Notable Fantasy and Injury News After 2020 MLB Spring Training

Martin FennContributor IIIMarch 21, 2020

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws during spring training baseball camp Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

America's pastime has been put on hold, at least for the time being.

Major League Baseball elected to suspend spring training just over a week ago amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has altered the course of the sporting world in 2020.

Opening Day was originally scheduled for Friday, March 27, with all 30 teams playing on the same day for the first time since 1968. However, the suspension of spring training and growing national concerns over the growth of the pandemic have made scheduling more of an issue.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the regular season will not begin on April 9, which was the initial target start date. Instead, MLB will likely take a "wait and see" approach and consult with public health officials as to when play might commence.

But despite all the uncertainty, some of the marquee teams in the league are already being impacted by injuries. Here are some updates on a pair of star pitchers and how their injuries might impact future outlooks for fantasy baseball owners.


Chris Sale to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Boston Red Sox fans have not had much reason to be happy this past offseason.

Payroll concerns consumed much of the narrative this winter, and those concerns—paired with uncertainty about his future—led to the Red Sox trading 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts and left-handed starter David Price. Things only seemed to get worse when it was revealed ace Chris Sale had elbow inflammation.

However, the initial feedback Sale received was he would not need to undergo Tommy John surgery. Despite having similar elbow issues that forced the Red Sox to shut Sale down last August, it seemed he would once again skirt past being put on the shelf.

But with the season on hold and Sale's health still in question, the Red Sox announced he would indeed undergo surgery on Thursday.

Sale's five-year, $145 extension that he signed last March was supposed to begin this season, but now he is likely to miss at least 12 months, meaning he might not be back on the mound until he is approaching the age of 32. That is a scary prospect for the Red Sox and Sale, who has had fairly nagging arm issues ever since he came to Beantown.

Who are the arms that might pick up the slack in Sale's absence? Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi are both hoping to have bounce-back years, and the Red Sox are banking on former Minnesota Twins left-hander Martin Perez to show some improvement.

In terms of fantasy, keep an eye on Collin McHugh's health. The veteran right-hander has had durability issues in the last few years, but he still has a slider that is one of the best strikeout pitches in the game.

McHugh was initially expected to miss the start of the season, but he should now have more time to get on an individual throwing program because of the delay. If he can rediscover some of the life on his fastball, he could be a bargain pickup for the Red Sox and fantasy owners everywhere. 


Justin Verlander Has Groin Surgery

Julio Cortez/Associated Press


Houston Astros ace and reigning 2019 AL Cy Young Justin Verlander had surgery on his right groin on Tuesday, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.

Verlander had previously been dealing with a lat issue that might have forced him to miss Opening Day had the season started on time, but the groin injury apparently preceded that issue. Rome reported he was expected to miss six weeks, though he will likely still have added time to recover before the season begins.

The 37-year-old was historically good in 2019. Verlander made 34 starts, throwing 223 innings (most in the bigs) while posting a 2.58 ERA and notching 300 strikeouts.

Verlander also finished the season with a 0.803 WHIP, which was the fifth-lowest mark in MLB history and the second-best mark in the deadball era (behind Pedro Martinez).

Though Verlander has continued to excel late in his career, the Astros will need him to be at his best as they enter the 2019 campaign without Gerrit Cole in the rotation.


Aaron Judge's Rib Showing "Slight Improvement"

Matt Slocum/Associated Press


New York Yankees star right fielder Aaron Judge had been sidelined because of a cracked rib prior to the suspension of play, but Bryan Hoch of MLB.com said that rib was showing "slight improvement," also noting Judge will undergo further tests in a few weeks.

Hoch also reported Judge had suffered a collapsed lung recently, though that now appears to be a non-issue as the pneumothorax is "completely gone."

After a number of key players suffered injuries in 2019, history looked to be repeating itself early in 2020. Right-hander Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery, while lefty James Paxton had surgery on his back and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was dealing with a right calf strain.

Judge's setback orchestrated a greater sense of anxiety, in part because it is still unknown whether the issue will require surgery. However, it appears the improvement would be a good sign as Judge gets added time off to rest and rehabilitate.

The Bronx Bombers need Judge to be healthy to make a legitimate run at the World Series. Not only is he one of the best two-way players in the game when he is in between the lines, but the Yankees are also weakest in terms of quality depth in the outfield.


All stats obtained via Baseball Reference and all contract information via Spotrac, unless otherwise noted.