Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there that has or has ever had a female in their lives help and influence through love and positivity. Here’s hoping that you have a fantastic day.
We are now more than a month into the 2022 season, and the injury landscape is in full effect. We are now seeing players head to, return from, and stay on the Injury List. With so many comings and goings, it can be difficult to keep track of player health and team tendencies. That’s what The Injury Report is for: an organized list of what’s happening and what to do with all of the major fantasy implications.
Cincinnati second baseman Jonathan India was placed on the Injured List last week for the same hamstring injury that hampered him earlier in the season. It’s a discouraging development for the budding star, not just because of the lost time for such a talented player, but also due to the fact that hamstring injuries can be tough to overcome. While a timeline for a return is unknown, the injury designation is retroactive to April 30. One would imagine that the Reds will take their time ensuring that India is fully healthy and ready to go before any return date is considered.
In his absence, the Reds have been mixing and matching pieces together to see what works. Keep in mind, that the construction of this roster lacks the qualitative substance needed to compete, as Cincinnati is off to its worst start in franchise history. Both Alejo Lopez and Matt Reynolds have taken turns at second base and had marginal success, but neither have or should be counted on moving forward. They both lack the experience and pedigree to be anything more than a marginal platoon piece that is there merely to give others a day of rest or the chance to play at another position.
One player who has filled in admirably is Brandon Drury, who is enjoying one of his best seasons in years. He has already barreled the ball more this season than he has over his last two seasons combined. Additionally, his walk rate is up, his hard-hit rate is the best of his career, he has surpassed last season’s home run totals and his ground ball rate is considerably lower than it’s been in quite some time.
Conclusion: The situation in Cincinnati is quite dire, as the team is scuffling with injuries all over the field. One of the lone bright spots for the Reds has been Brandon Drury, who has already proven that this year’s version of himself is better because of consistent playing time. While he isn’t necessarily the best option in fantasy baseball, he does also qualify at third base in some formats. In deeper leagues, due to the fact that he will get playing time and that he’s hitting the ball hard, he’s worth a flier to see if this hot start can be maintained for a longer period of time.
One of the main concerns for the Twins this off-season was figuring out who would be pitching out of their rotation. For quite a while there were only a handful of players on the roster that seemed capable of handling the innings’ workload with enough talent and competency to succeed. One of those names was Bailey Ober, who was saddled with a lot of expectations to maintain the role of a starter and run with it. While his season had been a good one, he, unfortunately, suffered groin tightness and was officially placed on the Injured List last week.
Since his injury, the Twins’ pitching staff has succeeded with names that should already be rostered in most leagues. Joe Ryan has taken his next step in relevancy and has emerged as one of the team’s best starters. Chris Archer and Chris Paddack have done well and proven thus far that a change of scenery might be what was needed for them to prove that they can still pitch. There has been one big surprising name to emerge of a player who has made the most of his opportunities to pitch. That man is Josh Winder.
One of the fastest rising prospects within the Twins’ system, Winder flew through the minor leagues in 2021, displaying his good command throughout the year. He began the year out of the bullpen and was then used as a starter in Ober’s absence. Not always known as a high strikeout pitcher, he has since struck out fifteen batters over twelve innings as a starter and has given up only one walk. Of those fifteen strikeouts, seven have been via the slider. He looks locked in and ready to pounce on a potential rotation spot opening.
Josh Winder, 4 Consecutive Ks.
8Ks thru 5. pic.twitter.com/QVA6wto15K
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2022
Conclusion: The backend of the Twins’ rotation is most definitely up for grabs. With Ryan, Archer, Paddack, and a returning Sonny Gray all seemingly solidified as starters, there is an opening at the end here. Dylan Bundy has looked anything but competent lately and while Bailey Ober is away, Josh Winder is one to monitor as not only a potential fill-in, but as someone who could make the team rethink things altogether and go with a six-man rotation.
The Chicago White Sox entered this season with World Series aspirations after falling short of that a year ago. Looking up and down their roster, it’s easy to see how talented they are at the plate and on the mound as they have been positioning themselves as the team to beat in the American League Central for quite a while. The unfortunate news of Lance Lynn and his ailing knee injury was quite the blow to begin the season, and the White Sox have been struggling to recover from it since Opening Day. He was set to be one of their top pitchers, but instead, Chicago has been scrambling to find suitable replacements in his absence.
Both Vince Velasquez and Dallas Keuchel have been awful this season, as both pitchers have been trying to reclaim the success that they had in years past. Known as a fastball-heavy pitcher, Velasquez has been hit hard all season, which is hardly new for him. What is new, unfortunately, is the lack of punchouts he has thrown, as he sits with a career-low strikeout rate. Keuchel, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, as he uses command and location to generate ground ball outs and relies less on the strikeouts. This season has been anything but good for him, as he’s surrendered fourteen runs over fifteen innings pitched and looks lost on the mound.
There has been one bright spot for the White Sox, and that is Michael Kopech. After returning from Tommy John Surgery last year, Kopech was gently being stretched out last season. He had many multiple inning appearances throughout the year, with one of them being a five-inning start. This season, it was already planned that more would be asked of him, and he has most definitely answered that call.
Kopech has hit the ground running to begin this year, already with an ERA and a WHIP that are far superior to any other season’s outputs. What’s made him so dominant is the fact that what he is throwing is almost untouchable by the hitters. Looking at the stats below, the part to concentrate on is the differences in the opponents’ batting average and slugging percentage against him. Batters are whiffing, they’re missing and when they do make contact, it’s soft and nowhere close to being impactful enough to generate runs. In other words, Kopech has been elite.
Conclusion: The White Sox may not need to wait much longer for Lance Lynn to return, as they are hopeful for him to make his 2022 debut by the end of May. In the meantime, Michael Kopech is giving the White Sox every reason in the world to keep him in that rotation even when Lynn is back, making them a formidable force to be reckoned with if all goes right. While Kopech is on a pitch count until he can prove himself healthy, what he is doing in the short timeframe he is being allotted is incredible.
After losing Max Scherzer to the Mets in free agency, the Dodgers were tasked with rebuilding their rotation through any means necessary. While they did have some talent already in place, there was uncertainty in-house due to some ongoing injuries, so they went out and signed a free agent pitcher of their own: Andrew Heaney. While there have been some concerns with him regarding his inability to keep the ball in the yard, he has always shown a propensity to throw strikeouts. Subsequently, the Dodgers took the plunge and gambled that they could fix him. While there were positive results in the early going, thanks primarily to his new-look slider, a setback of an injury settled in and Heaney was placed on the Injury List with shoulder discomfort. He has not picked up a baseball since, and there is no timeframe for a return.
With most of the rotation already solidified, the final two spots remained potentially in flux due to the fragility of the pitchers in place. Tyler Anderson has been filling in for Heaney within the rotation and has been able to avoid hard contact all season. His slight increase in strikeout rate and similar walk rate suggests that he may continue to be the pitcher we’ve known him to be for quite some time: efficient and reliable, but not incredible. If he continues doing what he is doing, he could find himself taking over Heaney’s spot for a while, even when he returns.
Tony Gonsolin struggled last season when he returned from shoulder inflammation of his own, but he was able to maintain a high strikeout rate in the process. This season has been all about command, as his career-low strikeout rate and near career-high walk rate bring about questions of if this is a slow start to the season or something more. While his very low ERA suggests the former, it’s definitely something to monitor, though his slider appears to be as dominant as ever.
For a pitch that is being used almost one-third of the time, Gonsolin has quite the lethal weapon here. He’s keeping most batters off base with this, generating swinging strikes and limiting it to relatively weak contact. If this maintains its elite level or even gets better, Gonsolin’s ceiling will continue to rise.
Conclusion: As it stands, the Dodgers have no reason to rush Heaney back from his shoulder injury. Back in 2019, he missed about a month’s worth of playing time with a similar injury, but not all injuries are related to their recovery process. In the meantime, Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin have held their own at the backend of this rotation, giving the team the leeway needed to properly bring Heaney back. That said, there’s no guarantee that he is automatically inserted back into the rotation, given the fact that the team has the aforementioned options in place as well as Dustin May, who may return this summer and fight for his spot as well.
There are some players who have a long list of injuries that have continued to pile on top of each other over the years. The Washington Nationals‘ Stephen Strasburg is no stranger to the Injured List, as he recently suffered through carpal tunnel neuritis and thoracic outlet syndrome over the past two seasons. While both injuries have their own hurdles on the road to recovery, there was some optimism in the Nationals’ camp this spring, as it was believed that Strasburg would be ready to pitch at some point early in the season. While he has been advised to change his delivery to a more full approach as opposed to pitching out of the stretch, he has also been held off from joining the team in order to continue to prepare his arm by pitching down in Florida and getting stretched out. With no timeline in sight, the already weakened rotation had some holes to fill.
Patrick Corbin had a disastrous 2021 season, and even though this year has been better, he is still a fragment of what he once was and should only be rostered in the deepest of leagues. Erick Fedde has shown mild improvement with keeping runs off the board, he is still too inconsistent to be relied on for anything important. While Joan Adon is very young and is still working on his own improvements, there has been one Nationals pitcher who has taken a positive step forward and is closer to reaching his full potential.
Josiah Gray came to Washington as a part of the Trea Turner trade last summer and struggled to begin his Nationals’ career. This year, however, he is throwing more strikes, has a better command of the strike zone, and is keeping the ball in the yard. It’s been quite a transformation for him, and he’s slowly living up to the potential the Nationals saw in order to trade away some of their best assets. This was recently encapsulated when he struck out eighteen batters over eleven innings to finish off the month of April.
Conclusion: The injury to Stephen Strasburg was a big one, as he has proven himself to be among the game’s elite when healthy. With no definitive timeline for a 2022 debut, the Nationals need anything and everything that they can get from the pitchers they already use. That said, right now only one of them remains someone to be rostered in most formats, as the potential for Josiah Gray is there, though it’s unclear if and when it will be reached.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)