Finally, fantasy baseball is back as spring training officially kicked off.  It is draft season right now and as always GMs must take into consideration the health of various players before deciding whether to draft them in a particular spot.  The regular season is still just over a month away, but we already have seen some significant injuries to impact players.  So without further adieu, here is the first edition of the fantasy baseball emergency room for the 2020 season.

Luis Severino (SP-NYY)

The Yankees made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason by signing Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking contract.  He was going to step in as the ace of the pitching staff and bump everyone else down a slot meaning Luis Severino would the team’s number two starter.  This seemed all positive as Severino looks to bounce back from an injury-marred 2019 season in which he only pitched 12 innings due to shoulder injuries.  After pitching in the 2019 postseason, it was expected he would be at full health entering 2020.  Unfortunately, the Yankees have already shut Severino down after he experienced some soreness in his right forearm this week.  This is extremely alarming as that is a common precursor to a torn UCL and inevitable Tommy John surgery.  We should know more about Severino’s status in the coming days, but fantasy GMs should be very concerned and not rush to draft Severino too early.

James Paxton (SP-NYY)

Continuing the discussion about the Yankees pitching staff, their projected number three starter will miss the first couple of months of the season.  Paxton had surgery to remove a cyst from his spine earlier this winter and will not be able to start throwing until sometime in late March or April.  This is a huge loss for the Yankees who were relying on an even better second season in the Bronx from Paxton.  Their starting pitching depth will be tested early on, as Jordan Montgomery , Jonathan Loaisiga , and Deivi Garcia are all candidates to take his spot until he can return.  Paxton has obviously slipped in drafts, but he could provide great value later on assuming he returns without any lingering effects.

Eugenio Suárez (3B-CIN)

Freak injuries happen more frequently than you would think.  This time, Eugenio Suárez was the victim as he injured his shoulder falling into a pool earlier this winter that required surgical intervention to take out some loose cartilage.  Suarez has already started doing some work with the team but is not throwing yet.  It is unlikely that he will be ready to go on Opening Day, but he is not expected to miss too much time in April assuming he does not suffer any setbacks.  This injury has dropped his ADP significantly, and this means he could be a bargain for GMs after hitting .271 with 49 home runs, 103 RBI, 87 runs scored and three stolen bases in 2019.

Mike Clevinger (SP-CLE)

The Indians went into 2019 with one of the best starting rotations in baseball only to see it decimated with injuries.  They still managed to stay in the AL Central race most of the season and felt good enough about their rotation that they dealt away former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber .  They had this confidence because Mike Clevinger was poised to take the next step in his ascension towards the upper echelon of starting pitchers.  Unfortunately, he suffered a partial tear of his meniscus in his left knee and underwent surgery earlier this month.  Cleveland expects him to return within the next two months, which means he is projected to only miss the first few weeks of the regular season.  This is not as bad as it was initially thought to be when he suffered the injury.  Clevinger’s draft value certainly took a hit because of this, but he is still worthy of an early round selection as a potential ace of the staff. 

Carlos Carrasco (SP-CLE)

It was a traumatic 2019 season for Carrasco who missed several months due to being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a form of blood cancer.  Fortunately, he was able to overcome this and returned later in the season.  While this was great news about his health as a human being, he did not provide fantasy GMs much value as he was 6-7 with a 5.29 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched last year.  Now he is dealing with another potentially serious issue as he experienced some discomfort in his upper right leg earlier this week and has been sent for additional testing.  We should know more about this in the next few days, but fantasy GMs will have even more doubts and concerns about him heading into drafts. 

Alex Verdugo (OF-BOS)

Verdugo was the centerpiece of the package the Red Sox acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, but he was already dealing with a stress fracture in his back.  Boston knew about this before making the trade so they clearly do not seem overly concerned about it.  However, Verdugo will be not be able to fully participate during spring training as he recovers which makes it almost a certainty that he begins the season on the injured list.  He missed the final months and a half of the 2019 season with various injuries but did hit .294 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, 43 runs scored and four stolen bases in 106 games.  Once he is healthy, he should become an integral part of Boston’s lineup on an everyday basis.

Cole Hamels (SP-ATL)

The Braves have shut down Cole Hamels for several weeks due to some irritation in his shoulder and will likely start the season on the injured list.  This is a disappointing development as Atlanta brought him in on a one-year deal to help anchor their young pitching staff.  The veteran southpaw has seen his ADP plummet due to this injury and is likely not worthy of a draft pick in many standard leagues.  If he is able to get healthy and avoid setbacks, he could be a valuable waiver wire target once the season gets underway.

Miles Mikolas (SP-STL)

The Cardinals will likely start the season with Miles Mikolas on the injured list after he has been shut down for the next several weeks.  He has been dealing with soreness in his flexor tendon and received a platelet-rich plasma injection to help facilitate healing.  St. Louis is already dealing with multiple question marks in their starting rotation, so they will be behind the eight ball once the regular season begins. Mikolas had a disappointing 2019 season going 9-14 with a 4.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 184 innings pitched over 32 starts.  This was a significant regression from his solid 2018 campaign.  As such, he has fallen way off the radar in fantasy drafts already and won’t be much more than an early season waiver wire target.

Seth Lugo (RP-NYM)

Lugo was unquestionably the Mets best relief pitcher in 2019 as he assumed the closer role late in the season due to Edwin Díaz ’s implosion.  He suffered a fractured pinkie toe earlier this week when he banged his foot in a hotel room but is not expected to miss much time.  This type of injury is not considered serious, but the concern will be whether his mechanics are altered due to overcompensating for any lingering pain.  He will not likely see many save opportunities this year assuming Diaz bounces back and with the addition of Dellin Betances , but he should still provide solid peripherals in ERA, WHIP and holds.