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So, after taking my post Super Bowl nap for a month it looks like spring has sprung!  I sense that baseball, ballpark hot dogs, and cold beer are just around the corner. Down here in Arizona the grass is green, it’s in the eighties every day, and we are just about ready to get some real baseball games underway!

If you haven’t started your baseball prep now is the time and So-Called Fantasy Experts is here to help. We’ve got articles rolling out daily now on everything from sleeping second basemen to closer battles.

Since we are going to get some real action starting this week it’s also time to start monitoring the inevitable injuries that go along with playing the game.

This year we’re going to provide a weekly update including a spreadsheet with details on all relevant Fantasy players as well as comments on some of the bigger issues each week.

For our inaugural post in 2016 let’s get everyone caught up on where we left off last year. Who’s recovering from Tommy John? Do we need to keep talking about Devin Mesoraco and his hip this year? Is someone like Alex Cobb even draft worthy in 2016? Every week we’ll keep you up to speed on where the limping players are at and when you can expect them back. So, let’s take a look at who is on the list before the first baseball is even thrown.

Fantasy Baseball Injuries

Player
Position
Team
Notes
Evan Gattis  DH Houston Astros  February hernia surgery; Questionable for opening day
Stephen Vogt C Oakland Athletics January elbow surgery;  Probable for opening day
Yadier Molina C St. Louis Cardinals December thumb surgery; Possible for opening day
Greg Bird 1B New York Yankees Surgery for torn labrum, Out for 2016 season
Albert Pujols 1B LA Angels November foot surgery; Questionable for opening day
 Devon Travis  2B  Toronto Blue Jays  November shoulder surgery; Expected to return in May/June
Jung Ho Kang 3B Pittsburgh Pirates September knee surgery; Return in April/May
Michael Brantley OF Cleveland Indians November shoulder surgery; Return likely in late April/ early May
 Ryan Braun  OF  Milwaukee Brewers  October back surgery; Probable for opening day
 Josh Hamilton OF Texas Rangers October knee surgery; Will begin season on DL, possible return in May
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP LA Dodgers Shoulder surgery in May 2015; Possible return in May
Zack Wheeler SP NY Mets Tommy John surgery in March 2015; Return likely in July
Henderson Alvarez SP Oakland Athletics Shoulder surgery in July 2015; expected return in May/June
Yu Darvish SP Texas Rangers March 2015 Tommy John surgery; Return likely in May
Alex Cobb SP Tampa Bay Rays Tommy John surgery in May 2015; return likely in August
Homer Bailey SP Cincinnati Reds Tommy John surgery in May 2015; return possible in June
John Lamb SP Cincinnati Reds Underwent back surgery in December; return possible in mid-April
Masahiro Tanaka SP New York Yankees Elbow surgery in October 2015; Possible for opening day

Offensive Players

Albert Pujols, 1B, LA Angels

At 36 years old Pujols is not what he once was. However, he’s still better than most and mashed 40 homers last year. The Angel’s slugger aggravated an issue with plantar fasciitis in his right foot near the end of August which eventually led to surgery in November to correct the problem. While Pujols is adamant that he will back for opening day, this would be pushing it. He may miss the first couple weeks but Pujols should be back in the lineup sometime in April. You may actually get a bargain price for an older guy recovering from injury if you need power midway through your draft. His average was a drain last year at .244, but another 30-35 home runs is very realistic if he stays healthy.

Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees

In 178 plate appearances last year for the Yankees Bird hit .261. The power was unmistakable as evidenced by his 11 homeruns in his limited at bats, albeit with a 29.8% K rate. Alas, he recently had to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum and is lost for the season. Grab him late in a keeper or dynasty league, but go ahead and cross him off your redraft cheat sheets.

Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

Travis was in the middle of a break-out season in 2015 with a .304/.361/.498 slash line in 239 plate appearances before a shoulder problem ruined the rest of his year. He ended up getting surgery and is still recovering. He’s worth watching through spring training but a return before mid-May would be optimistic. He may not be draftable in shallow leagues but will be worth a waiver wire pick up once he starts getting close to business. In deeper leagues you can throw him on the bench with a late pick and hope for the best. I actually just grabbed Travis in a dynasty league, so here’s to hoping he’s back into that break out by midseason…

Jung Ho Kang, SS/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Kang’s first season in the MLB came to abrupt end after a takeout slide and subsequent knee injury forced him under the knife. Before that the former Korean League All-Star had shown some offensive proficiency, especially in the second half. Before his American debut he hit 40 homers in his last year in the KBL. That pop looks to have translated over to the USA and will make him a top ten shortstop as long as he retains eligibility. He will start the season on the shelf, so you need to work around that if you draft him. He looks to be on track to play shortly after the season starts but keep an eye on him (and actually on this weekly column) through spring training. If he’s only going to miss a week or so feel free to grab him as a nice option at a thin position.

Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians

Off-season shoulder surgery will sideline Brantley through the start of the 2016 season. Two questions need to be addressed here. When will he be back and will there be a lack of power as his shoulder comes back to full health? At this time most think Brantley will be available in early to mid-June but some think a return at the end of April is possible in a best case scenario. On the downside, it’s likely that even when he comes back some power will be lacking until he works up strength in the shoulder again. This all means Brantley is still worthy of a draft pick in standard redraft leagues, but I wouldn’t pay near full price. There’s a realistic chance that he could miss two plus months and struggle a little when he finally does play in a worst case scenario. If he falls you can stash him in a DL spot, but let someone deal with the risk if they want to pay OF2/3 prices for him.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Braun is once again dealing with an injury, this time to his back. He’s slated to go on opening day, but keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers

The story here is not that Hamilton is injured.  I could have penciled him in right here a couple months ago with supreme confidence. The real story here is who fills in for the oft-injured outfielder. Originally it looked like one of the Ranger’s uber prospects like Nomar Mazara might get a shot. However, the signing of Ian Desmond clearly quashes that dream. Desmond goes from a good shortstop with a concerning batting trend to a middlin’ outfielder with a concerning batting trend. His SS eligibility makes him worthy of a mid-round pick but that .233 average last year coupled with three years of increasing K% (including a 29.2% K rate last year) makes me squeamish. Oh, and that reminds me, don’t draft Josh Hamilton either.

Pitchers

Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees

I’m just going to reserve this spot here while we wait for Tanaka’s UCL to snap. He’s had a tear since 2014 but avoided surgery last year and attempted to pitch through it. Then we learned that he had a bone spur removed from his pitching elbow during the offseason. I fully expect to move Tanaka to the list below by this time next year. For the optimists out there, maybe he can pitch through this again, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Returning Tommy John Victims

Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets

Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers

Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

The three above comprise the most noteworthy losses to the Tommy John epidemic that carried into 2015. Each of these could be impact players at some point in 2016, but will return midseason and have definite innings limits. Also, don’t forget that pitchers returning for TJ surgery often suffer from some control issues as they find their sea legs again on the mound. Look for Darvish sometime in late May, Wheeler around the All-Star game, and Cobb later on in August. None are probably worth drafting in redraft leagues unless you have a deep bench and DL. Any of these, however, could just vault you to the promised land if you need a pitching surge late.

Keep an eye on SCFE during the draft season for Fantasy Baseball this spring. We’ll keep bringing you an injury update weekly from this point forward. There will also be volumes of awesomeness coming from a variety of writers over the coming weeks so take a look!  

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