You know those mutual fund ads that end with something like "past performance does not guarantee future results?" The Tampa Bay Rays medical staff, historically one of the top staffs in terms of results, is having a tough year. Its latest bad break is losing Wil Myers, its young slugging outfielder, for two months to a surprising stress fracture in his wrist, according to MLB.com. That could mean that Myers will be down on power for the rest of 2014.
The Rays only got half of the good news they were looking for. The team had been hoping that Myers could avoid surgery, and that looks to be the case now. However, the wrist is a very complex structure and if the fracture doesn't heal perfectly, surgery may be necessary down the line. The key here is that something overstressed one of the bones, and that causation will need to be addressed.
The wrist appears simple from the outside, but it is a very complex joint, needed both for the hinging between the arm and hand and also for small movements, rotation and finger movements/grip. It is a structure of small interconnected bones lined with tendons, ligaments and cartilage, and all can be thrown off by even minute changes.
Fractures are common and are difficult to heal due to the shape and positioning of the bones. Moving any of the connective structure can cause problems, and the area tends to have issues with scar tissue, which can alter the structure's delicate balance. Worse, the problems can linger, especially with tendon or ligament involvement.
The most common problem after return from any wrist problem is a loss of power. Even surgically repaired wrists tend to show a short-term loss of power, likely from impeded motion leading to a loss of bat speed. That short term tends to last about six to eight weeks.
The best example of this is Pablo Sandoval, who has had both wrists fractured and repaired surgically. In both cases, he came back fine once time passed and the wrists were back to normal. Even gap power or "loud outs" are a positive sign if you're watching to see when Myers might be ready to return to his normal level.
In the short term, the Rays will use a combination of Ben Zobrist (himself just returned from the disabled list), Matt Joyce and Jerry Sands in right field. Joe Maddon will have to adjust his roster and potentially lose some flexibility with Zobrist in the outfield, but the team needs to maximize the situation.
Watch to see if Maddon finds ways to get Kevin Kiermaier into the lineup. The speedy defensive specialist is caught behind Desmond Jennings but has both power and stolen base potential if used.
With the Rays in a disappointing slump and losing Myers for an extended period, plus his likely power drop, there are concerns that the team will consider trading off players like David Price or smaller pieces like a resurgent David DeJesus. I've known that front office a long time, and the Rays never act rashly, so I don't think a six-week injury to even a star like Myers will change its plan.
For Myers, his 2014 will be a down year. While he will likely return to the lineup sometime in mid-to-late July, his power may not return until near the end of the season, if then. His slash line and peripheral stats are already quite disappointing, but an injury takes away some of his chance to turn that around.