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NL East – MLB Injury Report

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 injured players. Utilize The MLB Injury Report to make the most of your fantasy season.

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NL East – MLB Injury Report

Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuña, OF

As I noted in my most recent article, Ronald Acuña has no long-term concerns on my end. He is the type of generational athlete that has a perfect skill-set and body type for a long career in this game. Acuña and the Braves are looking at 2022 as an opportunity to have a healthy and productive year. They will likely, as an organization, have no desire or need to run Acuña out on the field with haste. Acuña has been recovering from an ACL repair surgery from July 2021. If he was absolutely needed for a playoff run, I would wager he could be back on the field around April, 2022.

He would play a limited role on defense, likely sent to a corner OF slot with a speedy CF (Cristian Pache) to make up as much ground as possible. He would also be asked to play it very conservatively on the base paths. In this situation, where the Atlanta Braves have built up some great fan equity from winning the 2021 World Series, I don’t think they will have any hesitation to sit Acuña on the bench and let him rehab until he is good and ready.

Even when he returns, I would expect him to produce in only four of the five standard fantasy categories (R, HR, RBI, Avg.). I don’t anticipate Acuña having the green light for steals this year. They may try to progress him back slowly, turning his green light on the base paths to yellow. Draft Acuña with the expectation that you get five months of 4-category production, with 10-15 steals.

Charlie Morton, SP

The veteran SP suffered a fractured right fibula after being struck by a batted ball in the 2021 playoffs. He has since had a surgical repair and has progressed out of his cast and walking boot. Morton had an excellent 2021 season, with a 3.34 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and 216 Ks over 185 innings. His curveball was one of the most dangerous and devastating pitches in all of baseball. He is expected to be ready for the beginning of the season, but don’t be surprised if his workload in Spring Training (if it begins in March) is limited as a precaution.

Huascar Ynoa, SP

Ynoa was left off the World Series roster last year due to shoulder inflammation. He had been scheduled to pitch in an NLCS game but was unable to make it out to the mound. Having missed the rest of the playoffs, we never got to see Ynoa bounce back from this seemingly mild injury. Since then, there have been no reports of surgical intervention or further injury. Expect Ynoa back at full strength to begin the year.

Mike Soroka, SP

Mike Soroka has had a rough past two years. Three surgeries on his achilles tendon, two of them following tears. The other of the three surgeries involved an attempted ‘clean up’ and investigation of the original surgery. Soroka is a unique case of a failed achilles tendon repair. We haven’t had anything to compare this to in the past 20 years or so of MLB injuries. Soroka is still rehabbing to try to return in mid-2022.

The optimist would say he is due back in July, 2022, and normally that is me. But not in this particular case. Achilles tendons can be easily aggravated, and there are so many activities of everyday life, let alone baseball, that we use them for. Soroka is someone you should only draft if you have plenty of bench/IL slots, and aren’t expecting any production until late summer or fall.

Kirby Yates, RP

Kirby Yates had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL on March 24, 2021. This should require a timeline similar to last year’s Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, and Luis Severino. Without setbacks, we could expect the reliever back around late July or August. It would be interesting to see if the Braves need the bullpen help at that point in the year.

Miami Marlins

Sixto Sanchez, SP

Sixto was another player to appear in my most recent article. I highlight how I’m particularly worried about his recovery from a posterior capsule tear and surgical repair. The rehab from any shoulder surgery is more delicate and intricate as compared to some other common baseball injuries. Sixto also will not have the assistance of his team physical therapists and doctors during the owners’ lock-out. Putting all the elements of the situation together is a bit concerning; a young starting pitcher with multiple shoulder injuries in the past few years without guidance from team training staff.

I’d be less worried if this was a veteran who knew what type of prep a full MLB season required, and they had a seasoned relationship with external physical therapists and trainers. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Sixto is supposed to be ready for Opening Day. I’m not particularly confident in this. I can see a situation where Sixto spends time as a middle relief pitcher this year, stretching out his arm amongst a pitching staff with endless SP depth. I would compare his realistic outcomes to Cristian Javier’s 2021 season.

Brian Anderson, 3B

The long-time Miami third baseman underwent surgery to repair the capsule surrounding his left shoulder. This is a procedure similar to Sixto Sanchez, but in a non-throwing and more importantly, non-pitching arm. Anderson should be ready for Opening Day.

Garrett Cooper, OF

Cooper had season-ending surgery on a partially torn UCL in his left elbow. This particular partial tear required a 12-16 week recovery timeline, lining cooper up for an Opening Day return. Both Cooper and Anderson are worth monitoring in Spring Training to determine if they’re expecting every day playing time.

New York Mets

Jacob deGrom, SP

The ace of all aces will begin 2022 healthy. The biggest question on everyone’s mind, and perhaps the only doubt that keeps him from being considered a number 1 overall pick is, will he stay healthy. DeGrom’s statistics are all amazing, and we could go through his game-by-game stats for paragraphs. But what we need to know is if he will be on the field long enough to dazzle us with his talent. Last season he had multiple complications with elbow pain. In July, he spent some time rehabbing what was publicly called right forearm tightness. This prompted multiple MRI tests, which usually require static (completely stationary) positioning for 45 min to an hour while the magnetic resonance machines collect their data. Jacob deGrom had stated via, that the positioning required for the MRI made his pain even worse and may have exacerbated the injury; and I believe him.

Positioning for the MRI deGrom needed is to lie face-down with your arm raised over your head, with a slightly bent elbow. This positioning allows for a stretched position for the UCL, and would permit the image to collect data on the structural integrity of the ligament. However, if the injury in question was truly a strained forearm, it would be particularly uncomfortable to maintain such a pose. Furthermore, this positioning combined with the fact that strained muscles are generally tighter than normal could absolutely increase the tension on the elbow joint. This would effectively create increased strain on the UCL, whose job it is to maintain structural integrity in the elbow joint.

Simply put, when a tight muscle is asked to remain stretched for a certain period of time, the joint that it attaches to will receive increased tension. When the ligament that helps maintain the integrity of that joint is the UCL, it’s possible that it can be negatively affected.

Obtaining MRI data is difficult due to the limited flexibility in positioning and the length of time required to be there, but with the amount of money in MLB, there should be a solution. There needs to be an alternative that doesn’t enact such intense positioning for an injured elbow. And if there already is one that I don’t know about, that’s on the Mets for not utilizing it.

This initial MRI revealed only a mild forearm strain. A second MRI was taken in New York, which revealed a partial UCL tear. So ultimately, deGrom and the Mets are going into 2022 with a bit of uncertainty. There is absolutely the possibility that Jacob deGrom will need Tommy John surgery at some point this year. Though I don’t necessarily think this is a situation that is absolutely impending. Many pitchers have gone multiple seasons as starting pitchers with partially torn UCLs, most notably Masahiro Tanaka.

I think the ceiling for deGrom is probably around 140 innings pitched because the Mets will likely shut him down indefinitely with any sign of soreness. There isn’t a pitcher in the MLB who doesn’t occasionally deal with elbow soreness, so this could happen fairly regularly. The scary part is, the floor for deGrom is probably 0 innings pitched. With the issues of last season, it would not shock me if the Mets determined deGrom needed Tommy John surgery as he was ramping up for 2022.

Teams may face tough decisions in how to manage their pitchers if Spring Training is shortened by any length of time as well. In 2022, deGrom is the ultimate coin flip. Baseball has become a game of true outcomes, well here’s the epitome of that. This, soon-to-be 34-year-old can carry your team in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP, or just as easily someone you are dropping in week two.

Philadelphia Phillies

Rhys Hoskins, 1B

Hoskins landed on the 60-day IL on 9/1/21 with an abdomen strain. He had a surgical repair last summer. There is no expectation for him to miss any time this year, but one particular stat I will be looking closely at is his swing and miss numbers on inside pitches. When recovering from abdominal injuries, a hitter may fall behind inside fastballs more easily due to a lack of rotational torque and stability in the core. If Hoskins struggles here early on, pitchers will notice, and he’ll get a healthy dose of fastballs in on the hands.

Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg, SP

Last season, Strasburg only accounted for 21.2 innings pitched, with a poor K/BB ratio (21/14). Prior to last season I wrote about the risk of drafting Strasburg following his surgery to repair carpal tunnel neuritis. Any time a pitcher is dealing with nerve injuries, there is very little you can bank on in terms of recovery timelines. Nerve injuries are tricky to begin with; let alone when you are a major league pitcher with a decade of wear and tear. Without success returning last summer, Strasburg then needed thoracic outlet surgery. This is a surgery meant to decompress nerves in the lateral portion of the upper chest. The need for this surgery likely confirmed that he needed this procedure to begin with.

The glass-half-full way to look at this situation is that he finally got the procedure he needed, and he never had a chance last season until it was done. I, unfortunately, will be taking the glass-half-empty approach. I would avoid getting your hopes up too high for Strasburg in this upcoming season. Imagine a perfect scenario; no pain, no setbacks… will the Nationals really run him out onto the mound for more than 100 innings? He’s thrown 26 major league innings since 2019. I would put the over/under for innings pitched this year at about 90.

Things look bleak now but there will be baseball in 2022! Why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
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