Never in the history of major leagues has there been more challenge for teams to be healthy.
There will be known strains and sprains, exacerbated by the unique environment of spring training 2.0 summarized in three weeks. In a normal year, injuries, especially soft tissue injuries (meaning lower legs, curves), are highest in the first month of the season. A 2017 research article from the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that the highest incidence of elbow injuries in pitchers was in March, so mostly during the standard training season.
But in 2020, there is nothing normal, nothing standard. Add: How many players are overtrained expecting different restart dates? How many have tried to set a record in food delivery apps that they could use from their couch, thinking it would never be the season?
And, of course, there is the coronavirus that moved MLB to create a special list of victims for COVID-19, which many teams predict will use from the beginning of the camp to isolate those who test for positivity or may have been in contact with someone who has.
If there is a season – a huge “if”, however, the one who can maintain the most healthy players for 60 games in 66 days (again nothing normal / standard this year) will get the advantage. The 15-game injury goes from a player who is missing less than 10 percent of the 162-game schedule, and is missing 25 percent this year.
So just running a camp with more viable candidates is helpful. Bigger pool for teams to choose from. And no club has had more key players to regain health during the shutdown, the Yankees, in part because no club will start the year with so many big names on the injured list.
Brian Cashman expressed optimism on Tuesday when Aaron Hicks (Operation Tommy John), Aaron Judge (broken rib) and Giancarlo Stanton (Calf) were on the open working days list, the same for James Paxton (Back surgery). That represents one-third of the lineup and the No. 2 driver behind Gerrit Cole, which is even more vital when Luis Severino (Tommy John) came out during the year.
Warning: Judge, Stanton and Paxton have a long history of injuries, and the suspects are likely to be even more vulnerable in these conditions. But the Yankees will start training healthier this spring than they finished last.
Mets, meanwhile, are clothes with one step forward, one step back. Yoenis Cespedes (heels, ankles) should be ready and it’s intriguing how much he has left after so much lost time. But after the shutdown, the Mets learned they had lost Noah Syndergaard in Operation Tommy John. Similarly, the Red Sox were supposed to have striker Alex Verdug (back), a key Dodger return for Mookie Betts, but lost Chris Salea in Tommy John’s surgery.
The Tigers ’master, Michael Fulmer, a major return from the Mets when they got the Cespedes in 2015, is also ready to begin spring training as an adult, after disappearing last year after Tommy John’s surgery. As the player does not owe much money (approximately $ 1 million for a 60-game season) and does not qualify for a free agency until after the 2022 campaign, the right becomes one of the more likely candidates to trade (August 31) with the restoration of Detroit.
What other teams have benefited from improved health during the shutdown:
1. Angels: Shohei Ohtani, who did not give up last season after Tommy John’s surgery, would not have started on time in 2020 and would have been limited in insertions. He’s on time now, and even if he makes 12 starts, he’s unlikely to cross 75 regular season passes. Angels ’play chances rest on a healthy rotation, so it’s worth having Ohtani and Griffin Canning (elbow) from the start.
2. Cardinals: That the season started on time, St. Louis would not be without starter Miles Mikolas (elbow) and relief Andrew Miller (finger stiffness) and Jordan Hicks (Tommy John). Mikolas and Miller are healthy. If Hicks can return, say, August, he could secure his three-figure fast football for more than half of this season.
3. White Sox: This is one of the craziest wild cards in the 60-game sprint. Chicago has stunning young opportunities (Eloy Jimenez, Nick Madrigal, Luis Robert) complemented by free agents such as Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. Michael Kopech (Tommy John) is a potential core player. It should be full now, and if the firefighter joins Lucas Giolit and Keuchel, forming a strong front of the rotation, the White Sox is the opponent. In addition, Carlos Rodon (Tommy John) also appears all the way back to provide braking depth.
4. Astros: They only had one key injury, but that was Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (groin surgery), whose presence is even more important because Cole, the Cy Young striker, is now Yankee. Verlander is considered ready for spring training, as is Lance McCullers Jr., who missed everything last season after Tommy John’s surgery. Other teams benefiting from integrated starters who would not be opening in March now are Atlanta (Cole Hamels), Cleveland (Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger) and Minnesota (Rich Hill).
5. Red: Like the White Sox, they are an intriguing wild card. Eugenio Suarez, who hit 49 homes last season, had shoulder surgery out of season and would not be ready for the season to start in late March. He is now moving to third base, which allows the Reds to use Mike Moustakas more comfortably in second base or DH.