Milwaukee Brewers Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

Milwaukee Brewers Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

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    Will Carroll has produced an annual Team Health Report for each MLB team for 12 years. The report gives risk ratings for every player in the expected starting lineup and starting rotation, plus two relievers. A proprietary formula sets a baseline according to a player's age and position. It is adjusted by 12 factors, including injury history, team history and expected workload.

    This risk rating is classified into three tiers—red (high risk), yellow (medium risk) and green (lower risk). It should be used as a guideline and is about probability, not prediction. To learn more about how the Team Health Reports are devised, click on this article

    2012 Rank: 16th best of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost

    Biggest Injury: Chris Narveson, $8.7m lost value

    Head Athletic Trainer: Dan Wright

    The Milwaukee Brewers are well known as a progressive team when it comes to both sports medicine and pitching development. Under Doug Melvin and Gord Ash, the team has made long-term investments in biomechanics, sports med and even have a yearly symposium to make sure that their medical personnel stay on the same page and keep up with the latest advances.*

    The downside of all that is that the vagaries of a season and dumb luck can foul up even the best laid plans. The past two seasons of baseball had a total of two ACL sprains. The Brewers had two in a week last season. The quirky injuries like this simply can't be accounted for, but when we look at those early season injuries, along with the rest of the things they picked up along the way, coming in 16th is pretty impressive. 

    The team was able to stay productive due to reasonable depth and keeping its best players healthy. Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke (prior to the trade) were all 100 percent. It might go against the inherent sense of fairness instilled in most of us in kindergarten, but everyone is not equal in the training room or the locker room. 

    Athletic trainer Dan Wright did an admirable job in his first year as the head athletic trainer, keeping several players with injury-prone pasts off the disabled list while handling the unusual traumas. Repeating last season’s success could prove difficult with these same players a year older and the pitching staff suddenly full of inexperienced pitchers. 

    On the other hand, luck does tend to balance over a large enough sample. They're not going to get last year back or take the scar off a couple Brewers' knees, but we might end up not seeing quite so many days or dollars lost on next year's report.

    This report was written with the assistance of Jeff Stotts, ATC. You can read more of Jeff's work at *Will Carroll has consulted on projects with the Milwaukee Brewers, including a current project. 

    Click ahead for the Brewers. Here are links to all the teams' reports.

    Will Carroll is the Lead Writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report. He has written about sports injuries and related topics for 12 years. His column is called "the industry standard" by Hall of Famer Peter Gammons.  

C Jonathan Lucroy (YELLOW)

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    Jonathan Lucroy had a breakout year in 2012 that could have been bigger if not for his wife’s mishandling of her luggage. (And yes, Lucroy insists that's what happened.) His fractured hand appears healed, but playing an at-risk position like catcher, the fewer injuries the better, especially to the hands. Catchers on the whole tend to have problems at bat late in the year due to the beating their hands take, though Lucroy came back after the injury well.

    On the upside, Lucroy has avoided any type of noteworthy injury to his legs and could be in line for a big year if he avoids another freak injury. Of course, being a catcher doesn't help his chances. 

1B Corey Hart (RED)

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    Corey Hart was one of the normally injury-riddled players to make it through 2012 relatively unscathed. He’s making up for lost time by undergoing offseason surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.This is the second meniscus tear in this knee, leaving Hart at risk for further issues—even when he returns midseason.

    There's some thought that Hart could return early, though he won't have to if Mat Gamel can prove he's back from his own, more serious knee injury. (UPDATE: He wasn't. Gamel re-injured the ACL and will miss the 2013 season.) The days of Hart in the outfield are likely over, but he has the bat to hold first base, though if Hunter Morris' leap forward was real, that might become something more of an issue.

2B Rickie Weeks (YELLOW)

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    After previously tearing tendons in both wrists, Rickie Weeks received a scare at the start of the season as another wrist issue arose. Yet this time around he managed to avoid the disabled list and played in 157 games, suggesting he may have finally moved past his chronic wrist problems or, better, that the Brewers medical staff knows how to control it when it does arise.

    His productivity took a dip, but staying healthy remains the key to success for Weeks. Weeks' second half gives hope that he can get back to his plus levels, but as always, he comes with a lot of known risks along with that known potential.

SS Jean Segura (YELLOW)

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    Jean Segura was a key part of the return on Zack Greinke, but the Los Angeles Angels prospects (aside from Mike Trout) haven't lived up to their promise. Segura is a second data point that could change that perception, and with six more years of control, the Brewers have a great chance of being big winners in that deal. Segura's speed is his biggest asset, but as he's gotten more confident, he's gotten better at bat.

    Segura is young and profiles as a pure speed player, but he's never had a major health problem during his pro career and isn't going to be asked to do more than he should in the field. This yellow is likely the proper rating, but there is upside for Segura, especially if he steals a bit more than expected and stays as healthy as I expect.

3B Aramis Ramirez (YELLOW)

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    In his first season with Milwaukee, Aramis Ramirez rejuvenated his career, finishing with 105 RBI—his most since 2008. His success was rooted in his ability to stay healthy, despite several minor bumps and bruises. Still, he turns 35 in June, and the majority of his injuries have been reoccurring, particularly his back and left quadriceps muscle.

    The two-time All-Star is more than capable of putting up big numbers but understand his inherent risk is higher than some. If he were younger, he'd be called an Adrian Beltre starter kit, but now, the injuries kept him from challenging Beltre for the title of third-best third baseman in the game. 

LF Ryan Braun (GREEN)

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    Ryan Braun has been on a roller-coaster ride since winning the 2011 MVP award. After receiving the prestigious award, the outfielder tested positive for raised levels of testosterone and was suspended for 50 games. Braun maintained his innocence, claiming the sample was tainted.  An arbitrator ruled in his favor and the suspension was abated.

    He moved past the allegations and produced another high quality season in 2012 despite a minor Achilles injury. Braun had some problems on the bases, but scouts noted that he seemed to have more problems when the team was losing and got better when they won. It's a notable observation.

    However, his name has once again been connected to PEDs after his name surfaced in ledgers found in a Miami wellness clinic that reportedly supplied major league layers with banned substances. If Braun can once again avoid suspension and the New York knives that have been unsheathed against him since the appeal, he appears set to once again be an elite player on the big stage.

CF Carlos Gomez

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    Carlos Gomez erupted to smash 19 home runs in 2012, 11 more than his previous season high, and missed minimal time with a left hamstring strain. On paper, Gomez appears to be relatively healthy and can build on his breakout year. Still, his red rating makes sense when you dive deeper into his injury history.

    Since 2007, Gomez has made multiple trips to the DL for a variety of injuries, including a rotator cuff strain, a concussion and a fractured collarbone that required surgery. All of these injuries can easily be aggravated or reoccur, particularly one with Gomez’s aggressive style of play.

    Gomez has been a pure speed player with an aggressive style for his entire career. It's hard to believe that's going to change, even if the power isn't a fluke.

RF Norichika Aoki

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    Norichika Aoki came to Milwaukee as a bit of an unknown. The Brewers seemed to think he would be a solid fourth outfielder who could challenge Carlos Gomez and let them show Tony Plush the exits. Instead, he turned into a solid everyday player without a significant hole in his game. Aoki thrived and didn't seem to be taxed by the workload in America at all. 

    He's much more of a known this season, and his quiet consistency makes him a perfect fit for this team. He doesn't need much attention and allows the medical staff to focus on guys who need the maintenance to get to their upside, like Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.

SP Yovani Gallardo (GREEN)

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    Gallardo has always been in the shadows of another pitcher whether it was CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets or Zack Greinke. However, he now enters the season as the clear-cut ace of the Milwaukee staff. Gallardo’s health rankings have improved as he has moved past the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) he suffered in 2008.

    Gallardo is an interesting comp for Yankees fans this season. Mariano Rivera didn't return in-season as Gallardo did, though there were suggestions that he could have if the Yankees had allowed it. The simplicity of Gallardo's return is a big positive for those watching Rivera.

    He hasn’t had any reported problems with his shoulder and even an oblique strain in 2010 quickly resolved. At the ripe age of 27, he will anchor a young Milwaukee staff and has the potential to start 30-plus games for the fifth straight season. 

SP Marco Estrada (YELLOW)

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    Marco Estrada capitalized on a rotator cuff injury to Chris Narveson and emerged as a capable starter for Milwaukee despite a minor injury of his own. He is capable of racking up a high number of strikeouts without giving up many walks and should enter the season slotted behind Yovani Gallardo.  

    He pitched 138.1 innings in 2012, more than his previous four stints at the major league level combined, elevating his risk factor slightly. It is also worth noting he’s an older pitcher, particularly for a guy with so little experience. He will turn 30 during the season. The Brewers won't be reckless with him, but don't mistake him for a young pitcher that would require careful handling. 

SP Michael Fiers (YELLOW)

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    Michael Fiers will challenge Estrada for the second spot in the rotation after performing well in his rookie season. The former Milwaukee Minor League Pitcher of the Year has stayed healthy throughout his brief career, but last season marked the first time he’s pitched over 100 innings at any level. He showed signs of fatigue down the stretch, posting an ERA above 7.00 in four of his five September starts.

    The Brewers will have to figure out how to get him past that level since they don't have a lot of pitching depth that is ready, despite bringing in a couple high-level arms in the Greinke deal and another pair in the June draft. Expecting him to make 30 starts is either crazy or very confident that the medical staff can keep him going.

SP Chris Narveson (RED)

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    Narveson’s 2012 season lasted two starts before he suffered a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his throwing shoulder. That's a surgery that doesn't have a great track record of getting pitchers back, but advances in the last couple of years give some hope for Narveson and others.

    Early reports suggest he will enter the spring without restrictions, but he should be pushed back in the rotation by the likes of Estrada and Fiers. He does have the distinct advantage of being the only left-handed pitcher vying for a spot in the rotation, but it remains to be seen if his surgically repaired shoulder is up to the challenge.

    If not, the Brewers don't have much in the way of options. If Narveson doesn't look ready in camp or worse, shows problems with recovery, the Brewers will have to hit the waiver wire or even the trade market. 

SP Mark Rogers (RED)

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    Originally drafted fifth overall in the 2004 draft and 41 picks ahead of Gallardo, Mark Rogers was once considered the future of the Brewers. Unfortunately, a torn labrum in 2006 derailed his rise through the minors, and Rogers was forced to watch as Gallardo emerged as the ace of the Milwaukee staff. The rise of Mike Fiers means a second generation has passed Rogers as he's spent more time in rehab than he has on the mound during his time in the organization.

    New problems arose in 2012. Carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists and a 25-game suspension for a banned stimulant didn’t help his cause, but he finally saw extended major league action last season after the team traded Zack Greinke.  

    The Brewers carefully monitored his workload and are hoping to let him loose in 2013. However, the associated risk remains high with surgeries on both his shoulder and wrist still looming in the not-so-distant past. A lack of other options means Rogers has a real shot of opening the season in the rotation, fighting with Wily Peralta for the slot. Rogers has far more upside, especially if the strikeouts he had last year mean his movement is back. 

RP Jim Henderson (GREEN)

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    Jim Henderson is the symbol of this Brewers bullpen. It's made up of a bunch of guys without big numbers or big names, but Ron Roenicke really seems to have a feel for how to use them. John Axford occasionally falls apart, so Henderson has a bit more upside on the save chances than most key relievers.

    Henderson has been healthy and effective in almost every role through his long minor league climb, so there's little reason to think that would change this season.

CL John Axford (GREEN)

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    John Axford is about as durable as they come. He has avoided the disabled list for his entire career by maintaining a reasonable workload and not overusing his off-speed pitches. He has recorded at least 24 saves in each of the previous three seasons and there’s no reason to believe he won’t make it a fourth.

    That said, durable is not reliable. He seems to have one period each year where he loses his release point, his confidence or both. It's not dead arm or anything that implies he dances on the edge of injury. It's just something that everyone wishes wouldn't happen.