For all the prospects who enjoy breakout campaigns in the minors or make their major league debuts, there are just as many players whose seasons are cut short due to injury.
Headed into the 2013 season, prospects coming off injury-plagued years, such as Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Rendon, are using the spring to showcase their proximity to the major leagues. Other players, such as Sammy Solis, who is busy recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, are simply hoping to return as soon as possible.
Here’s a look at the progress made by prospects who were injured in 2012.
After a slow start to the 2012 season at Double-A, Choice, the A’s first-round draft pick in 2010, was finally turning the corner during the second half when an errant pitch broke his wrist and prematurely ended his campaign.
Finally healthy, the right-handed-hitting outfielder has swung the bat well this spring. Appearing in 19 games, Choice is batting .310/.333/.476 with four extra-base hits, nine RBI and seven strikeouts over 45 plate appearances.
He’s still blocked at each outfield position in the major leagues, but Choice has made a strong case to be the first recalled from the minors in the event of an injury.
Expected to move quickly last year, Rendon, who has a long injury history, fractured his ankle while rounding third base during his second game of the season at High-A Potomac. As a result, the right-handed-hitting third baseman appeared in only 44 games last season.
But after a productive campaign in the Arizona Fall League, Rendon, 23, was out to prove himself this spring. Sure enough, he batted .375/.412/.875 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 13 games while flashing solid defense at the hot corner.
As long as he remains healthy, Rendon should spend a majority of the 2013 season in Triple-A and/or the major leagues. However, regarding the latter, it will take an injury for him to get there before September.
In his first full professional season in 2011, Solis, a 6’5” left-hander, registered a 3.26 ERA with 93/23 K/BB in 96.2 innings between both Class-A levels. Headed into spring training in 2012, the San Diego alumnus had the potential to jump on the fast track to the major leagues, as he was likely to open the year in Double-A.
However, after Solis originally experienced discomfort in his left elbow during the Arizona Fall League, the injury worsened during the spring and ultimately required Tommy John surgery in March. Now a year removed from the operation, Solis has been throwing off a mound since October. He’s close to returning, though the southpaw will likely open the 2013 season in extended spring training before heading out to either High-A or Double-A. If all goes as planned, Solis could reach the major leagues by the end of the 2014 season.
Had it not been for a torn knee ligament in late June, d’Arnaud would have presumably reached the major leagues with the Blue Jays at some point last season. At the time of the injury, he was batting .333/.380/.595 with 16 home runs in 67 games. But now, after an offseason trade to the Mets, the 24-year-old is poised to make his big league debut in 2013 with his new organization.
D’Arnaud has swung the bat well this spring, batting .308/.387/.423 with three doubles in 12 games. He’s still expected to open the upcoming season in Triple-A, but it may only take a few months before he’s behind the plate and hitting in the heart of the Mets’ lineup.
With a fastball that flirts with triple digits and an absolutely devastating breaking ball, there’s reason to believe that right-hander Lucas Giolito may have been the first overall selection in the 2012 draft had he not suffered an elbow injury early in the spring.
Despite the injury, he still went in the first round to the Nationals (16th overall) due to his unquestionable ceiling as a frontline starting pitcher. After sitting out for most of the summer, Giolito ultimately made his professional debut in August. However, the hard-throwing right-hander lasted only two frames in a Gulf Coast League start before the elbow injury resurfaced. This time, however, it required Tommy John surgery.
The good news is that Giolito’s recovery and rehabilitation is going well, as the 6’6” right-hander is already throwing at 90 on flat ground. Given the success of the Nationals in rehabbing and subsequently developing pitchers who have endured the surgery, Giolito’s prospect stock is still as high as ever.