Every MLB Team's Worst-Case Injury Scenario
The worst possible scenario for a general manager to go through during the season is when one of their best players comes down with a serious injury.
Over the course of a 162-game season, every team is going to have their fair share of injuries. Even just two weeks into the season, some key players have been injured and will miss time moving forward. While the Mets were somewhat fortunate that David Wright's pinky finger healed quickly, the Red Sox were extremely unlucky regarding what happened to Jacoby Ellsbury and his shoulder.
The best teams are the ones that have the necessary depth to overcome injuries, but here are 30 injury scenarios that each team would not be able to survive.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
Justin Upton is by far and away the most important player on their roster.
Upton was the only stable contributor in their lineup last season and the one legitimate threat that opposing managers had to game-plan against. Despite being just 23 years old, he is already a perennial MVP threat with an unlimited upside to get even better.
Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young (DL) are all nice players, but without a healthy Justin Upton, the D-Backs would not make the playoffs.
Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
Hard to believe Chipper can still be this important to the Braves given his old age and gimpy body, but after starting 0-4 without him and going 6-1 since his return, he deserves this spot.
Jones has been the Braves' number three hitter for almost 20 years now, and his presence in their lineup and locker room is only matched by Derek Jeter for the Yankees. When he plays, he allows everyone else to settle into smaller roles and focus on their own game, and the results in 2012 speak for themselves.
Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters
Matt Wieters is finally living up to the potential people have been laying on him for what seems like decades.
With a .333/.442/.694 line, Wieters has become a formidable presence on an Orioles team that is a very surprising 7-5, despite playing in the toughest division in baseball.
In addition, because Wieters plays one of the most important positions in baseball as a catcher, he has not only established himself as an MVP candidate for the Orioles, but for the American League as well.
Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury
The Red Sox are a team loaded with talent, but given Carl Crawford’s hibernation, only Ellsbury has the skill set take over a game completely.
With his combination of speed, average, power and defense, had the Red Sox made the playoffs last season, I think Ellsbury would have won the MVP award handily.
Boston will be able to win games without him because they still have Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis to play every day. However, without Ellsbury, the starting outfield the other day was Darnell McDonald, Jason Repko and Ryan Sweeney.
Taking Ellsbury out of that outfield turns it from one of the best in baseball to easily one of the worst.
Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro
Wednesday night, Jeff Baker hit fifth and played 1B for the Cubs.
Not only is Castro by far the best hitter in on their team, but he has become the face of the franchise.
For the Cubbies, this is not even a discussion.
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko
Over the past five to 10 years, one of the most underrated hitters in the game has been Paul Konerko.
He has been as consistent as they come from that time span, averaging 33 homers and 98 RBI from 2004-2011 with a .284 batting average.
To put it simply, without Konerko in the middle of the Sox lineup, the three-four-five would look something like this: Dunn-Pierzynski-Rios.
That is not a lineup that would win a lot of games.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
With a 10-year, $220M extension, the Reds told us who the most important player on their roster is, and they were spot on.
Cincinnati’s first baseman is a threat to win the Triple Crown every year with his incredible power combined with his patience at the plate. He already has an MVP award under his belt, and with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moving to the American League, Votto takes over as the NL’s best.
After trading Yonder Alonso in the offseason, the Reds have very little depth behind Votto at first base, so if he were to go down with an injury, they would be in a lot of trouble.
Cleveland Indians: Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana represents the present and the future of the Cleveland Indians.
In 2011, he finished first or second on the Indians in runs, doubles, homers, RBI, walks, OBP and SLG among qualifiers. He plays the vital position of catcher, and after signing a five-year extension to remain with the club for the long term, he gives the fans a reason to come to the ballpark even when the team is not doing well.
Already one of the top catchers in baseball, Santana needs to stay healthy in 2012 not only to help the Indians win now, but so he can continue his development into stardom and help them win in the future.
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki is a perennial MVP candidate.
For the Rockies to be at their best—as they were in 2007 when they made their miraculous run to the World Series—they need a healthy Tulowitzki.
In the two seasons that "Tulo" has played more than 150 games, the Rockies have made the playoffs with 90-plus-win seasons. When he has not reached that mark, they have not made the playoffs a single time.
His health will determine the Rockies' fate this season.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander
Without Justin Verlander, the Tigers would still probably win the AL Central.
That is not to slight the big right-hander, but rather a compliment to the Tigers lineup and the fact that every other team in the AL Central is overmatched when compared to Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are the best one-two punch in baseball right now. Austin Jackson has taken a big step forward this season and Alex Avila's hot start is proving his 2011 was no fluke.
Having said that, while a rotation of Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer would suffice for the regular season, when the Rangers, Angels and the AL East come to town in the playoffs, facing them without Justin Verlander would be an impossible task.
After all, the guy did just win the AL MVP and Cy Young in 2011.
Houston Astros: J.D. Martinez
For a guy I had never heard of coming into the season this is quite a big step, but J.D. Martinez has certainly earned it.
I know it is early, but Martinez is quickly becoming one of the better hitting outfielders in the National League (he is currently tied for eighth in WAR). The Astros struggle enough as is with him in the lineup, but without Martinez they would not have much else.
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
Billy Butler is another hitter who has never quite gotten the respect and appreciation that he deserves and at the age of 26, his best years are still ahead of him.
This year, he has gotten off to a fantastic start with a .375 batting average and .625 slugging percentage, leading the Royals in home runs and RBI.
With Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer both off to rough starts hitting a combined .158 in 95 at-bats, losing Butler to an injury would be devastating.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Albert Pujols
One of the main reasons behind the Angels struggles over the past few seasons has been the lack of run production from their lineup.
With four studs in their rotation, if one succumbs to injury it would certainly hurt, but the ship would not sink. If closer Jordan Walden got hurt, they have potential replacements in Scott Downs, LaTroy Hawkins and even Jason Isringhausen.
However, without Pujols, there would be a huge hole in the middle of their lineup.
Kendrys Morales has not performed after a strong spring. Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter are not what they used to be, and while Mark Trumbo has considerable power, his OBP last season was below .300.
Even without a homer in 2012, Albert is still the most important piece to the Angels puzzle.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
Is there a better baseball player in the world right now?
Clayton Kershaw is one of the top three pitchers in all of baseball—far and away the best in the Dodgers rotation—but his value to the Dodgers does not come close to Matt Kemp’s, as he is already running away with the MVP award just two weeks into the season.
The 9-3 Dodgers would be nowhere near that mark without Kemp and if he got hurt, I think the sky would fall in L.A.
Miami Marlins: Josh Johnson
I know you guys were probably thinking Ozzie Guillen, but Johnson edged him out by juuust a hair.
The reason for that is perfectly explained by the Marlins performance with and without Josh Johnson last season.
In his last start on May 16, the Marlins were 24-16, good for the second-best record in the National League and fourth best in all of baseball. In just the first month after his injury, the Marlins went 8-21, finishing the season 48-74 without him.
When healthy, he is one of the game’s best and he could carry the Marlins into the postseason this year with a healthy campaign.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun
Now that Prince Fielder has taken his talents to Detroit, Braun is the only big threat that remains in Milwaukee.
Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are all nice pieces and great role players, but they would not be able to carry an offense. Braun is that MVP candidate that every team needs to be successful, and without him the Brewers would struggle greatly.
Zack Greinke earned some consideration for this list as well, but since Braun plays every and the Brewers have some depth in their rotation, I went with the everyday player.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
At this point in the season, it is tough not to say Josh Willingham here because of his unbelievable start (.356 avg, five hrs, .756 SLG), but looking 2012 and beyond, the answer has to be Joe Mauer.
The Twins have always been an organization on a strict budget, and after giving Mauer an eight-year, $184 million extension, they need him to return to the MVP-caliber player he once was.
Not only has he proven capable of carrying this team into the playoffs with a bunch of no-name players, but he is the face of the franchise and gives the fans a reason to come to the ballpark even if the team is not performing.
For a team that needs every dollar it can get, Mauer represents a very valuable asset and needs to stay on the field.
New York Mets: Johan Santana
The Mets are fairly top-heavy this season with both David Wright and Johan Santana incredibly important to the team, but unlike the Brewers, the Mets have no rotation depth.
The guys who would replace Santana if something he got injured are Miguel Batista, Jeremy Hefner, Chris Schwinden and Garrett Olson.
Not only that, but it would leave their rotation with R.A. Dickey as the ace, Jon Niese as the No. 2 and Mike Pelfrey as the No. 3.
The Mets are winning right now because everyone is able to take on roles that fit them and thrive. Without Santana, each player would have to step up. As they showed last year, they are not capable of doing that.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
The man, the myth, the legend: I give you Derek Jeter.
Many people doubted him after his sub-par first half of 2011, but after a tremendous second half of last season and even better first month in 2012, he has entrenched himself as the MVP of the Yankees.
As the leadoff hitter and leader in the clubhouse, Jeter sets the tone for the club unlike any of the other superstars (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia) ever have.
Other than Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter is the only irreplaceable Yankee. Jeter gets the nod for this list because while they are far from his equal, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano are capable replacements for Mariano.
Oakland Athletics: Brandon McCarthy
While Bartolo Colon has gotten off to a great start, including a stellar performance Wednesday night against the Angels, Brandon McCarthy is the leader of the pitching staff and most important member of this team.
McCarthy broke out in a big way last season with a 3.32 ERA and American League-best 2.86 FIP. If the A's want to have any chance of competing with the Angels and Rangers this year, they need McCarthy to stay healthy and repeat his 2011 season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
The Phillies used to be one of the scariest lineups in all of baseball for opposing managers.
Now the only people they scare are themselves
The Phillies are having enough trouble scoring runs as is, getting shut out for 11 more innings Wednesday night in San Francisco. They have averaged less than three runs per game in their first 12 and sit with the fourth-fewest runs in all of baseball.
Imagine if their number three hitter and vocal leader in the clubhouse, Jimmy Rollins, went down with an injury as well.
Even their pitching staff of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Worley would not be able to save them.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen
The Pirates are definitely an up-and-coming team that will contend sooner rather than later, but without Andrew McCutchen, this team would be set back at least a year.
Last season, he led them in just about every important hitting category—runs, homers, RBI and walks, to name a few—and this year he seems like the only man who can score a run.
If the Pirates were to lose McCutchen for an extended period of time, they would finish last in the league in runs scored and finish last in the NL Central.
San Diego Padres: Cory Luebke
Luebke makes this list because the Padres just signed him to a long-term contract extension and they desperately need some positive things to start happening in San Diego.
The Padres are an awful-hitting ballclub, and while they may not compete this season, Luebke has ace potential moving forward. If he can stay healthy and continue to pitch the way he did last season, the Padres will finally have something they can build on with him and Cameron Maybin.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
In 2011, we saw what happens to the Giants when they do not have Buster Posey in the middle of their order for long stretches.
They go from a team in first place at 27-21 trying to win back-to-back World Series, to a sub-.500 team that barely finished in playoff contention.
Even with Posey, the Giants struggled offensively, but thankfully for the Giants and fans of baseball everywhere (except maybe L.A.), Posey looks like he has fully recovered after a gruesome injury.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
The Mariners have one of the biggest drop-offs in their starting rotation in all of baseball going between their ace and the rest of the rotation, if not the biggest.
Not many teams can match Felix Hernandez as their number one, but to follow him up with Jason Vargas, rookie Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan and washed-up veteran Kevin Millwood has to put a lot of stress on King Felix.
If he were to go down with an injury, the rotation would be one of the worst in recent memory, and the M’s would have a disadvantage just about every night before the game even began.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina is the only player to make this list for contributions that have nothing to do with his bat.
While he has certainly developed into an offensive threat in 2012, posting some of the best early numbers of his career, his value comes as a defensive whiz and stalwart for the Cardinals pitching staff to go to and trust.
The way he handles the pitching staff, especially with Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan gone, is one of the most under-appreciated things in baseball today. The Cardinals would not have won their two World Series rings without him.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
While I have the utmost respect for Joe Maddon and his ability to manage using advanced metrics, even he would not be able to figure out a way for the Rays to succeed without Evan Longoria.
Until Longoria turned it on late with 17 homers in the final two months, the Rays were an afterthought for the playoffs, sitting 10 games out as of August 1st.
However, when Longoria is playing at his best, the Rays are one of the teams to beat in all of baseball. It will stay that way as long as he stays healthy.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton
When Josh Hamilton stays healthy, he is a monster of a baseball player.
Over the course of his career, his 162-game average slash line is .311/.367/.548, with 103 runs, 194 hits, 40 doubles, 34 homers and 118 RBI.
If he stayed healthy every season, he would finish in the top five of the MVP vote each year, and if he stays healthy for the entirety of 2012, the Angels will prove no match for the Rangers.
However, without Hamilton, the Rangers lineup would be much weaker having to go with Craig Gentry. If Hamilton had to miss an extended period of time, the Angels would pose a serious threat for the division title, leaving the Rangers vulnerable to the one-game wild-card playoff that the MLB is starting this year.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
The Blue Jays are a lot better than many people give them credit for, but there is no question that without Jose Bautista, their chances of success would go down along with him.
Over the last two years, Bautista has established himself as the game’s premier power hitter with 54 and 43 home runs in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In addition, last season he was second in all of baseball with an OBP of .447 while leading the league in walks, so he continues to grow into his game the more he plays.
With Brett Lawrie still getting his feet wet at the big-league level and limited production from other players such as Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion behind him, the Blue Jays need a long and healthy season from Bautista if they have any hopes of earning a playoff spot.
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Imagine a lineup with only two 30-plus-home run seasons combined.
Then, imagine that same lineup with its No. 3 and 4 hitters coming off seasons where they hit a combined 23 homers.
Well, that would be the Nationals' batting order without Ryan Zimmerman.
Jayson Werth has gotten off to a hot start, but he struggled a great deal last season while Adam LaRoche essentially missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Even with Ryan Zimmerman playing everyday, the Nationals lineup is not very strong. Without him, Washington would not have a chance.
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