As the author of the MLB Injury Report, it is my job to report the bad news when players get hurt or are expected to miss time due to injuries.  It is also my job to get used to saying “Injured List” instead of “Disabled List.”  Injuries are an expected part of the game and those fantasy baseball GMs who can withstand and survive them are the ones who achieve the most success.  It is still early in draft season so a lot can happen before Opening Day.  However, there are several players who have already sustained injuries or will miss time in 2019 due to injuries from last year.  This will likely diminish their ADP and allow GMs an opportunity to wait a little longer to grab players later in drafts.

This article will focus on players who we know are already injured and will miss some time in 2019, players who were injured for a significant amount of time in 2018 and are coming back, and players who are likely going to miss the 2019 season.

Will Miss Time in 2019

Francisco Lindor (SS-CLE)

Lindor is unquestionably one of the top fantasy players in the league coming off an elite season in 2018 in which he hit .277 with 38 home runs, 92 RBI, 129 runs scored, and 25 stolen bases.  He also had a terrific .352 OBP in 158 games making him a bona fide first round draft pick in any league format.  However, he sustained a strained calf while working out in early February and is expected to miss up to two months.  This puts Opening Day in serious jeopardy for Lindor even if he is able to come back within that time frame.  The likely reality is that he will miss some time in April as the Indians do not want to rush him back while the weather is still very cold.  Fantasy GMs should not be overly concerned about this even if he does miss a couple weeks at the beginning of the season.  Lindor is still well worth a first-round pick and GMs drafting further down the board will now likely have an opportunity to select him given this injury discount.

Alex Bregman (3B-HOU)

Bregman has ascended into elite status within the fantasy baseball world thanks to his five-category contributions and eligibility at multiple positions.  His second full season in the big leagues produced a .286 batting average along with 31 home runs, 103 RBI, 105 runs scored and ten stolen bases all while being eligible at third base and shortstop.  The minimal concern with him is that he underwent arthroscopic surgery back in January to remove loose bodies from his right elbow.  The good news is that he has resumed hitting already and is fully expected to be ready for Opening Day.  The Astros will ease him along slowly during spring training so as to not risk any setbacks, so fantasy GMs need not be worried about his status for the season.  Bregman is a solid second-round pick who will provide elite production along with positional flexibility.

Didi Gregorius (SS-NYY)

Jeter who?  The man who made people quickly forget about the Captain was Didi Gregorius who is coming off another solid season in pinstripes.  He finished 2018 hitting .268 with 27 home runs, 86 RBI, 89 runs scored and ten stolen bases in just 134 games.  Gregorius sustained a torn UCL in his right elbow during the ALDS against Boston last October and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.  He has just started throwing again which is great news in terms of his recovery and comeback.  It is likely that he will miss the first few months of the season but the Yankees expect him to be back possibly by June.  Gregorius has averaged 24 home runs over the past three years so reaching that may be difficult in a truncated season.  That being said, he is a valuable late round draft pick who can provide some middle infield pop later in the season.

Yoenis Céspedes (OF-NYM)

The Mets will be without their best hitter for most of the 2019 season as Yoenis Céspedes recovers from surgery on both of his heels.  There is no set time frame for when he might return, but it will certainly not be before the All Star break.  The original prognosis given last year was a 10-12 month recovery so the Mets would take an All Star break return if that is even possible.  Injuries have plagued Cespedes since he was acquired by the Mets in 2015 as he missed 124 games in 2018, 81 games in 2017 and 30 games in 2016.  He is worth drafting a stashing, but don’t reach too early for him. 

Grégory Polanco (OF-PIT)

Polanco was in the midst of a solid season before he suffered a dislocated left shoulder and was shut down in September.  He ultimately underwent surgery to repair the dislocation as well as his labrum.  It was initially reported that his recovery could be between seven to nine months which would have meant an extended absence in 2019.  However, he has already begun a throwing program and has no restrictions for batting drills in spring training.  Barring any setbacks, he may only miss April at this rate so his draft value should start shooting back up throughout the course of spring training.  Polanco hit .254 with 23 home runs, 81 RBI, 75 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in just 130 games in 2018.  Had he been healthy and been able to play another 20 games, he likely would have reached 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.  Statistics like that make fantasy GMs salivate so make sure you do not let him slip too far in drafts before selecting him.

Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP-LAA)

The two-way phenom will be a one-way phenom in 2019 after he underwent Tommy John surgery back in October 2018.  Ohtani will certainly not be ready by Opening Day as the Angels’ new manager Brad Ausmus believes he will return at some point in May.  Ohtani won the American League Rookie of the Year Award thanks to his .285 batting average with 22 home runs, 61 RBI, 59 runs scored and ten stolen bases in just 114 games.  Those offensive statistics are solid enough, but he also had a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in ten starts.  He will not pitch in 2019 so GMs need not worry about that this year.  His decision to continue playing through the elbow injury most certainly delayed his return in 2019, and this is going to provide a valuable draft day discount for GMs.

Brandon Morrow (RP-CHC)

Morrow had elbow surgery back in November 2018 and is in the midst of rehabbing.  There is no time frame established for when he might be able to get back on the mound, but the Cubs seem satisfied with his progress thus far.  It is anticipated that he will miss at least the first month of the season, so Pedro Strop is the likely benefactor to have save opportunities.  Morrow had a solid but injury-shortened inaugural season in Chicago accumulating 22 saves along with a 1.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. 

Sean Manaea (SP-OAK)

Manaea underwent surgery on his left labrum back in September 2018 and is expected to miss most of the season.  He will begin a throwing program shortly and has been progressing nicely according to the A’s.  However, the most optimistic scenario for Manaea is to return around the All Star break given the nature of the operation he had.  He has proven to be a worthwhile back of the rotation type pitcher in fantasy leagues averaging 27 starts along with 10+ wins and a sub-4.00 ERA from 2016-2018, but there is no need to draft him in any league format right now.

Welcome Back

Miguel Cabrera (1B-DET)

Cabrera’s 2018 season ended abruptly in June when he suffered a ruptured left biceps tendon which required season-ending surgery.  He played in only 38 games last year and hit .299 with three home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored.  At 36-years old, his best days are clearly behind him as he has a ton of wear and tear on his body over the course of his illustrious 16-year career.  The future Hall of Famer is expected to be a DH more frequently from now on and could provide solid value with a draft position much lower than we are accustomed to seeing him at.  However, even if he returns to be productive, the Tigers do not have much protection for him in their lineup so he may not have as many opportunities to produce as GMs would like.

Jimmy Nelson (SP-MIL)

Nelson missed the entire 2018 season recovering from shoulder surgery he had back at the end of 2017.  He is fully expected to be ready for Opening Day as he will have a normal spring training this year and is aiming to be the Brewers’ Opening Day starter.  Nelson was a solid fantasy contributor in 2017 when he posted a 12-6 record with a 3.49 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 199 strikeouts in 175.1 innings.  There is concern that he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues in over a year, but the shoulder injury was a fluke from an ill-advised slide into first base.  He will have upside value later on in drafts and will benefit from having a solid team around him.

Aarón Sánchez (SP-TOR)

When you feel nauseous thinking about people being handsomely rewarded for being terrible at their job, Aarón Sánchez is likely one of the reasons.  He just recently signed a one-year contract for $3,900,000 which represented a raise of $1,200,000 despite being limited to 20 starts and compiling a record of 4-6 with a 4.89 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 86 strikeouts in 105 innings.  Sanchez has been injured for most of the past couple seasons and has likely fallen off most people’s radar for fantasy purposes.  He had surgery on his right index finger last September and is expected to be fully healthy for 2019.  He does have upside, especially considering his incredible 2016 season when he made 30 starts and went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA.   Sanchez will likely be available late in drafts, but beware his history of hand and finger issues. 

Taijuan Walker (SP-ARZ)

Walker made three starts in April 2018 before suffering a torn UCL in his right elbow which required season-ending Tommy John surgery.  He began a throwing program last September and continues to work his way back to the Diamondbacks.  Right now it is expected that he could return by June which would be a big boost to Arizona’s starting rotation.  Walker possesses a ton of talent but has not been able to put it all together yet.  It likely won’t happen yet this year as the only hope is that he can return to the big leagues without any setbacks.  He is a candidate to be added and stashed off the waiver wire once the season starts so do not waste a draft pick on him.

Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-NYY)


See You in 2020

Johnny Cueto (SP-SF)

The veteran starter underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2018 and will likely miss the entire 2019 season.  He began the 2018 season in dominant fashion winning three of his first five starts and compiling an ERA of 0.84 and a WHIP of 0.60.  However, he sustained an elbow injury and missed a couple months before returning in July when it became apparent something was not right.  It is possible he could take the mound at the end of September simply to get some innings in, but Cueto can all but be forgotten from a fantasy perspective this year.  He is not worth retaining in keeper leagues either as he will be entering his age 34 season by the time 2020 comes around.

Garrett Richards (SP-SD)

Richards underwent Tommy John surgery last July and has since been signed by the Padres as a free agent.  The injured right-hander signed a two-year contract with incentives for 2020, but he is not expected to contribute anything this season.  Injuries have plagued Richards throughout his career as he has only made 30 starts once back in 2015.  Richards was having a solid season before he was shut down amassing a 5-4 record with a 3.66 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 76.1 innings.  He can be ignored across the board in fantasy leagues this year and is not worth holding onto in keeper leagues.

Lance McCullers (SP-HOU)

McCullers had Tommy John surgery back in November and will miss the entire 2019 season.  This is a tough blow for the Astros and fantasy GMs as McCullers was a key piece of their starting rotation.  Injuries have been a big factor in his career thus far as he has never made more than 22 starts in a season since debuting in 2015.  He has loads of talent and is only 25-years old, so he is worth keeping in dynasty leagues as long as he is not taking up a roster spot for someone more valuable. 

Michael Kopech (SP-CHW)

Top prospect Michael Kopech made his Major League debut last August and had four starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his elbow which required Tommy John surgery.  He had the operation in September 2018 and has already begun a throwing program.  The White Sox will obviously be very conservative and cautious with their potential future ace, so fantasy GMs need not worry about seeing him at all in 2019.  Kopech should be kept in dynasty leagues as he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2020 season.