not having feeling in his finger tips earlier in the season. Unfortunately for Harvey, the mucky mucks at MLB still haven’t reinstated the spitball so Harvey had no choice but to get the season ending surgery.

Treatment: Scott Boras claims his client will be 100% for Spring Training. I hope for Harvey’s sake he’s right because say what you will about ‘contract years,’ but this is Harvey’s first chance at a big pay day. I think Harvey will have some rust in Spring Training that the New York media will completely overreact to, but by May 1st I think he’ll be back to his old self, just in time for some team to start thinking about overpaying for him.  

Lance McCullers, HOU, Throwing elbow soreness, August 3, 2016.

Diagnosis: McCullers didn’t make his 2016 debut until May 13th due to a DL stint and made his last start on August 2nd. An awful, disabled list sh*t sandwich for fantasy owners. However, in both his 22 2015 starts and his 14 2016 starts he had a matching 3.22 ERA which is why people were salivating over McCullers heading into the 2016 season. He also has an amazing 10.2 K/9 over his 36 career big league starts.

Treatment: Throwing elbow soreness is usually just chapter 1 in the Tommy John surgery novel so there is reason for concern. When a pitcher is putting the type of stress on his elbow that McCullers is, it is only just a matter of time until that surgery becomes inevitable. McCullers as too much risk for me to want to trust a mid-round draft pick on him. But if you are willing to take that chance–you should also keep in mind that in his 14 starts last year, McCullers had 5.00 BB/9 and this has always been a problem for him. And of course, McCullers’s agent Scott Boras has come out and said that he expects McCullers to be 100% for Spring Training because: money reasons.

Aaron Nola, PHI, Throwing elbow sprain, August 3, 2016.

Diagnosis: Where there’s smoke there’s fire…and there is a lot of smoke coming out of Nola’s right elbow. After posting a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts of 2016, Nola posted a 9.82 ERA in his final 8 starts of 2016.

Treatment: I’m thinking Nola will be done for the year by May 15th. Take the risk if you want and listen to another agent claim that his client is 100%, but why take the risk on someone with a throwing elbow sprain? The damage is there and he’s about to start doing the same action that caused the damage in less than a month. File this recipe under ‘D’–for disaster.

Garrett Richards, LAA, Torn throwing elbow ligament, May 6, 2016.

Diagnosis: Richards made 6 great starts at the beginning of the 2016 season before being shut down due to a tear in his UCL. Instead of giving in to Tommy John surgery peer pressure, Richards opted for stem-cell injections, ancient Chinese healing herbs and alien laser probes to cure his torn ligament.

Treament: Angels manager Mike-Scioscia has already come out and said that Richards will be on an inning limit so think about that as you’re preparing for your draft. If they end his season at the end of August–Richards will be of no use to you in your fantasy playoffs. Or–since he tore a ligament and didn’t get it surgically repaired–he might combine with Nola to buy James Andrews his 24th beach house.

Tyson Ross, TEX, Thoracic Outlet Surgery, October 13, 2016

Diagnosis: Tommy John Surgery is so 2005. Anybody who’s anybody is getting the new hot surgery; Thoracic Outlet Surgery. Ross made 1 crappy opening day start for the Padres and then his body thought he deserved a nice six month vacation. After being linked to a half-dozen or so teams this offseason, Ross finally settled for the Texas Rangers for $6 million. Not a bad payday for that vacation.

Treatment: When healthy, Ross is a great pitcher. In 64 starts over his previous 2 seasons, Ross has a 3.03 ERA with a 9.4 K/9. There isn’t a long history of how top pitchers return after TOS so Ross and Harvey could be a good example of what to expect. I would draft Ross as an SP4 around the 10th round and hope he ends up back in SP2 territory instead of SP-done territory.

Matt Shoemaker, LAA, effing SKULL FRACTURE, September 5, 2016

Diagnosis: After being hit by a 105-mph comebacker off the bat off Kyle Seager, Matt Shoemaker should be on the 60-year DL due to: loss of life. Shoemaker was having an extremely streaky season in the time he refers to as BKS (Before Kyle Seager.)

  • April 8 – May 16: 7 starts, 8.49 ERA, 22 K
  • May 21 – June 27: 8 starts, 1.87 ERA, 68 K
  • Jul 3 – Aug 13: 8 starts, 4.38 ERA, 36 K
  • Aug 18 – Aug 29: 3 starts, 1.80 ERA, 15 K

Treatment: First off, Shoemaker has been working out and has been cleared to pitch so that’s great news. But who is the real Matt Shoemaker you’ll be drafting? Based on his minor league numbers and career MLB trends I think the July 3rd to August 13th version of Shoemaker is closer to the real version than the other three. If he can harness the best version of himself I think he can manage a 3.85 ERA with an 8.5 K/9. That’s a perfectly ownable SP4 on your fantasy roster. Just don’t let him pitch against Kyle Seager.

 

 
  1. Copperhead Road says:
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    Thanks for the reminder of who to avoid! But I do think Harvey can be had a lower price and probably worth the gamble. Not so sure about Brantley since there so many outfielders. Sorry, but I’m done with Lawrie unless hes around, as you say, at the end for next to nothing.
    Like the comment on Moose. Gotta have a top 10 3B to compete.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry says:
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      @Copperhead Road: I hear you on Harvey. When healthy he has SP1 upside.
      Yea–your OF should be set with 2 reliable guys before you start flirting with Brantley over an upside guy.
      I ended up with Justin Turner Overdrive in the 14th round as my third basemen, dropped him at the end of May when he was struggling, added Brandon Drury as his replacement, then dropped him when he struggled and Turner was owned by someone else, cried, went through a period of time where I convinced myself that Mark Reynolds was a viable third base option, finished in 6th.

  2. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Lots of good info Kerry, thanks.

    Looking forward to following your column this year, albeit with NONE of my players on it..
    I have three bats and Harvey on it now..

    Cheers,

    MP

  3. Mobin Can't Hack It says:
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    this article type is a great idea, and that surgery above still sounds like it’s by and for insects.

  4. Packers says:
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    This will be a blog I follow during the year. It’s so important to have guys playing and getting at bats in my weekly lineup leagues. I tend to stay away from known injury guys while drafting. There will be healthy guys getting hurt during the year that we need to work around. In 12 team leagues I feel 1b, 3b and getting two of the best outfielders in a 5 outfielder format will be my focus right now.
    Thanks for doing these blogs.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry says:
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      @Packers: Thanks for reading! During the season I’ll even provide best available replacements.

  5. Bill says:
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    Gerrit Cole?

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry says:
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      @Bill: Can’t believe I forgot about Cole! I drafted him, Strasburg, Tyson Ross and Michael Wacha last year.

      Gerrit Cole, PIT, posterior inflammation in his right elbow August 25, 2016 and September 13, 2016
      Diagnosis: I’m highlighting the two DL stints that ended Cole’s season—but he also went on the 15-day DL in mid-June with a right triceps muscle strain. His first start back from that stint wasn’t pretty (4 IP/4 ER) but his next 3 were typical Cole (20 IP/3 ER/17 K.) From there—it was all downhill. Based on the results and the DL stint that followed at the end of August—I think it is safe to say assume Cole was pitching through injury or his mechanics were messed up due to overcompensating for the injury (21.2 IP/ 7.06 ERA.)
      Treatment: All reports out of Cole World are that he is going to be ready for Spring Training. It is a bit concerning that all three of his DL-stints last year were due to injuries in the throwing elbow area. Watch a few of his appearances in Spring Training to see where his fastball velocity is. For his career he hovers around the 95 MPH mark sometimes touching the upper 90’s. After his 1st or 2nd multi-inning game in Spring Training watch that velocity reading in his final innings.

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