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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Injuries Taking a Toll

Wild on Sports
Spring Injuries Taking a Toll
By Wild on Sports Analyst Aaron Dorman

On paper, at least twenty teams look like they could be contenders or have reason to hope this year. Although sometimes bad luck and performances make a difference, by far the major cause of separating out the winners from the losers over the long haul is attrition. Once spring begins a team’s depth is exposed and their ability to weather injuries is tested. Here are some players who suffered injuries this spring and how their loss will affect their team.

1.       Chris Carpenter, Cardinals SP- it appears as if nerve damage will force Carpenter to retire, ending an injury-laden but overall strong career mostly with St. Louis. Despite making only four starts last year, Carpenter was penciled into the rotation for 2013, so his loss was unexpected. He’s a big name to lose, but the Cardinals won’t suffer anything more than the sadness over losing a fan favorite. St. Louis has admirable pitching depth, including one of the game’s best pitching prospects in Shelby Miller. They’re so rich in pitching that they barely made an effort to re-sign Kyle Lohse, who won 16 games with a 2.83 ERA for them last year. They’ll be fine. IMPACT-ZERO

2.       Rafael Furcal, Cardinals SS- Another Cardinal done for the year, another potential addition by subtraction. Furcal had a strong April last year and then his numbers fell off a cliff. For now, he will be replaced in the lineup by folk hero Pete Kozma, who I remain highly skeptical of. However, the next down on the depth chart is sleeper Greg Garcia, who has gotten on base and played solid defense in the minors. If neither of these players works out, the Cardinals have more than enough depth to trade for a real shortstop. Oscar Taveras for Jurickson Profar? A pipe dream, probably. But you never know…IMPACT-LOW

3.       Matt Garza, Cubs SP –Nobody knows quite when to expect Garza back, although conceivable he will only miss the first month of the season. In terms of season impact, his absence should not mean much, as the Cubs will probably be terrible no matter what. In fact, they can use this opportunity to see if a player like Chris Rusin is useful. However, Garza’s health will hurt his trade value significantly, and the Cubs were definitely hoping he’d be able to land them a solid prospect or two, similar to the packages they received for Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster last year. IMPACT- MODERATE

4.       Corey Hart, Brewers 1B-Hart will miss the first two months of the year after knee surgery in January. His loss really exposes the Brewers lack of depth, as Hart himself was moved over to first base last year to help cover for injuries. Their theoretical replacement, Mat Gamel, is injured once again and his career may be in jeopardy. Instead, the Brewers are hoping minor league slugger Hunter Morrison is ready to contribute for them, a questionable proposition considering his aggressive hitting style. IMPACT-MODERATE

5.       Chase Headley, Padres 3B- Headley will miss at least the first month of the season with a fractured thumb. He was expected to be the heart of a surprising Padres offense, after a breakout season partly masked by the pitching haven of Petco Park. Outside the park, Headley’s numbers look similar to David Wright in his prime. For now, the most obvious player to replace him is prospect Jedd Gyorko, who looks to be a decent hitter, but Headley’s value is not replaceable. IMPACT-MODERATE

6.       David Ortiz, Red Sox DH- Ortiz showed last year he’s still one of the top five most dangerous hitters in the league, but he also showed he can’t be counted on for a full season. Even before spring, the Red Sox looked light on power hitters, having traded away Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis last year. Ortiz was supposed to be the big bat in the middle of their lineup. Now they’re looking at a collection of mediocre platoon bats to fill the void until (or if) Ortiz returns. Red Sox fans better hope Mike Carp breaks out. It’s not impossible, I guess. IMPACT- MODERATE

7.       Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers 3B- Ramirez will miss two months after hurting his thumb in the WBC. The loss is significant only because the Dodgers have pretty subpar replacements for him. Juan Uribe has looked lost in his first two seasons with Los Angeles, and Luis Cruz is a journeyman coming off a career year. However, Ramirez is hardly the five-tool stud he was several years ago, and while his power will be missed the Dodgers should weather his absence fine. IMPACT- LOW

8.       Mark Teixeira, Yankees 1B-Teixeira has a partially torn tendon sheath and if surgery is required, he will miss the entire season. The Yankees will start the season with a number of high profile players on the DL, but Teixeira’s loss will hurt the most. The Yankees planned for the loss of A-Rod by signing Kevin Youkilis, and Curtis Granderson is overrated and only out until May. However, the Yankees have no way to replace even a declining Teixeira; even with last year’s down numbers, his modest power, defense, and on-base ability made him a 3-win player or better. The current replacements available are mostly a collection of journeymen who would be playing out of position, like Juan Rivera, or AAAA fodder, like Dan Johnson, who has hit .185 in 250 at-bats since 2007. Excited yet? IMPACT- MAJOR

9.       Johan Santana, Mets SP- Santana arrived in spring out of shape and he will probably miss the first few weeks of the season as he has yet to even throw one inning in an exhibition game. Santana’s stamina and ability to stay healthy has been in serious question since he gave the Mets their first no-hitter last June, but whether or not that was the cause for his subsequent demise, it’s looking more and more like he cannot withstand the rigors of a full season of starting games. Even if he can get back on the mound, can he give the Mets more than a generic fifth-starter candidate at this point? IMPACT-LOW


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