This volume of The Fantasy Baseball Injury Report highlights injuries ranging from MVP-caliber players to fringy fantasy players, helping you to make tough decisions about keeping players vs. dropping them. In our next volume, we will dive deeper into the keeper league/dynasty implications of injuries that will have an impact on next season and beyond.
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Fantasy Baseball Injury Report at the 1/3 Point of the Season
Stephen Strasburg has been moved to the IL because of carpal tunnel neuritis putting a huge question mark on a timetable for a potential return. The carpal tunnel is a structural channel in the wrist just before the palm and it allows nerves to pass from the upper arm down into the hand. Neuritis refers to the inflammation of the nerves that pass through the channel. This injury can cause various symptoms including, but not limited to, numbness, tingling, burning, weakness, and loss of sensation in the hand. If Strasburg had been experiencing even one of these symptoms, it would explain the less-than-stellar start to his season, but more importantly, it could mean considerable time on the IL. There is no telling what kind of short or long term effects this injury can have on Strasburg, but he stated he was having trouble gripping the ball. The nerves controlling the impulses to grip and release are just not reaching the targeted muscles in the hand normally. Strasburg is undergoing nerve testing on 8/17, as baseball fans wait for a clearer prognosis.
For MadBum, the days of being known as one of the game’s most reliable Aces may be just a fond memory. Bumgarner has been placed on the IL with what has been described as mid-back strain. Bumgarner was quoted, “It would grab me at what seemed like random times to me…then the next one it wouldn’t do it at all.” Bumgarner is a pitcher who relies on a cross-body delivery, inducing a great amount of torque on the mid and lower back as he rotates to release the ball, meaning his back and hips must tolerate the forces of striding towards home plate as well as an additional rotational force compared to most pitchers. Even if Bumgarner returns to the hill immediately after a 10-day stay on the IL, it would be reasonable to assume his velocity and control may continue to suffer as they had to begin the season. His fastball velo is down 3.6 mph compared to 2019, and a barrel rate of 18.6% demonstrates MadBum’s inability to miss bats like he used to, an increase from his career average of 7.5. Until Bumgarner can trust his back not to grab at him, he is a very risky fantasy option in the hot-hitting NL West. An excellent indicator of his return to the Bumgarner we all know and love will be if he can get his K/BB rate closer to his career average of 4.15. It now sits at 1.86.
Ken Giles was sidelined with a forearm strain since late July but has since received clean images in his most recent MRI. He played catch on flat ground this past Friday and should continue to progress without expectations for surgery as long as MRIs continue to come back clean and he doesn’t have any negative symptoms to report. There is no timeline for return, and if you’ve run out of IL spots to use in your re-draft league, no one could blame you from cutting bait on Giles. He’s an excellent relief pitcher with little left to prove as far as talent goes. Despite this, without a timetable for return, we can’t assume he’s going to go from playing catch to dominating MLB hitters within a couple of weeks, and we don’t have much more than that left in our truncated season.
The most notable aspect of Justin Verlander’s forearm strain injury is how much he wants to come back and play. There are many things that could’ve made Verlander want to stay home this year and rehab for 2021, including Covid-19 concerns, the amount of hate the Houston Astros are attracting from their notorious cheating scandal, his aging body that would benefit from a year’s rehab, oh- and his supermodel wife. Despite all of this, he is working ‘exceptionally hard’ to return to play this season, per ‘Stros Manager, Dusty Baker. I don’t know if he’s courageous or crazy, but I respect it.
Forearm strains are nothing to scoff at, as they are caused by overexerting musculature that attaches to the medial epicondyle of the elbow. This site is also where the ulnar collateral ligament (the ligament Tommy John surgery would repair) attaches to. Sharing this small site of attachment, an inflamed flexor muscle or flexor tendon could theoretically affect the function of the UCL if left untreated. Verlander will most certainly take all precautions necessary to avoid any damage to his UCL, and the Astros will not throw him back out on the field until he is 100% healthy. They still have him on contract for next season and would like to protect their $66 million investment. The Astros hope Verlander will begin throwing again in just a few days. These initial attempts at flat ground and bullpen work will give us a better idea of the likelihood Verlander returns to the bump this year.
Tommy John Surgery still appears imminent for Roberto Osuna. His elbow inflammation appears to have affected the Ulnar Collateral Ligament, requiring surgical intervention. After being placed on the 45 day IL, it seems even more likely Osuna will undergo the season ending operation, putting the entirety on 2021 in jeopardy as well.
Kirby Yates was initially limited in activity earlier this week related to elbow inflammation. It was revealed through further testing that the inflammation was caused by bone chips that are located on the lateral side of Yates’s throwing elbow. Depending on the placement of the chips and the symptoms presented with certain movements, surgical removal is a strong possibility. In the past, some pitchers have finished seasons with bone chips still in the elbow and had them surgically removed in the offseason. Yates is scheduled to see a specialist in Texas on Monday to further evaluate the possibility of returning to the mound this season. Fingers are crossed for Yates as he is one of the center-pieces of a talented and emerging San Diego squad.
Rich Hill is hoping to return from the IL and make a start sometime this week. This would most likely take place Wednesday or Thursday according to most reports. He was on the IL due to shoulder fatigue. Hopefully, this will be the last we hear of Hill on The IL Report, but I wouldn’t bet on it based on his track record.
Charlie Morton is currently on the 10-day IL for shoulder inflammation. He is hoping to return this upcoming weekend after his most recent 20-pitch bullpen went well. The soreness may be an explanation for his drop in velo to start the year in 2020. We will look for Morton’s mph numbers in his first start back to see if there may be any ongoing concern
Jose Quintana wins the award for most creative injury on the list, as he continues to recover from a lacerated left thumb. Jose accidentally sliced his thumb while he was trying to be a good husband, and do the dishes. Since then, Quintana has had 5 stitches and about a month and a half to heal and build up stamina. Quintana had no issues in a 3 inning sim game on 8/11 , and saw the same positive results in a 4 inning sim game on Sunday, 8/16.
AJ Puk threw a 20-pitch bullpen on Saturday, August 15 while recovering from a shoulder strain. As vague as the injury description may be, he seems to be progressing well and is scheduled for a 30-pitch session on the 17th. It is uncertain if Puk is unleashing his full pitch-mix in these sessions. The A’s will likely look to bring back Puk later this year in a bullpen role, if at all. Other than in dynasty formats, it’s time to look elsewhere for production if you haven’t already.
Mitch Keller has been one of the game’s most exciting young arms since he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. On August 1, Keller was on the mound against Willson Contreras in the 3rd when he took an abnormally short stride towards home plate and spiked a 76 mph curveball into the ground. Keller was reported to have sustained a left oblique strain and has not yet resumed throwing. This muscle group is located on the lateral portion of the abdomen, connecting the lower 4 ribs diagonally to the upper portion of the pelvis. Based on the timing of Keller’s injury it appears as the internal oblique is the muscle sustaining the strain, although it has not been reported whether or not the internal or external oblique is the culprit. In this situation, the internal oblique is stretched as the upper body leans back and it then contracts with great force when the pitcher strides forward and opens up his chest towards home plate.
That being said, Keller may have an easier time rehabbing from this injury than some other pitcher types; he has a very smooth and easy release and creates a flowing delivery towards home plate. The oblique strain is certainly never good news for a pitcher, but because he does not rely on additional torque being created from trunk rotation, Keller may be able to return to 100% quicker than other pitchers with a more rotational approach. The hope is for Keller to return early to mid-September.
Joe Musgrove was expected to play catch this past weekend after nursing triceps inflammation while on the 10 day IL. Triceps inflammation is most commonly felt on the posterior side of the elbow, and can effect a pitcher’s explosiveness upon releasing the ball. The triceps muscles abruptly contracts as a pitcher extends/straightens his elbow. There is no set timetable for his return, but we should know much more after reports come out regarding the success of the weekend session.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX SHOULDERS
The Chicago White Sox have seen a surprising slew of shoulder injuries, headlined by Carlos Rodon, Nick Madrigal and Reynaldo Lopez.
Carlos Rodon was pulled from his start against the Brewers on August 3rd due to left shoulder soreness, and continues to throw in flat ground only situations. Rodon has had his share of injuries in the past, including a lingering bursitis issue in 2018 that lead to arthroscopic surgery, sidelining him for about 6-8 months after. It is concerning that Rodon remains on flat ground only, and the situation will need to be further monitored as he returns to mound work. He is only worth holding on to in very deep leagues with IL slots available on your roster.
Madrigal sustained a separated left shoulder when sliding into third 5 games into his shiny young career. He has returned to some on-field drills and playing catch, and expects to return to full speed sometime before the end of the month. It will be interesting to see if Madrigal has any hesitation in his swing’s follow-through, or if he avoids any headfirst slides for the weeks following his return.
Reynaldo Lopez threw a 2-inning bullpen on Friday and seemingly had no setbacks per reports. The White Sox are hoping that he is over his shoulder soreness and that he can return to the rotation in the next few weeks.
Undoubtedly the most talented player on the IL this week is Ronald Acuna Jr, who is experiencing wrist inflammation. The Braves hoped their brightest star would be ready to go after a few days’ rest, but he hit the IL with hopes to return next weekend. Acuna’s left wrist will take the brunt of the torque from his powerful right-handed swing. Inflammation in the wrist can be very problematic to any hitter, and can certainly hinder the ability to barrel up a baseball. When Acuna does return – hopefully ASAP – we will look for how he handles inside heat. If he is able to turn and burn and make good contact on inside pitches, it is an excellent indicator he is back in full!
If Acuna begins to merely foul these pitches off or get jammed more than usual, we have to assume there are some lingering issues in strength, or in trust of that left wrist. In terms of steals, don’t be surprised if Acuna refrains from stolen base attempts the few weeks he returns to play; a headfirst slide into second or third means the left hand will be the first thing to make contact with the bag, and the Braves cannot risk their superstar prolonging this injury.
Ozzie Albies had sustained a bruised right wrist and was placed on the IL back on 8/5. The ongoing hope is that the injury will heal without any additional interventions needed. This time off may be a great way for Albies to bust out of the 2-for-21 slump he was enduring, as he is far too talented of a young player to be in the bottom 35 percentile in Exit Velo, Hard Hit %, xwOBA, xBA, XSLG, K% and Whiff% per Baseball Savant. Albies is a good option for a buy-low candidate if you are dealing with someone who believes his early-season slump is indicative of a declining skill set.
Dynasty owners will probably not be willing to sell low, but if you can snag Albies in a re-draft league, this bruised wrist should be just a minor speed bump in this young stud’s career. Additional note – It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Albies taking less aggressive leads off of first base, as the headfirst slide back to the bag would require the right hand making contact with the bag first,
Benintendi landed on the IL after landing on his ribs during an attempt to run from first to third on a single in Tuesday night’s loss to the Rays. Sadly, it’s hard not to notice how this injury is fairly analogous to the season Benny and the Sox are having. Benintendi’s swing can be a thing of beauty when it is right, maybe having a rib cage injury will remind the (still) young slugger that he can get all the contact and power he needs from quick hands and doesn’t need to swing out of his shoes at every pitch that looks remotely hittable. He will look to bounce back from career highs in weak contact (13%) and batted balls that are ‘topped’ (39.1%) when he makes it back onto the field. When that may be is still up in the air, as reports to this point suggest he will remain on the IL after the minimum 10 days are up.
Roberto ‘Bebo’ Perez of Cleveland is expected to return Tuesday, August 18th according to Terry Francona, per MLB’s Mandy Bell. He has been nursing a shoulder injury that came after making an off-balance throw in the season opener in which he landed awkwardly on his throwing shoulder. Perez is a solid middle-tier option in the offensive-driven fantasy world, but his true value is as a gold glove winning backstop, with some of the best framing skills in the world. The true impact of his return may be realized in the numbers of Perez’s pitching staff, who benefit from his game-calling, veteran presence and ability to get called strikes… so yes, it’s possible Cleveland pitchers becomes even more of a headache for opposing offenses.
CJ Cron will undergo season-ending left knee surgery to repair an unspecified ligament that was severely damaged on a 94 mph scorcher off of the bat of Danny Mendick on August 10. The play actually resulted in an acrobatic effort by pitcher, Daniel Norris, scooping up the ball and diving to tag out Mendick. The initial hope was to utilize a combination of taping and bracing to help Cron push through the year, but the slugger will head to free agency next year coming off a reconstructive surgery to his L knee. It’s a tough pill to swallow for those hoping to see Cron fill out his stat line in an everyday role in the middle of a lineup for the first time in his career. Cron hit a combined 55 home runs in the past two seasons and had four this season prior to the injury. Hopefully, the big guy can get back to a full-time role for many years to come.
New Royal, Franchy Cordero has been placed on the 45-Day IL following hamate bone repair surgery. Matt Olson is the most recent power bat to have the surgery done, and his power numbers have remained elite. There is a chance Cordero sees some time in the final weeks of this shortened season if all goes well with recovery, but the expectation for return this year remains minimal as the Royals are not projected to make it to the postseason, although it is 2020 so who knows.
Reports surfaced Monday the Tommy Pham also sustained a broken hamate bone after fouling a pitch back off of Archie Bradley on Sunday. He had a very concerned look on his face instantly and knew something was wrong. Pham will likely need surgery to repair the damage, which means he’ll be out of action 4-6 weeks at least. This may set up a return for Pham in the postseason is the Padres can stay hot, but 2020 regular season is likely over.
Josh Donaldson headed into 2020 looking to live up to the 4-year, $92 million contract the Twins gave him to ‘bring the rain’. Alas, he ended up bringing the pain, as he has sadly continues to re-visit his storied history of calf injuries that plagued his ’17 and ’18 campaigns. The initial injury was addressed on 7/31 when Donaldson left the field with right calf tightness, and he has been out since. Donaldson boasts an aggressive swing with significant torque coming from his lower body, oftentimes driving his right knee within inches of the ground as he makes contact. In this position, the right calf muscle fires violently to drive his toes firmly into the ground and support forward momentum and provide leverage to power the bat forward and redirect the incoming ball. Recovery could take weeks longer than it would for a player whose swing isn’t so lower-body dependent and whose calves haven’t seen as many strains in the past.
The Twins should be confident they will make the expanded postseason; it would not be at all surprising if the twins rested Donaldson longer than necessary to ensure his presence on the postseason roster. Donaldson isn’t globally droppable, but don’t expect much more than 30 games played for Donaldson, as he is likely to get frequent rest days once he is back.
Mike Moustakas hit the IL with a left quad bruise that appears to be fairly minor, and he remains optimistic about returning to the field soon. He began on-field drills Thursday and should resume play sometime this week barring any setbacks.
Initial reports suggest Giancarlo Stanton could miss up to 1 month with a Grade 1 Hamstring Strain. This grade confirms that approximately 5% or less of the muscle fibers that make up the hamstring experienced a structural loss in strength or range of motion. This sounds pretty tolerable at first, but we also must remember 5% of Giancarlo’s horse-like hamstring muscle is probably massively larger than yours or mine (unless Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill or the Rock is reading this). Stanton uses his powerful left hamstring to maintain a straight front leg as he brings the bat through the zone. Having any hesitance in this muscle group can create a lack of stability in the front half of the body, and can certainly be a drain on power.
We will need to take a look at Stanton’s stance and swing when he returns to the field to see if he is standing taller and taking shorter strides to decrease strain on the hamstring. Grade I strains usually take around 3-4 weeks to heal, but given the Yankees’ likelihood of punching a postseason ticket and the plethora of outfield/ DH depth, don’t be shocked if they use an extra week to work Stanton back in the lineup.
Yordan Alvarez had entered the 2020 season in style with a home run in his first game back from battling Covid-19 but has already been giving a day off to rest due to knee soreness. This is surely disheartening news for both the Astros and Alvarez in regards to long term durability. He had experienced similarly mysterious knee soreness last year, which limited his availability as a defender in the Houston outfield. The next few games should give us a good idea if the move to rest Alvarez 3 games into his 2020 season was something to be seriously concerned about, or not.
Michael Brantley has hit the IL related to ongoing quad soreness since 7/29 that was exacerbated in his return to the outfield upon Alvarez’s return to the DH slot. Brantley does not currently display the ability to sprint at full speed and the Astros are choosing to play it safe with him. This soreness shouldn’t have much of an effect on his offensive production once Brantley comes back as he does not normally rely on speed to boost his value. Houston is likely attempting to give Brantley ample time to rest and recover so he may be ready to man the outfield when he returns from the IL, allowing Alvarez to remain at DH.
Aaron Judge begged to stay off of the IL, but Yankee staff placed him on the 10-day due to a mild right calf strain, seemingly a much milder version of Josh Donaldson’s injury. Judge also said he feels 100%, which is strange for someone to say having just begun their stint on the IL; nevertheless, this is great news for Judge and the Yanks and hopefully, he remains 100% to return in the minimum allotted time.
Yanks steadfast second baseman DJ Lamahieu has been placed on the 10-day IL following a swing and miss, which resulted in a left thumb sprain. MRI and CT scans were taken to further assess the damage, and a second opinion will be sought on Monday, 8/17 for further evaluation and hopefully, some sort of prognosis. Depending on the nature of the sprain, and to which ligament, Lamahieu could be looking at a lengthy absence from the field that could approach the end of the regular season, or into the playoffs. Miguel Andujar has been recalled from the team’s alternate site in the meantime to provide more infield depth.
Austin Hays was drilled by a 96 mph heater in the ribs on his left side. This resulted in a non-displaced fracture, meaning the bone portion of his rib has been cracked to an extent, but not dislodged out of place. There is no helpful way to brace or splint the injury, but you better believe he will be heavily padded upon returning to the batter’s box. Hays will have to wait this on out on the IL until scans can demonstrate the bone is strong enough to handle the rapid trunk rotation involved in hitting and throwing. The training staff optimistically expects Hays back after the minimal 10-day window.
Statistics via Baseball Savant and Media via Getty Images
Coming Soon: A deeper dive into long term injuries that can have impact on the 2021 season and beyond, including Mike Soroka’s achilles tendon rupture, Corey Kluber’s teres major strain Chris Sale’s Tommy John surgery.
Also check out Fantrax’s Chris Clegg in his Statcast Trends: Week 3 article, highlighting possible breakout stud, Ian Happ and others, found in the link below…
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