Arizona Diamondbacks Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

Will CarrollSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

Arizona Diamondbacks 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 Ranking: 6

    Biggest Injury: Daniel Hudson, $10.3 million

    Head Athletic Trainer: Ken Crenshaw

    There's going to be a lot of jokes about grits and guts with this season's Diamondbacks. Kevin Towers wants a team full of Kirk Gibsons, but maybe Towers doesn't remember all the injury problems that Gibson had throughout his career, most famously his knees and his limping, fist-pumping homer in the World Series.

    Hustle players, even ones with talent like Gibson, tend to get more injuries. They dive. They run into walls. They try to take the extra base. They take out the second basemen. They run out a routine grounder. I'm not saying those things are bad, but they do demonstrably lead to injuries. 

    That means more work for Ken Crenshaw. The former Martin-Monahan Award winner (when he was with the Rays) has established an amazing record with the Diamondbacks, regularly staying in contention for another award.

    Crenshaw has started shifting a bit towards research and a longer-term horizon, but he hasn't let anything else slip. In fact, his department has been the one consistent part of an organization that has whipsawed up and down the standings and around a couple of different philosophies.

    It's also clear that Crenshaw has a seat at the table in player acquisitions. Whether through trade, free agency or the draft, the DBacks, don't acquire risk and when they do, they seem to know how to lay it off quickly. That's as important—perhaps more so—than simple prevention. 

    The Diamondbacks may finish at the top or the bottom of the NL West. They may have 100 percent more grit this season. The one thing that's a safe bet is that they finish near the top of the injury stats again under Crenshaw and his medical staff.

    Click ahead for the D'backs. 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 Miguel Montero (YELLOW)

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    Miguel Montero might feel a bit safer now that Trevor Bauer won't be firing warm-up pitches at him, but for his heavy workload, he's pretty low risk. Some think that workload is wearing on him and keeping him from making an offensive step forward, but there's no evidence for that.

    The risk is in the workload and the position, but there's no real evidence that Montero is wearing down. The System would like it if he had a better backup, but as he gets more distant from his minor knee issues from 2010, the risk looks significantly less. Any catcher is risky, but for the Diamondbacks, the risk is more in what happens if Montero is unlucky rather than what happens inevitably.

1B Paul Goldschmidt (YELLOW)

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    Paul Goldschmidt has become a top-20 pick in many fantasy leagues due to his power potential and his surprising success on steals. There's no denying either of these, but he's hardly a Ryan Braun 30/30 guy waiting to happen either. Goldschmidt's biggest issue is that he really seemed to wear down in the second half, even suffering some back problems in late September, which Kirk Gibson didn't seem to notice.

    The problem with building a team in Gibson's image is that most people's image is that famous homer—especially a guy like Goldschmidt, who had just celebrated his first birthday when Gibson hit his famous homer off Eckersley. They know that limping doesn't mean a day off and that a sore back is just another thing to fight through.

    So far, it has been counteracted by Ken Crenshaw's staff, but I'd like to see some sort of sign that Gibson understands rest as much as he understands struggle, or this yellow for Goldschmidt might end up being low.

2B Aaron Hill (GREEN)

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    Aaron Hill has had an odd career path, with one lost season due to a concussion and one due to everything falling apart with his swing. He rebuilt things last season in a big way, and with no significant injury history, the green risk shouldn't be that surprising.

    Hill's long-term success after a concussion that nearly ended his career is a nice story as well. It's a reminder that proper treatment makes concussion recovery and return to level a near certainty. Baseball has strict protocols in place now, but both Hill and Justin Morneau were early to that party, and their treatment by their respective medical staffs should be noted.

SS Cliff Pennington (YELLOW)

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    The DBacks spent all winter trying to get a shortstop, which can't make Cliff Pennington feel very good about himself. He's a steadier player at this stage than Stephen Drew was due to Drew's terrible ankle injury, but his only plus skill is his speed, and that's been dropping off. 

    The yellow rating here is pretty low, with much of that mitigated by the underlying desire to replace him. There's a lot more risk in the guy they got to try and do that. Didi Gregorius came over from the Reds and now has a mild sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament. He'll spend his spring rehabbing and hoping to avoid the Tommy John surgery that would wipe out his 2013 season.

3B Martin Prado (YELLOW)

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    Prado is a very low yellow. The System ranks him at all his possible positions and then uses last year's playing time to distribute it. Thing is, he's likely to lock in at 3B for the DBacks, both this year and going forward.

    Prado's versatility might be lost except as a break-glass sort of skill, but it does seem that it would make him a healthier player given what we know of the past. So forget the outfield and definitely the time up the middle.

    Prado's stat line looks like there have been a bunch of minor injuries. In fact, it's just odd—again, due to his versatility. He's had some minor dings, sure, but none that make me think he won't be a steady player yet again, even in a new uniform. 

LF Jason Kubel (YELLOW)

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    Jason Kubel is a born DH who's succeeding in the NL despite limited mobility and a history of leg injuries. In fact, his injury-prone tag is due to come off after four of five healthy years. Kubel learned how to deal with his issues. Call it adjustment, call it maturity, call it whatever, but it's there.

    Sure, the leg and back issues linger in the rating and his "old player skills" will begin to work against him, but this is precisely the kind of player that the Diamondbacks have succeeded with. The medical staff has the golden touch here with long-term maintenance guys like this. Even with the low-moderate risk, Kubel's not the worst gamble if you understand just how good the medical staff is. 

CF Adam Eaton (GREEN)

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    Justin Upton is gone, as is Chris Young. That leaves CF to Adam Eaton. His middle name is currently "not the pitcher," but he's got the talent to make you forget the other Adam Eaton quickly. He's a very solid hitter with good speed and range, but not a one-dimensional player. In fact, he has to be considered a front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year alongside his teammate, Tyler Skaggs.

    He ended last season with a broken hand, but should be healed in plenty of time to have it be a non-issue heading into 2013. Eaton has been healthy throughout his pro career, and while The System likes to see a player establish himself in the major leagues before committing too much, it likes the broad-based athleticism of Eaton even more.

RF Cody Ross (YELLOW)

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    While Bill James plays Strat-O-Matic with the Red Sox outfield, the DBacks scooped up Cody Ross to fill in the OF "doughnut" they have. Kevin Towers gets productive depth and a player that can play CF if Adam Eaton doesn't come through. Ross can play RF until A.J. Pollock is ready. At worst, he's a good fourth outfielder and isn't platoon-locked like Gerardo Parra. 

    Ross has been relatively healthy in the past, with his peripatetic ways working against him having any sort of consistent stat line. He's capable, not terribly risky given his relative value and we have to guess that he's gritty enough for Kirk Gibson as well. 

SP Ian Kennedy (GREEN)

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    Ian Kennedy has been nothing but solid since coming over to the Diamondbacks. He's not dominant in any way, but he's a good enough pitcher to keep his team in games and to make his own luck. Three seasons above the 190-inning mark, plus easy, repeatable mechanics, make this a very low green—one of the lowest of any No. 1 pitcher. 

    Kennedy does have some odd peripherals and has to figure out his four-seamer, especially at home, but those are more performance issues than medical. Expect consistency, which is The System's favorite thing. 

SP Trevor Cahill (GREEN)

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    The swap of Trevor Cahill for Jarrod Parker set off a firestorm among scouts. Parker has more upside and stuff, but Cahill was more predictable and consistent. Which was more valuable? The System has its own answer, but it could care less about stuff. 

    Cahill is a carbon-copy of Ian Kennedy, albeit with ground-ball tendencies that work better at Chase Field. He's still young, so there's upside on top of the consistency, which is something you don't often see. The workload underneath the injury nexus is about the only major concern for Cahill.

    There's also some measure of concern, not reflected in this rating, about the long-term health of sinkerballers. Cahill doesn't throw the so-called "power slider" that Brandon Webb did, but there is some humeral movement necessary for the pitch, which could put pressure on the labrum and the posterior capsule. 

SP Brandon McCarthy (RED)

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    The skull fracture is enough for the red alone, since Brandon McCarthy hasn't come back and shown that he can throw. I think it's a bit overstated as a risk. His mind is fine and, physically, he gotten a bit of a rest. My hope is that McCarthy's scary incident leads to protective changes for pitchers so we don't see any more of these.

    Beyond that, McCarthy has simply never been healthy. Long-standing shoulder issues have kept him below 180 innings all of his career, so topping out near that mark is the upside. He fatigues easily and needs to be monitored over short spans to make sure that his recovery times are good. He gets on a good run, has three good games or so where he pitches well enough to go deep into some games and, pow, that's where the problems come in.

    Arizona's medical staff should be a great match for McCarthy.

SP Wade Miley (YELLOW)

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    The innings jump that Wade Miley took last year doesn't have the significant adjustment that it would in years past, but it's still something that makes me cringe a bit. He's 25, not 21, so it's not quite as worrisome as it feels. Miley keeps the ball down and has some very interesting pitch patterns—something I'll be watching closely this season.

    The major worry is that he did seem to hit a wall at about the 160-inning mark. It wasn't a bad one, but there were signs of fatigue. If he can hold at the 190-plus mark, he could well be the third solid, consistent pitcher that the DBacks need to go with Kennedy and Cahill. I think this yellow—which would have been a red under last year's System—could still be overstating his risk.

SP Tyler Skaggs (YELLOW)

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    If Tyler Skaggs claims a rotation slot out of camp, the risk goes up a little. Skaggs is still just 20 and is very slightly built, despite some reports of gained weight this offseason. He was listed as 6'5, 180 at the draft, then 6'3, 195 last year. 

    He barely went 150 innings last year across three levels and showed serious fatigue by the time he made it to the bigs. The DBacks smartly shut him down, but expecting him to go 30 starts would be tough, even if some of those come at the minor league level. 

    Skaggs alone could make that Dan Haren deal look good for the DBacks, but they'll have to keep him healthy to get the payoff. He's in the right place to get the best chance.

RP David Hernandez (GREEN)

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    Hernandez has a funky motion to go with his power arm, but scouts I spoke with really like the leg drive he uses and his "downhill" style, which combines well with his sharp 12-to-6 curve. He has closer's stuff, but with Heath Bell added to the mix, he could end up in the seventh rather than the ninth. That's valuable, but saves pay the bills for relievers. 

    Kirk Gibson has handled his bullpen well over his managerial tenure and has a very deep one—almost all power arms—to shoulder the load in 2013. It's a good mix for all of them and should help keep any of them, including Hernandez, from getting overworked.

CL J.J. Putz (YELLOW)

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    When healthy, J.J. Putz can be dominant. His 10 Ks/9 proved that, last year, he was both.

    His mechanics can get out of whack quickly, rhoufh, and it can take some time for him to put all the moving parts of his delivery back together. It happened last April, and if it happens again, Heath Bell and David Hernandez could easily take the saves. 

    Putz's career has come in three-season bursts. It could be coincidence or workload, but this is year three of the latest set. At 35, he probably doesn't have another burst in  him, but he probably has one more good season.