San Diego Padres Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

Will CarrollSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

San Diego Padres 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: 30th of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost

    Biggest Injury: Cory Luebke, $14.3 million lost value

    Head Athletic Trainer: Todd Hutcheson

    One may be the loneliest number, but 30 is much lonelier in this context. Someone has to be last in the rankings every year, and in 2012, it was the Padres.

    It was reflected in their record, to be sure, as the off-field issues slid onto the field, despite the best efforts of Bud Black and the front office. New ownership in San Diego hasn't made the waves that the Dodgers have, but the O'Malley family was never the kind to seek the spotlight. 

    Let's be clear: Finishing last isn't an indictment of Todd Hutcheson and his staff. Hutcheson is one of the longest tenured athletic trainers in the game now and is very well-respected among his peers. The issue here is not competence or hard work, it's results.

    Finishing last in these rankings isn't something that's going to sit well with the medical staff or the new ownership.

    Over the years, the Padres have had some wild swings. They have been over 1,000 days lost three times in the last seven years, peaking in 2012 with a terrible days-lost total approaching 1,900. They have also been as low as 300, back in 2007.

    Last year's injuries held no pattern—shoulders, elbows, knees and more. There's a theory among athletic trainers called a "death spiral." At some point, the workload in reacting to injuries overloads the available manpower in the training room. The work of maintenance and prevention drops off, leading to more injuries and a vicious cycle that looks a lot like what we saw in San Diego.

    The simple answer would be to add manpower. An athletic trainer costs a lot less than even the major league minimum, yet no team retains more than three on staff for a team of 25 plus injured players. A simple solution might be to call up an athletic trainer as needed, the same way that a player comes up from the minors. The downside there is that the minors are even more short-handed. There is no team I know of that has more than one athletic trainer, even top-level teams.

    San Diego has new ownership, a progressive front office and incentive to make some fundamental changes. That, or they could hope that luck takes care of things. 

    Click ahead for the Padres. 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 Nick Hundley (RED)

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    Nick Hundley fought through a meniscal tear all season, finally heading to surgery in August. The Padres think this really impacted his offense. They'll get a chance to see, with Yasmani Grandal out due to suspension for the start of the season.

    An older catcher who could be overtaxed at the start of the season coming off a knee injury is an easy red.

    That said, I'm not all that worried about Hundley. He's certainly not a speed player, and the return of Grandal should alleviate the workload issues by May. 

1B Yonder Alonso (GREEN)

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    Yonder Alonso didn't see the power develop the way that the Padres had hoped when they traded for him. The fence shift at Petco should help him as much as anyone, but the move to 1B is what has kept him healthy.

    He's thickly built with massive legs, the type that doesn't age well and can often end up with leg or back problems if there's not a focus on conditioning. He was one of few healthy Padres last season, which is a major plus for his outlook during his peak years.

2B Logan Forsythe (YELLOW)

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    The Padres would like to shift Logan Forsythe to more of a utility role, likely to hide him against right-handers. He's athletic enough to do it and has surprising speed. What he's never been able to do is establish himself enough to lock down a position over the course of a season.

    His career high was in the 400 at-bats and that was over two levels in 2010. The System usually bets against players doing something they haven't done before. If Forsythe does go 450 or more at bats, it would be a surprise, and that risk is why he's a very high yellow.

    The System doesn't believe that Forsythe will have that issue with Jedd Gyorko coming fast. Those two could be an interesting platoon by midseason.

SS Everth Cabrera (YELLOW)

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    Everth Cabrera is still largely unknown, except to fantasy players who see his speed and position. Like Forsythe, his biggest risk is that he's never done this over the course of a season. 

    The risk that The System sees in any one-dimensional player is also almost personified here. A hamstring strain or ankle sprain would take Cabrera from a nice leadoff guy to a sub-replacement player in a heartbeat. While The System doesn't work off comps the way some projection engines do, the underlying baselines do anticipate this kind of risk.

    The potential for 40 steals is worth taking on some risk, but you'll have to decide whether everything else is worth it for Cabrera since "everything else" amounts to nothing.

3B Chase Headley (GREEN)

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    If players peak at 27, as some studies assert, then Chase Headley's ascension up the WAR leaderboard gives them a nice data point. If the Padres are looking for a player to build around, post-Adrian Gonzalez, they could do worse than Headley. He's productive and he's predictable—two qualities that usually mean big dollars in modern baseball. 

    Headley has no significant injury history and shows the broad base of skills that tends to age well. Add in the fence move at Petco, and Headley is a nice player, even at the steep values he's likely to go at.

LF Carlos Quentin (RED)

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    Quentin has dealt with an injury that has shattered other players. Plantar fasciitis is a career-ender at worst and very painful at best. Even Herm Schneider could only keep him relatively healthy. Adding his need for constant maintenance onto the workload in San Diego was almost cruel.

    Quentin also added in some knee problems, a likely cascade from his feet due to gait changes, and it resulted in two surgeries last season. While he should be ready for the start of the season, it seems only a matter of time before something sidelines Quentin. 

    If you can project Quentin for somewhere between 90-110 games, you'll likely come out correctly and hold some upside in case he can get back to the 130-game level. Even that lower level isn't something that The System is counting on, and new fences aren't enough to take on the risk.

CF Cameron Maybin (GREEN)

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    Cameron Maybin has always been talented, but not enough to keep him in the starting lineup, as he's struggled to turn all that physical ability into baseball production. He keeps getting chances because that talent hasn't been compromised by injury. 

    He's more than a one-dimensional speed player, though he certainly has speed and range. As long as Maybin stays healthy, he'll continue to have the tantalizing combination of tools and the hint of production. If you squint just right, he looks like a healthy Marquis Grissom. 

RF Will Venable (GREEN)

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    There's an interesting injury truism that switching positions increases the risk a player has for a short period of time. The learning curve comes with a cost. The same is true for players that change teams. In addition to a new role and new medical staff, there's also a learning curve in discovering the quirks of a new stadium.

    If you ever get the chance to walk on a major league field, keep your eyes out for the sprinkler heads. Oh, now you get it?

    Will Venable will deal with an interesting case early this season, as he's back in a familiar place, but with some changes. Petco's fences move in and get rid of the "triangle" that some think was designed to kill Brian Giles. There's no data on this, so there's no negative adjustment for Venable, who's a solid green within his normal workload. 

SP Edinson Volquez (YELLOW)

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    Volquez, like all Padres pitchers, will be on the other side of the equation with the Petco fences moving in. The hitters will like it and the pitchers will hate it when they get a wallscraper. Volquez was helped, perhaps saved, by the expanses of Petco, and this could affect him more.

    That could lead to overthrowing and imbalances in his delivery. Volquez goes through periods where he loses his release point and leaves the ball up, leading to more homers. When he does that, he usually tries to power the ball past hitters, which he can do, but not consistently.

    Volquez isn't that far from his Tommy John surgery, but he is getting to the point where the five-year "honeymoon" period has almost expired. If his mechanics continue to get out of whack, he could be back on a surgeon's table. That is impossible to predict, but it is built in to his very high yellow risk rating.

SP Clayton Richard (GREEN)

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    Clayton Richard is just barely in the green tier, but just a year out from shoulder surgery, that's still a bit of a surprise. The big positive here is that he jumped right back over the 190-inning mark just a year after being shut down early. That is a massive positive and one that is seldom seen. Bolted on to the rest of his consistent if unspectacular career, he's a pretty solid risk. 

    Richard is significantly better at home, so he could see even more effect from the fence shift than the other pitchers. He's less likely to be able to do much about it, including overthrow. Richard should have a long career as a valuable, consistent SP4. 

SP Eric Stults (YELLOW)

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    Eric Stults was a nice little find on the waiver wire for the Padres, but there's no evidence he can keep it up. He lost velocity, especially later in the year, and faces a huge workload increase if he can hold onto the slot.

    Stults is a No. 3 in name only—the pitchers likely to take this place have other issues to deal with, so the longer he can hold it, the more valuable he is.

    If Stults is nothing more than a placeholder, there's value in that. The innings he absorbs are ones that a younger pitcher doesn't have to. It's a pitcher that the Padres don't have to call up or find, as they did with Stults, off the wire.

    Don't take any of this as an insult to Stults. He's a major league-caliber pitcher and he made it work for a time, but short bursts seldom lead to long careers unless there's evidence of some big change. Stults doesn't have that.

SP Jason Marquis (YELLOW)

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    Jason Marquis is what Eric Stults wants to grow up to be. Marquis has been a solid back-of-the-rotation starter for over a decade now. It looked like he was coming to the end of the line before the Padres picked him up. Like Stults, he was a nice little find and, even better, was paid by the Twins

    Marquis was certainly helped by the shift to a friendlier park, but he also changed his pitching. His fastball wasn't getting by too many, so he shifted to the slider, throwing it more than 30 percent of the time. That would be a red flag for a younger pitcher, but Marquis is not young.

    There's a question of how sustainable it is, but he showed no signs of fatigue.

    His season was ended early when a comebacker broke his hand, but again, there weren't any signs that he was wearing down. Marquis could continue eating up innings at a league-average level for the Padres for another five years if things go right.

SP Casey Kelly (RED)

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    Casey Kelly—or at least what he represents as the hard-charging young potential ace pitcher—is why a team like the Padres finds an Eric Stults or a Jason Marquis. The innings they pitch now are ones that aren't overtaxing Kelly or one of the other young pitchers in the organization.

    The downside is that the Padres can't wait forever, and two of their top prospects—Kelly and Robbie Erlin—missed time with elbow injuries. Both avoided Tommy John surgery, for now, but the history is definitely worrisome. And there's a big gap from those two down to some of the high-ceiling guys like Max Fried or Zach Eflin. (Tell me that kid's not going to have High School Musical as his walkup music in every opposing park!) 

    The worry is that Kelly could probably use a little more time at Triple-A, but that the Pads really don't have someone to take the No. 5 slot, unless Andrew Cashner flip-flops back over there.

    Kelly and his still-tender elbow might be pushed a bit, but with Cory Luebke due back in June, perhaps the Padres will use Kelly early in the season, then give him a midsummer break once Luebke is back. There are worse plans.

    Bud Black has done a solid job with young pitchers, only pushing Mat Latos just as far as he could when they were making a run. Kelly's risky, but the Pads know it and can deal with it.

RP Andrew Cashner (RED)

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    Andrew Cashner is as hard a thrower that exists in the majors outside of the old Aroldis Chapman. The problem is that the skill that makes him so tantalizing is what makes it difficult to figure out what he is or even to give him a chance to get there.

    Drafted as a college closer (a very odd beast and seldom picked as such), the Cubs went backwards and turned him into a closer. He wore down quickly, despite bursts of what they had expected. Eventually, though, the injuries were too much and he was dealt.

    Jed Hoyer seems to have made the smart move, dealing Cashner to his old club and getting Anthony Rizzo in return. The equation of injury-prone flamethrower for power-hitting first baseman shouldn't be difficult to figure and, thus far, it has been firmly tilted towards the Cubs.

    Cashner will work in the spring as a starter, but the Padres acknowledge that he could end up back in the bullpen, where he has both stamina enough to pitch longer and stuff enough to replace Huston Street. Cashner seems to be neither fish nor fowl and not a healthy fish or chicken at that. 

CL Huston Street (RED)

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    Huston Street's father was the original QB in the wishbone formation. It was a perfect situation for a QB who was smart, but not physically gifted. His son could use some of that luck and find himself in a perfect situation at some point, but Colorado and San Diego certainly aren't those.

    Street's long and varied injury history, especially the recent combination of leg and arm problems, indicate that his body simply can't hold up under the workload and mechanics for any extended period of time. He gets the occasional healthy season in there, enough to get him another chance.

    This is nothing against Street, by all accounts a hard worker in his myriad rehabs, but he's not a front-line closer with this injury history. The Padres' best hope is that Street goes on a hot streak and ends up bringing back a prospect or two in trade when some other closer goes down with injury.