As we finish out the 2021 season, one thing is certain: This has been the year of the injury. Injuries to hamstrings, shoulders, elbows an obliques rocked the baseball world harder than a hurricane this season, taking out player after player regardless of team. On top of that, there was a worldwide airborne pandemic lurking as well, causing a ruckus through many organizations in an uncaring fashion, leaving fantasy owners scrambling for roster reconstruction.
Alas, here we are though, with about a week left in the regular season, giving us a light at the end of the tunnel for an exhaled reprieve from the constant that is lineup and Injured List management. All that being said, we are now at the point where we can begin to speculate about next season. Yes, that’s right, the offseason is no offseason to some, and while 2022 is still quit a ways away, it’s always interesting to take what we know now and use that to help formulate some clarity for the future. And while we thought that 2021 was a whirlwind, the 2022 draft season could be just as crazy, given that there are so many question marks for so many elite players. Recently, Matt Williams invited me over to participate in his 12-team “Way Too Early 2022 Mock Draft”, and out of the number four spot, I took Trea Turner. For me (and many), first round consistency and unquestioned production is important, so Trea, being a five category stud, was a no-brainer. However, it’s not my pick that I’ll be looking at here, but a few others, because there were a lot of surprising draft spots over the first few rounds that will undoubtedly fluctuate in position before next year’s Opening Day due to offseason questions about health, injuries, surgeries and rehab.
With that in mind, this week’s Infirmary Report will be a little different. Instead of going through different and their players who are currently injured with an update and concern level, here will be a team by team list of injury concerns going forward.
Ronald Acuna: You could argue that no team has worked harder to make the playoffs than Atlanta, given the injuries that they’ve sustained. Their franchise player, Ronald Acuna, went down earlier this year with a torn ACL, and yet here the Braves are, fighting for a division title. Acuna figures to be close to full health by the time the season begins, as he’s ben in great spirits during his rehabilitation. There are questions to whether or not he will run as much as we’re used to, so there’s a chance his days of challenging a 40/40 season are over. Still, he’s definitely someone to monitor throughout the offseason and watch in Spring Training, to see if he’s reluctant to give it a go on the base paths or goes back out there and does what he does best. For now, I’ll project him as missing the start of the regular season, but being back with the team by the beginning of May. In the mock that was mentioned earlier, Acuna went 12th overall to Matt, and that was probably a little bit later than he should have gone. Once we get closer to draft season, I could see his stock rising.
Nick Madrigal: Before being traded to the Cubs, Madrigal tore his hamstring with the White Sox and would be declared out for the season in a devastating injury. Since then, he has been medically cleared to job and is aiming for a return to baseball activities at some point in November and will be on track to start the season healthy. He is someone that players love to play alongside and was a popular teammate before getting hurt. While he offers minimal power at best, if he’s back to where he was, he should provide a steady does of batting average and double digit steals, making him a nice late round addition to any team.
Nick Senzel: There hasn’t been much of an update since it was reported that Senzel was going for a second opinion on his knee almost a month ago, but the fact remains that Senzel cannot stay healthy. This season alone, he missed time due multiple shoulder injuries, a heel contusion, and knee soreness, with the latter being the ultimate reason why he hasn’t returned in months. The potential is there, but with so many options for the Reds, it may be time for them to move on from Senzel. Keep an eye on his progression and any team movement, as he could be a good depth piece in 2022 for fantasy owners, at a minimal draft cost.
Justin Verlander: A true wild card here, he’s someone who could possibly win you your league next year at such a small cost. He spent the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery and will likely be ready for 2022 Opening Day. The caveat is that he will be 39 years old and we all have no idea how someone that old will recover from such a devastating injury. Still, he was elite when we last saw him, and if he doesn’t cost you a lot, he’s worth the gamble in my opinion.
Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout: One of the most frustrating injuries this season because it never seemed to be as bad as it turned out, Trout will likely finish the season with an underwhelming 33 games played. When the injury first occurred, it was reported that Trout “heard something pop” inside of his calf, and that should have been our first clue to the extent of his injury. There were various reports of him traveling with the team, doing on-field drills and progressions in his rehabilitation, but nothing ever progressed to the point of a rehab assignment and thus, two of his last three seasons end early due to injury. Where does that leave him heading into 2022? Heading into his age 31 season, his days of stealing 20+ bases appear to be over, and even approaching 10+ is a legitimate question mark. Still, he’s elite with the bat when healthy and should be safely drafted in the first two rounds as a four category player going forward. For reference, he was drafted 19th overall in the aforementioned mock by Eric Cross, and I think even that was too late.
Anthony Rendon: The 2021 season was a disastrous one for Rendon for many reasons, as he was more like the character in the game “Operation” all year. He struggled at the plate due to many lingering injuries to his triceps, hip and hamstring, and was ultimately shut down for the season midway through the summer. While he has struggled since leaving the Nationals, I fully expect him to bounce back in 2022 and perform like the Angels believed he would. He should be fully healthy and undervalued at draft season. I am confident that we see a 30+ HR resurgence from him, making him one of the most valuable third basemen in fantasy. RotoFanatic’s own Mike Carter snagged him up in the 6th round (68th overall) and that’s a little later than I would expect next spring.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Cody Bellinger: I’m honestly not sure what to make of Bellinger going into 2022, as his 2021 season was mired with multiple injuries and constant trouble at the plate. Following off season shoulder surgery, he suffered a hairline fracture in his left fibula, a hamstring injury, a calf injury and an ankle injury, while also tweaking his swing and mechanics at the plate. Needless to say, this year has been an unmitigated disaster. Going forward, it’s hard to imagine him going down much further, given how bad his overall numbers are. In the mock draft mentioned above, I took him in the 9th round, with the hopes of A) an offseason of health B) he’s a former MVP winner and C)he can’t get much worse, can he?
Dustin May: After starting off the season very well, May underwent Tommy John Surgery in (the month of) May and missed the remainder of the 2021 season. While I usually stay away from pitchers after a major injury, the fact that he had the surgery so early in this season leads me to believe that he could be back to full strength and pitching well by season’s end in 2022. While most say that there is a 12-month timetable, I tend to see that as the short side of potential time off and like to give an additional bump of a few months to accommodate setbacks and adjustments made by the pitcher to getting back to full strength. Regardless, May should be back before the end of 2022 and has a lot of upside.
Kenta Maeda: After undergoing Tommy John Surgery a month ago, Maeda will miss most of, if not all of the 2022 season while recovering and rehabbing. The one bright light is that he had an internal brace inserted into his arm that has the potential of shortening his time off to nine months, making June a possibility for a return. Still, it’s not worth pushing in all of your chips for a June return, given his age and the severity of his injury. Like everyone on this list, his offseason progression is worth monitoring just in case he does heal as fast as some think he could.
Alex Kirilloff: The underlying numbers of the promising rookie were quite impressive, and we never really saw him hit to that potential this season as his year was cut short due to a wrist injury. Still, heading into 2022, he should be at full strength and finally ready to show that he is the real deal.
New York Mets
Noah Syndergaard: The on-again off-again pitcher had Tommy John Surgery in March of 2020 and has yet to pitch for the Mets since. He’s been rehabbing all year with an abundance of physical and illness setbacks. I do think that after a full off season to heal (once again), he could come back with a vengeance in 2022 and be a nice value for owners midway through their drafts.
Jacob deGrom: He is the pitcher’s equivalent of Cody Bellinger in that there’s been something wrong for awhile. The Mets have been bullish on him, claiming that everything is okay and whatever the problem was is fully healed. He may be a medical marvel in that a few weeks off can heal all that is wrong…..or…..there are some underlying problems that they’re hiding or unaware of. Still, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, and as such, let’s assume that he is fully healthy come Opening Day 2022. For contact, Mike Carter took him 20th overall in the second round of our draft, and he was the 7th pitcher off the board. I can see him rising back to the first round closer to draft time, but I’m still Leary of taking him there. While we know that the upside is League-winning production, we don’t know how long that will last as there is a lot of wear and tear there.
Trevor Rosenthal: Last year’s surprise closer stud missed the entire 2021 season due to a torn labrum in his hip and will look to return next year. Keep an eye out for his progression and he will soon be having a follow up by the doctor who performed the surgery to see where he stands going forward. If healthy, he will look to re-enter the closer conversation if he remains with Oakland.
Rhys Hoskins: The power-hitting first baseman missed the last third of the season due to an injury to his lower abdomen, but is projected to be fully healthy to start the 2022 season. Remember him come draft season for some mid to late round power production.
San Diego Padres
Mike Clevinger: After missing the entire season to Tommy John Surgery, Clevinger is on track to be ready for Opening Day. While he may not be the same pitcher he once was in Cleveland out of the gate to start the year, he has the talent to get back that level by season’s end and could be a good buy low if he struggles to begin the season or is projected to miss some extra time.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tyler Glasnow: The stud pitcher will miss most of, if not all of 2022 with Tommy John Surgery and will be missed by fantasy owners everywhere. He is someone to stash in dynasty leagues, but it’s still a question as to the type of pitcher he will be once he returns.
Stephen Strasburg: Another year, another injury, Strasburg missed time due to a shoulder injury and then a nerve in his neck, ultimately leading him to be shut down indefinitely. Every year, there’s something wrong with him and I’m staying away from him in drafts if I need pitching, but could buy low on him if I feel confident in what I have and would like a cherry on top of my sundae. He’s dominant when healthy, but those times are few and far between.
Fernando Tatis Jr.: Already injured multiple times in 2021 for a shoulder that doesn’t want to stay in place, there has been speculation about Tatis undergoing some sort of shoulder surgery to repair the problem. We’ve seen what has happened in the past to players who undergo shoulder injuries as it takes awhile for them to get back to full health and adjust (Eugenio Suarez, Cody Bellinger to name a few). Still, since transferring to the outfield, he’s been relatively healthy (knock on wood) and perhaps not having to play at shortstop is a key to remaining healthy. Do I trust him to stay that way? No, I do not, as this is a recurring problem that rest won’t heal. Keep an eye on what he does his offseason, because shoulder surgery drops him down in my rankings. For reference he went second overall in our mock draft to John Laghezza, and I don’t blame him one bit. The guy is a stud. So is Tatis Jr. 🙂
Mookie Betts: While he has been relatively healthy as of late, it’s not secret that Betts hasn’t been himself all season due to an inured hip. He’s had multiple Injured List stints and there’s the potential for some offseason surgery. The extent of that surgery and the rehabilitation is still unknown, but there’s the potential for missed time, depending on when it happens since the Dodgers will likely be playing well into October. Regardless of this, Betts has produced just short of what we’re used to seeing out of him this season, but with a loaded lineup around him next year and a fully healthy hip, watch out. He went 8th overall to Paul Sporer, and that was an absolute steal in my opinion.
Adalberto Mondesi: The most polarizing player on the planet did nothing to dismay those beliefs as he spent most of the year on the Injured List with injuries all over his body and no updates about his progression. In fact, his injury to begin the season seemingly came out of nowhere and kept Himont of action until the end of May. What makes his situation even more perplexing is that Royals’ management have publicly stated that they don’t see Mondesi as an everyday player for them moving forward and project him to play 100 games next year. With Bobby Witt Jr. on the horizon and Nicky Lopez breaking out, there may be a log jam in the middle of the infield as Mondesi has seen a lot of time over at third base. Keep an eye on how Kansas City handle him in the offseason. He went 54th overall in the fifth round by Justin Mason who has the chance to reap the rewards of 40+ steals.