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MLB Spring Training Injuries: Bregman, Kelenic, and More

Nic Civale is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and former NCAA Division I Baseball player. He combines his knowledge of anatomy and physiology with that of baseball mechanics to provide expectations for players who will be rehabbing this offseason. Utilize The Spring Training Injury Report to start your planning for 2021 drafts and keeper decisions.

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MLB Spring Training Injury Analysis

Spring Training is upon us and the country watches as the current and future stars of Major League Baseball bask in the warm Arizona and Florida air. It’s an optimistic time of year where fan bases and front offices are hopeful for success. Legendary players like Nelson Cruz, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols look to take on Father Time while young studs like Andrew Vaughn and Dylan Carlson are primed to take the next step in their development. One thing that is as certain as Father Time, however, is the injury bug. With all the optimism going around, I’m unfortunately obligated to update you on the injury statuses of some high-profile players around the league.

Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros

Alex Bregman has been a prolific talent since college when he roamed the infield at LSU. A highly touted prospect and top fantasy asset, the Astros 3B is often near the top of draft boards. Since 2016 though, Bregman has had his share of hamstring injuries and he’s back on the mend in 2021. In total, this will be his fourth hamstring injury since becoming a professional, having already missed a total of 30 games.

Currently dealing with a left hamstring strain, Bregman has not yet played this spring. He’s commented that his hamstring feels about 90% healed, and he is optimistic about his return by Opening Day. Although this prognosis is not only reasonable but likely, the reoccurrence of muscle strains and tears is fairly worrisome for Bregman’s fantasy value. The Astros have very limited room at the DH role with Yordan Alvarez occupying it full-time. Even if Alvarez gets a day off, it’s likely that veteran, Michael Brantley would take over the role. Bregman will be expected to man the hot corner on a daily basis.

If the Astros decided to give Bregman additional days off during the season, it would not be all the surprising. He averaged 156 games played from 2017-2019 and was a pillar of consistency. There are, however, only so many times you can sustain the same injury before the body needs a break from playing 150+ games per year. Muscle tear and strain can cause long-term scar tissue build-up, increasing the risk for re-injury. Some of the most prevalent risk factors of hamstring injury is previous injury and participation in high-level sporting activities.

Bregman is still young, turning 27 in a few weeks. He still has time to grow as a player, but there are some aspects of his game that may be changing. Reaching double-digit steals may no longer be a part of his game. Legging out triples may be something he needs to think twice about as he’s heading to second base. Bregman does, on the other hand, have impeccable plate discipline, and no injury should change that. He remains in a star-studded lineup and should continue to produce when he’s on the field.

All things considered, we should be going into this season tempering expectations for the former No. 2 overall pick. He is currently being drafted toward the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th round in 12-team leagues, so this discount is partially being baked into the ADP. It is nearly impossible to confidently predict games-played in this case, but I wouldn’t count on much more than 145. Luckily for the Astros and Bregman, the only cold-weather destination they play for the first month of the season is a three-game weekend in Seattle. The warm weather should be good for muscle healing and elasticity, and will hopefully keep him on the field.

Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners

Jarred Kelenic has sustained a left adductor strain while trying to beat out a ground ball on March 6. One of the most exciting prospects in baseball will be on the sidelines for a few weeks at least. Unfortunately, this is the “perfect” opportunity for Seattle’s front office to keep Kelenic in the minors long enough to delay his service time. Even if Kelenic is ready to play by Opening Day, I can’t expect him to be on the roster.

The adductor muscle is made up of three sections and located on the inner thigh. It originates from the pubic bone to the inner portion of the femur (or thigh bone). This muscle is helpful with adduction, or movement towards the body’s midline. It also assists with external hip rotation – think, the motion needed to roll your knees and toes outward- and hip flexion (marching). You can probably imagine all the baseball motions that can involve these actions, and Kelenic will need to progressively ramp up his aggressiveness in baseball activity without provoking the adductor. 

The strain is on the left leg, which happens to be the plant/push-off leg as leaving the batter’s box and heading towards first base. As Kelenic pushes off of that left leg, he is abducting, the opposing motion of adduction. This causes the adductor muscle to be stretched fairly rapidly. While sprinting, the adductor assists in hip flexion by resisting hip hyper-extension. It also assists with maintaining a neutral rotation of the hip to improve efficiency during running. This unheralded muscle has many responsibilities, and the Mariners will be particularly careful with their star prospect. His agility and lateral movements will also be greatly limited until he is fully healed. Eventually, Kelenic should be 100% and ready to return to the 5-category star he hopes to be. However, like Bregman, don’t count on the original projections regarding steals. I would anticipate a limitation in how many green lights Kelenic gets on the basepaths until he proves he can handle the rigors of an MLB season.

Forrest Whitley, SP, Houston Astros

It is being reported that former top prospect, Forrest Whitley, will need season-ending surgery to repair a damaged UCL in his throwing arm. Tommy John surgery will be recommended and likely performed within the next few weeks. It has got to be a frustrating time for the young prospect. He struggled in his 2019 campaign and did not play at the MLB level in last year’s shortened season. Nevertheless, he will miss the entire 2021 season, and will be expected back at some point in 2022, likely targeting May/June for a return to competitive pitching.

2020 Injury Updates

Mitch Garver, C, Minnesota Twins

Has not reported any ongoing symptoms related to his 2020 intercostal strain. There is no indication that Garver will be prone to a repeat injury, and he is slated to split time behind home plate with promising rookie, Ryan Jeffers

Spring Training Stat Line: 2-8, 1HR, 1BB

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Noted for numerous calf strains in his career. Would not be surprising to see JD getting days off throughout the season to avoid fatigue and increased risk for injury. I would personally be surprised if Donaldson played more than 150 games even if healthy. Scheduled days off will be a part of his season.

Spring Training Stat Line: 3-7, 1HR, 3RBI

Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Considering all the issues Arenado had last year with his throwing shoulder (AC joint inflammation), he has looked good and healthy in his Cardinal red so far. I’m not fading Arenado one bit related to his injury. You may decide to bump him to the third round based on his move out of Coors Field, but if you’re in a draft with me he won’t make it that far! Don’t underestimate a motivated Arenado.

Spring Training Stat Line: 4-15, 2RBI, 1BB

Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics

The other magician at 3B. Chapman had labrum surgery on his right hip this past September, and he is already hitting home runs and making diving plays at 3B in Spring Training. Back in the offseason, on the Fantrax 5 Tool Fantasy Baseball Podcast, I said if Chapman looks like he’s ranging at 3B and making consistent contact in spring training we should be buying back in. At the time, he had fallen in my ranks, but he’s done everything to prove his return is going as planned. Time to move him back up your boards!

Spring Training Stat Line: 4-14, 2HR, 2RBI, 1 Web Gem

For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!

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