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April 16, 2014

The Lineup Card

Eight Notable Early-Season Injuries

by Baseball Prospectus


1. Mat Latos, Reds
Every injury is bad, but the worst injuries are often the ones where the player suffers a setback toward the end of his rehab. Mat Latos was supposed to be back in late April, but pain during a throwing session has pushed his timetable back indefinitely. An MRI revealed a flexor mass strain, and Latos has been shut down for the next 10-14 days. The Reds knew they’d be missing Latos for part of April, but now he might not be back until June. There’s nothing wrong with Alfredo Simon, but the gap between Simon and Latos is significant, even if Simon has pitched well thus far. In a division where both the Cardinals and Pirates still long strong and where the Brewers suddenly appear to be much improved, losing Latos for a significant period of time will have a major impact on the Reds playoff chances. —Mike Gianella

2. Jurickson Profar, Rangers
Aside from the obvious loss associated with not having Profar’s glove in the field and upside at the plate, the Rangers take a second hit in the lost developmental opportunities for the former top prospect. The month-plus of lost time this year is magnified by the schizophrenic utilization of his talents in 2013, which saw Profar log significant time at short, second base, and third base, as well as four games in the outfield and another 16 at designated hitter, all while attempting to get acclimated to the major-league game.

Outside of a few of the most talented (and most fortunate), the major-league transitional period is an important developmental stage for a young player, and even a talent as vibrant as Profar’s is unlikely to carry him to consistent performances until he is able to find some regularity in his role and uninterrupted exposure to major league arms. The smart money is on Profar, still just 21 years of age, to establish himself as an impact contributor on a first-division team. But after a rocky takeoff at the major league level Profar finds himself in a pocket of turbulence just as he was to enter his climb. Here’s hoping for blue skies in the near future—they are long overdue. —Nick J. Faleris

3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
The Rangers aren't going to like this. Adrian Beltre has a boo boo. Over the past four years, Adrian Beltre has checked in with a total of 22.8 WARP. As some point of comparison, Miguel Cabrera, the guy who got a nearly 300 million dollar extension this off-season has been worth 25.5 WARP over that time frame. I get that Beltre isn't really in "the best player in baseball discussion", but what I've never understood is how he often gets left out of the "best 10 players in baseball" discussion. Last night, the Rangers had Alex Rios and Kevin Kouzmanoff (!!!) flanking Prince Fielder in their lineup. Even if Beltre's injury is short-lived (and may it be!), losing one of the 10 best players in the game is always gonna sting. —Russell A. Carleton

4. Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks
Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, David Holmberg. These are some of the pitchers who could have replaced Corbin. Had the Diamondbacks been more judicious in their appropriation of pitching depth over the past seven months, losing Corbin for the year to Tommy John surgery may not have been as serious a blow. It's true that there were no warning signs with the young left-hander, but relying on pitchers to stay healthy is always a roll of the dice, and that's why pitching depth is among the most valuable commodities in the game today. By giving away so many young, talented pitchers, the DBacks are forced to turn to the likes of the Mike Bollsinger and Randall Delgado (who, I admit, still shows so promise) rather than the high-upside names mentioned above. Bronson Arroyo and Brandon McCarthy suddenly become hugely important pieces, and Trevor Cahill's struggles begin to feel like a death knell for a team that's struggling badly right now.

Maybe Archie Bradley will don a superhero cape and save the Diamondbacks midseason, but thanks to some questionable deals, Corbin's loss looms quite large for a team with legitimate aspirations in 2014. It didn't have to be this way, which is what makes watching this organization's moves so maddening. —Ben Carsley

5. Matt Moore, Rays
Moore became the latest victim of the UCL plague of 2014, and Tuesday's decision to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery will put him out for the entire season. The Rays entered '14 with a deep pitching staff loaded with young guns, but the Moore injury is a massive blow to a rotation that has already lost Jeremy Hellickson for a big chunk of the season and is currently dealing with the oblique injury that shelved Alex Cobb. Moore has a history of issues commanding the baseball and his rapidly deteriorating velocity was already a cause for concern, but any optimism that he could right the ship with a couple of minor tweaks has been slammed shut with the damage to his elbow.

The Rays are a ballclub that is built around pitching and defense, and they were expected to parlay those advantages into a playoff berth this season , but the Moore injury creates a vacancy in the rotation that could put a serious dent into their postseason aspirations (current PECOTA projections have them tied atop the AL East with 88 wins). The Rays do have some internal options that help to bridge the gap, with their top three prospects all hailing from the mound, and the kids will now be tasked with gaming the highest level (unless the remnants of Erik Bedard can swallow some innings). The team may require the services of their youthful arms before reaching full maturity in the minors, and October baseball could be at stake as the young pitchers sweat under the bright lights of the big stage. The decision to hold onto David Price this off-season suddenly looms large, providing an absolute ace to front the staff while the rest of the rotation is patched together with duct tape. —Doug Thorburn

6. Don Baylor, Angels
Lots of pitchers suffer arm pain and fielders will pull up with lame hamstrings. But this one strikes home: Baylor, the Angels hitting coach, was used out of position as first pitch catcher on Opening Day, receiving a low changeup from Vladimir Guerrero, then going down and not getting back up. It was not only a sign that we are all fragile biological frames, but it was also the first pitch in probably 10 years that Guerrero did not swing at.

The good news is he can continue to coach hitting to Mike Trout the way he always has, by saying “yes, do that, that’s how I was going to show you how to hit. Exactly” and then sit back down. What he’s going to do for Chris Iannetta, I have no idea, other than “wrong … all wrong.” But the larger impact: this is going to be a setback not only for the Angels, who are already missing Josh Hamilton and hoping Albert Pujols remains fused together, but for all of baseball, because it’s a sobering reminder we are all mortal and could go down with one freak occurrence. And we have been. —Matt Sussman

7. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
I wasn't convinced the New York Yankees could make the playoffs to begin with even after the team spent more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts during the offseason. As I wrote earlier in the year, I have serious questions as to how the team will fare against left-handed pitching, noting the Yankees are relying on an aging Mark Teixeira coming off of an injury-shortened 2013 season to be a key cog in the team's offensive attack against southpaws. Teixeira is expected to return to the club before the beginning of May, and was struggling to begin with, but is a notoriously slow starter. He may never re-gain his old form, but this injury may delay how quickly he can fine tune his mechanics, since he needs repetitions from both sides of the plate. Given the importance of marginal wins and the highly competitive AL East, this will only hurt the Yankees in the long-run, and may cost the team a playoff spot. —Ronit Shah

8. Josh Hamilton, Angels
I picked Matt Moore on the Effectively Wild predecessor to this article, but Doug beat me to him today. There are plenty of other season-ending surgery sufferers to choose from, so Hamilton, who's out an estimated 6-8 weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb, might seem like a strange selection. But given that the Angels need to hit to overcome some instability on their staff, the gap between Hamilton and fill-in J.B. Shuck looms large. Hamilton was projected for a .287 TAv and looked locked in in the (very) early going after making a mechanical change. Shuck, projected for a .254 mark, is a left fielder with no power, which isn't often a productive combination. It may be that the Angels don't stick close enough to their rivals for Hamilton's absence to cost them a trip to October, but if they miss out on a spot by a game or two, they'll have his thumb to blame. —Ben Lindbergh

Related Content:  Injuries

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