The 2013 fantasy baseball season is right around the corner. Aside from tracking which players have traded uniforms and ballparks, gauging the health of those with injury concerns is of paramount importance. Each position has a few key fantasy players -- we've addressed only those players in the Top 150 for now -- with question marks by their names entering the spring. Although teams limit the details of players' medical histories, there is still significant information to be gleaned from an understanding of the athlete's condition and status report updates as to his activity. As the season approaches, these situations will evolve because many players recovering from injury or surgery will progress their activity accordingly or, in some cases, encounter delays or setbacks.
David Wright, New York Mets (updated March 17): Wright was off to a hot start this spring until his body decided not to cooperate. Wright suffered a strained left intercostal muscle (small muscle that run between the ribs on the left side of the body) and was removed from World Baseball Classic play by the Mets. After he returned to the team for re-evaluation, the Mets announced that Wright would rest for 3-5 days. According to ESPN New York, Wright received a cortisone injection, but some discomfort remains.
The average time for recovery following these types of injuries ranges from 2-4 weeks, which means Wright's Opening Day status could be in jeopardy, although it's too early to say for sure. One thing is certain: Wright could prolong the injury if he resumes play too soon. The Mets are likely to be cautious here and will make sure Wright has no pain swinging a bat before allowing him to return. For his part, Wright seems to understand the importance of allowing the injury to heal properly and will not commit to a firm timetable. The key here is whether Wright really recovers fully before returning so that it does not become a chronic, nagging issue throughout the season.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: By now, it's no secret that Rodriguez won't be ready in time to start the season with the Yankees; that fact became apparent when news that he would require hip surgery surfaced in December. The bigger question seems to be whether he will make an in-season appearance at all. A report by the Miami New Times in late January linked Rodriguez and others to alleged performance-enhancing substance supplier Anthony Bosch and the Miami clinic Biogenesis. At the present time, Major League Baseball is conducting its own investigation into the Florida clinic and its potential ties with big league players. The results of that investigation and any subsequent actions that might ensue are unknown, as of this writing, but it casts a shadow of uncertainty over those named in the New Times report.
If it were only a matter of the surgery Rodriguez underwent on his left hip to address a femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), the odds would be in his favor to see the field this season. But even as recently as January, Yankees GM Brian Cashman left open the possibility that Rodriguez might not recover in time to play in 2013. That said, there is no particular reason yet to doubt his ability to return this season.
The goal of the surgery is to help restore normal anatomy to the hip joint, often leading to enhanced mobility and flexibility, along with decreased discomfort. These are all good things for an aging veteran. In 2009, Rodriguez started the season nearly two months late after undergoing a similar, though not identical, procedure in his right hip. In 2010, a calf strain caused him to miss three weeks in the middle of the season. In 2011, Rodriguez played in just 99 games, largely the result of midseason meniscus surgery in his right knee. And in 2012, A-Rod was forced out of the lineup midseason, this time after suffering a fracture in the fifth metacarpal of his left hand after being hit by a pitch.
Obviously 2013 won't be the season he returns to being the durable player he once was. And at 37 years old (he turns 38 in July), it's not surprising that there is some decline in Rodriguez's performance. Still, there's a possibility that if his left hip has indeed been restricted for some time, his latest procedure and subsequent rehab could help restore some of his power at the plate. The bottom line, however, is that Rodriguez still has numerous hurdles to clear before returning. The best bet for fantasy owners may be to monitor his progress on all fronts from a distance for the first half of the season, with an eye on potential second-half value.
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals: Anyone who had Zimmerman on a fantasy roster last season knows the difference between his pre- and post-June cortisone shot performances. Zimmerman developed inflammation in his right AC joint in April after several diving plays and underwent cortisone injections soon afterward, followed by a stint on the DL. The treatment provided little relief, and Zimmerman continued to struggle at the plate. In late June, he elected to get yet another injection as an attempt to salvage his season, and positive results were immediate. Zimmerman went on a hitting surge in July that almost caused everyone to forget about his earlier struggles.
It became evident as the season progressed, however, that his shoulder would require an offseason procedure. According to the Washington Post, Zimmerman had a bone spur on the clavicle taken down, and an arthritic AC joint was cleaned up. Surgery was in late October, allowing him ample time to be ready for spring training.
Zimmerman's most obvious struggles in 2012 were at the plate, but he perhaps felt the injury more while playing third base. He acknowledged having to modify his throwing to accommodate the discomfort in his shoulder, and his mechanics -- and accuracy -- suffered. Restrictions in the AC joint will limit overhead and cross-body movements in particular, which is rough for a third baseman who needs to sling a baseball across the infield. Zimmerman recently told reporters he plans to work on restoring his natural throwing motion this spring, and he will be simultaneously building his arm strength.
Zimmerman's shoulder should fare much better this season. Despite struggling with injury early in 2011 (an abdominal injury in spring training led to a two-month absence that included surgery in May) and again last season, Zimmerman could be poised for a big 2013 if he can refrain from inflicting damage on himself while making a diving play.