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March 14, 2011
Team Injury Projection
Toronto Blue Jays
The Team Injury Projections are here, driven by our brand new injury forecasting system, the Comprehensive Health Index [of] Pitchers [and] Players [with] Evaluative Results—or, more succinctly, CHIPPER. Thanks to work by Colin Wyers and Dan Turkenkopf and a database loaded with injuries dating back to the 2002 season—that's nearly 4,600 players and well over 400,000 days lost to injury—we now have a system that produces injury-risk assessments to three different degrees. CHIPPER projects ratings for players based on their injury history—these ratings measure the probability of a player missing one or more games, 15 or more games, or 30 or more games. CHIPPER will have additional features added to it throughout the spring and early season that will enhance the accuracy of our injury coverage.
These ratings are also available in the Player Forecast Manager (pfm.baseballprospectus.com), where they'll be sortable by league or position—you won’t have to wait for us to finish writing this series in order to see the health ratings for all of the players.
Hitters in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Pitchers in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Summary: Toronto dealt with serious injuries to a number of players in 2010, among them Dirk Hayhurst (shoulder labrum surgery), Jesse Litsch (hip and elbow surgeries), and Dustin McGowan (shoulder surgery). In fact, 90 percent of Toronto's total days missed were spent on the disabled list. Compare that figure to that of the injury-plagued Red Sox, who came in at 84 percent. When a Blue Jay got hurt, he made it count, as evidenced by the team's 27th-place finish in DMPI.
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is hoping to preside over a healthier squad this year, but his training staff will have to work hard to to keep certain players in uniform. Anthopoulos managed to trade Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum despite their injury histories (and Wells' hefty contract) and even get something in return, but the Jays who remain still have significant injury question marks of their own. Edwin Encarnacion’s wrists have been giving him problems for years now, on top of the forearm and hamstring strains he’s suffered in the last two seasons. Settling in at DH will help, but given his injury history—especially to his wrists and forearms—even that doesn’t lower the risk to a moderate level. CHIPPER doesn’t think Travis Snider and Yunel Escobar will be healthy enough to perform to expectations. Aaron Hill dealt with hamstring issues early in 2010, which is why he’s a moderate risk to spend time on the DL this year.
Some of Anthopoulos’s newcomers should be able to produce and stay on the field. Starting outfielders Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera (who missed low risk by two percent) are moderate risks, while fourth outfielder Corey Patterson is expected to remain healthy enough to fill in whenever necessary.
The pitching staff is expected to remain generally healthy, but there are a few sources of uncertainty. Litsch stands out as a high risk due to the surgeries on his hip and elbow over the last two years. However, he has been doing well so far this spring, so it appears that the hip is not bothering him too much at this time. Brandon Morrow is rated low-risk, but CHIPPER might be overly conservative in his case: the right-hander has had trouble with his shoulder multiple times in the past, so he's one to keep an eye on. The Jays will bring him along carefully, as they did last year when they cut his season short after 146 1/3 innings.
On the positive side of the pitching injury ledger, Ricky Romero has missed time for medical reasons only twice, which gives credence to his low risk level. Kyle Drabek is looking to establish himself in the majors and he seems to have come back well from a health standpoint following his 2007 Tommy John surgery. Anthopoulos did bring in Frank Francisco (shoulder) and Octavio Dotel (hamstring), but they aren’t projected to be as healthy as the hitters acquired this winter, and they've already been dealing with shoulder and hamstring issues, respectively.
The Big Risk: Jose Bautista stands out as the team’s most significant risk as well as its potential top player. He has remained fairly healthy so far in the majors, but he did have off-season sports hernia surgery and suffered some minor quad issues earlier in the spring. As a result, he is a moderate risk to miss at least 15 games throughout the season due to injuries. Even though the Blue Jays have plenty of power to go around, losing their number-three hitter and starting third baseman would be too much to bear.
Comeback: After improving from 2007 to 2008, Litsch underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009. After nine starts in 2010, Litsch had right hip surgery in September to address pain he had felt for approximately five years. More and more players are coming back from hip surgeries effective, and he has done well in the spring thus far, so he is in the running for the fifth slot in the rotation. If the Jays choose to do so, they could use Litsch’s return to allow them to work in Drabek when he is ready rather than to start the season.
Best Health: Despite Tommy John surgery early in his minor-league career, Kyle Drabek appears to be fairly low risk this year.
Worst Health: The fact that Edwin Encarnacion can probably tell you more about the anatomy of the wrist than many doctors can isn’t a good sign.