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Deluge of Spring Training Injuries Already Altering Division Races, Fantasy Drafts

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers

Everybody loves Spring Training … for about two or three days, then it quickly morphs into one of the more tedious endeavors in sports (except when the bees arrive). That said, if you’re participating in fantasy baseball this year, odds are you have a draft coming up sometime this week. If you’re in a Yahoo! league you might have already drafted since the service couldn’t figure out a way to integrate those two Dodgers/Diamondback games from Australia over the weekend without wiping out the first week of the actual season, but I digress. If you’ve been keeping up with baseball news there’s been a ton of injuries this spring — not just the dumb ones like Francisco Rodriguez stepping barefoot onto a cactus.

Here’s a partial list of some of the more prominent players who are in a danger of missing Opening Day or beyond: Cole Hamels, Mat Latos, Jarrod Parker (out for season); Kris Medlen (out for season); Aroldis Chapman, Patrick Corbin (probably out for season); Brandon Beachy (out for season), Luke Hochevar (out for season); Derek Holland; Matt Kemp; Manny Machado; Andy Dirks; Josh Beckett; Jon Neise; Jose Iglesias; Matt Harvey (out for season); Anibal Sanchez; Scott Kazmir; Michael Bourn; Jacoby Ellsbury; Chase Headley; Taijuan Walker; Miguel Sano (out for season); Hisashi Iwakuma; Bruce Rondon (out for season) Jamie Garcia, Geovany Soto, Jon Niese and Jurickson Profar.

We already knew a couple guys on that list would miss all of 2014, like Matt Harvey, or would be iffy to break with the big club in April, such as Machado, who’ll begin the year on the disabled list. Even so, a few of those names — particularly the pitchers with season-ending arm surgeries are going to affect both the pennant race and fantasy drafts so let’s take a quick look at them:

Jarrod Parker, Oakland: The Athletics’ No. 1 starter will undergo his second Tommy John surgery Tuesday and miss all of 2014. It’s clearly bad news for Oakland, who could break camp  A.J. Griffin also on the disabled list with elbow issues. It puts a big onus on youngsters Dan Strailly and Sonny Gray to lead the rotation right away.  Both are talented, but only have 255 big league innings pitched between them. On the plus side Scott Kazmir appears like he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day. Still, these injuries could open the day for a team like the Angels — maybe even the Mariners — to compete in the American League West. Remember Texas won’t have Derek Holland most of the year and Matt Harrison only made his Cactus League debut this week.

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati: It’s unfortunate after a guy takes a line-drive square in the head we immediately start thinking about “fantasy implications” but that’s the world we live in. Friday Reds manager Bryan Price said he won’t name a closer in Chapman’s absence. Guys like J.J. Hoover and Sam LeClure might get saves and are worth a late-round flier. If you’ve already drafted Hoover has probably already been snapped up. Given how Chapman’s head looked in the aftermath, you’d still have to be leery about drafting him and stashing him in your DL slot. As talented as he might be, an injury like that might take almost as long mentally to recover from as it does physically for Chapman.

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Jose Iglesias, Detroit: The Tigers fielding whiz has stress fractures in both his shins, ouch. Reports have him out until August or the entire season. Internal replacement options included Hernan Perez and Danny Worth. The Tigers traded for Andrew Romine last week and, bizarrely, for 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez on Monday. (If you’re in an auction league this quartet is worth about a combined $-4 bid.) Detroit received more bad news when Anibal Sanchez got a cortisone shot in his shoulder on Tuesday. Friday the team announced potential set-up man Bruce Rondon would need Tommy John surgery. The American League Central, despite the projections, looks more wide open than it has the last 2-3 seasons.

Jurickson Profar, Texas: The Rangers uber-prospect will be out until at least May with a shoulder injury. If you’ve already drafted, you’re stuck with him. If you’re drafting this week, he’s worth a flier late and stashing him since he’ll be devalued.  Josh Wilson and Brent Lillibridge could fill in for Profar. To reiterate, the injuries to Oakland and Texas open up the AL West early on.

Kris Medlen/Brandon Beachy, Atlanta: The Braves off-season was an odd one, letting Brian McCann and Tim Hudson walk, while signing Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons to long-term extensions worth close to $190 million combined. Atlanta didn’t do much to replace McCann, but fortunately when Medlen went down and needed his second Tommy John surgery, Ervin Santana fell into their laps. Even with Santana, the Braves rotation looks like a mess with Mike Minor (thanks to his painful offseason) likely also on the DL come April 1. The  starting rotation for Atlanta to begin the season could be Julio Teheran, Santana, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia (!) and David Hale. The Nationals might already have begun printing up division championship shirts.

Patrick Corbin, Arizona: Corbin made the All-Star team in 2013 pitching to a 1.116 WHIP over 200+ innings. He’s waiting for a second opinion on whether or not to get Tommy John surgery. Either way, he’ll miss significant time. Wade Miley is now your Opening Day starter in Arizona, while the Dodgers grip on the National League West tightens. Fantasy-wise, everyone will be rushing to draft Archie Bradley who posted a 1.84 ERA in Double-A last season. Figure that Bradley still starts the season in Triple-A since Arizona has no incentive to rush him up to the big club. If your league lets you stash minor leaguers, he’s worth a flier, otherwise keep your eyes peeled for when he’s called up.

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