Starting pitcher injuries and the aftermath from them have fluctuated our rankings & projections. Jaime Eisner updates the hard numbers as we wait for the season to begin.
We’re living through unprecedented times in the sports world. Nearly all major sports leagues and organizations are shut down for at least the next month due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, including Major League Baseball. Spring Training is over (for now), and the start of the 2020 MLB season will be pushed back into May or June, maybe longer.
Forgive us for not delving too deep into the scary, real-world issues that caused all this. Instead, let’s escape, at least for a moment, from the chaos and evaluate how a delayed start to the season affects the fantasy baseball draft stock of several superstar pitchers. Let’s focus on a quartet of currently-injured starters: Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, and Justin Verlander.
Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians
Original Rank: SP19 (No. 83 overall)
Original Projection: 12 W – 3.55 ERA – 1.17 WHIP – 195 SO (161 IP)
Aside from James Paxton (who you can read about here), Clevinger was one of the first big names to suffer a significant injury this offseason. Right around Valentine’s Day, we found out that the starter needed knee surgery and would be out 6-8 weeks. The timetable of eight weeks would put his return date around April 10th. Considering MLB has now pushed back the start of its season beyond the initial two-week timeframe, it’s unlikely Opening Day would be before Memorial Day, with a strong probability of it being later than that.
Working with that timeframe, and assuming MLB resumes some spring training at some point, this injury could be akin to having surgery over the Winter. It’s now very possible Clevinger doesn’t miss a start. If that’s the case, he’s a borderline SP1 again.
Updated Projection: 13 W – 3.55 ERA – 1.17 WHIP – 215 SO (177 IP)
Updated Rank: SP13 (No. 51 overall)
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians
Original Rank: SP28 (No. 116 overall)
Original Projection: 11 W – 3.73 ERA – 1.17 WHIP – 177 SO (158 IP)
Carrasco had two injuries this spring, a right hip flexor strain and elbow soreness. Obviously, the latter is far more concerning. He wasn’t going to make it back in time for Opening Day, so the delay could help him start the season in the rotation. Still, I can’t project him to make 30 starts.
His previous projection came out before the elbow issue. Let’s call the new injury and the delay in the start of the MLB season a wash. His risk of re-injury is still high, so I’m not yet willing to project him for more than 160 innings.
Updated Projection: 11 W – 3.73 ERA – 1.17 WHIP – 177 SO (158 IP)
Updated Rank: SP28 (No. 116 overall)
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Original Rank: SP4 (No. 14 overall)
Original Projection: 15 W – 3.20 ERA – 1.02 WHIP – 243 SO (186 IP)
Verlander was shut down on March 9th due to a lat strain. Luckily, he said it didn’t feel nearly as bad as the one he suffered in 2015 that kept him out of action until June. While there’s no timetable for his return, a Grade 1 strain usually only takes a few weeks to recover, while a Grade 2 strain takes about a month. In the meantime, Verlander had surgery on his groin on March 17th that will keep him out six weeks. Everything should be healed up by the start of the season, and he should no issues getting over the 200-innings threshold again as an elite Top 3 option at the position.
Updated Projection: 17 W – 3.20 ERA – 1.02 WHIP – 270 SO (207 IP)
Updated Rank: SP3 (No. 10 overall)
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Original Rank: SP52 (No. 185 overall)
Original Projection: 7 W – 3.28 ERA – 1.04 WHIP – 122 SO (91 IP)
It finally happened. Sale is having Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2020 season. Earlier this spring, it was revealed he had a flexor strain, but Tommy John surgery wasn’t yet recommended because they did not see any structural issues in his elbow. But that all changed after, presumably, the pain did not go away with rest alone. Given the start of the season being delayed anyway, it made sense for Sale to get this procedure done now.
He’s no longer fantasy-relevant in 2020 and will have limited value in 2021.
Updated Projection: None
Updated Rank: None
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