The prolonged delay to the 2020 MLB campaign is set to extend at least into June, and most likely July. It’s given lots of players with injury concerns heading into draft season this year some extra time for recovery and even more preventative measures/surgeries that might have knocked their stock down a bit. When things do pick up again, most every player will be ready to go and will be on a pretty even playing field going into the season injury free.
There are a couple of updates to share on guys who are on longer recovery paths as well as some things to keep in mind when looking forward to this season.
Aaron Judge – The exception to the rule stated above, Judge is seemingly one of the only guys who can’t seem to make progress on the injury front. Judge has been plagued with a broken rib since late last season and has undertaken extensive rest and therapy to try to avoid surgery to fix the issue. Brian Cashman came out this week and said Judge would need multiple CT scans before being fully cleared for the season. This is something Cashman anticipates to be completed by “mid summer”. This continues to be the biggest and most puzzling injury situation to keep track of.
James Paxton – Paxton, who’s dealing with back issues, is currently in the midst of a throwing program and expects to be cleared by mid May according to Cashman and Aaron Boone. The times of being able to get Big Maple at a discount are long gone at this point. If you haven’t drafted yet, he’ll be going at his pre-injury price before the season begins.
Griffin Canning – Canning is set to begin a throwing program and bullpens as he looks to recover from his elbow injury. He experienced discomfort early in spring training and was immediately shut down. Canning avoided surgery, and what once seemed like it could be a lost season is starting to show some home. I’d certainly be on the lookout for a setback here as this rehab ramps up, but it’s a positive sign that he’ll be able to get some work in moving forward.
Shohei Ohtani – Ohtani is also ramping up his throwing program in his own elbow recovery. It looks like Ohtani will be a go to pitch and hit at the beginning of the season, assuming a July start. This complicates things for Ohtani owners with weekly lineups as I don’t see him hitting more than 2-3 times a week while he’s also pitching. I still prefer to only own Ohtani in daily move/lineup formats where he has dual eligibility, which limits his upside some.
Corey Knebel – Everyone’s favorite saves sleeper is recovering from an elbow injury as well and still has a ways to go according to statements made last week to local Milwaukee reporters. He’s currently limited to throwing bullpen sessions and has yet to get any more extended action. I don’t think the Brewers are going to be so quick to pull the plug on the Hader experiment at closer as others are. That, plus the injury situation here take him off the board for me.
Several guys have been given the proverbial “all clear” or at least “will be all clear once we start up again”. This list includes: Michael Conforto, Stephen Piscotty, Alex Verdugo, Miles Mikolas, and Willie Calhoun. Justin Verlander’s rehab is also progressing rapidly and he should be good to go assuming a July start as well.
Another factor to consider with all of this going on is players with pre-existing medical conditions that may make them more susceptible to the effects of Covid-19, or at least make them more risk averse to the new playing conditions. The San Francisco Chronicle published a list of these players earlier this month. The most interesting names mentioned were David Dahl (spleen removal), Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Carlos Carrasco (previous treatment for cancer), Kyle Gibson (colitis), and Kenley Jansen (heart condition).
We don’t know enough yet about the details of the health precautions that MLB is going to take for me to comment on any of this further, but I really don’t see a scenario where if positive tests start popping up during the season, that the whole thing doesn’t just get scrapped mid go. I’m not adjusting how I see any of these players with pre-existing conditions, but it’s unfortunately something that at least needs thinking about at this point.