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Injury Concerns Linger About Braves’ Freddie Freeman and Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, Plus Waiver Adds

Injury Concerns Linger About Braves’ Freddie Freeman and Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, Plus Waiver Adds
Inside Injuries April 19, 2018 7:57PM EDT

The team at insideinjuries.com provides the latest injury roundup and adds some waiver tips

Freddie Freeman 1B, Braves: wrist injury

Eleven months ago Freddie Freeman was hit on his left wrist by a pitch, causing a fracture that required surgery and a nearly two-month absence. On Wednesday night, he was hit again in the exact same spot. He walked off of the field before ever being looked at by a trainer as if he knew it wasn’t good. Well, Freeman somehow avoided a serious injury as all scans were clean.

A contusion or bone bruise could need anywhere from 2-4 weeks to fully heal, but Freeman is already back in the lineup. His power is going to be affected over the next week as there is likely some swelling and soreness that will limit him, but no fractures is a great sign. With a Below Average HPF (Health Performance Factor), it won’t be surprising to see his batting numbers drop a bit while he gets back to full strength.

Shohei Ohtani SP, Angels: blister

Shohei Ohtani was looking like one of the league’s best players through his first two starts, but he came crashing back down to earth in his start on Tuesday, and a blister on his finger is partially to blame. Ohtani lasted just two innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits and two walks. While he is expected to make his next start, the blister is a serious concern.

As we have seen with many pitchers before him (Rich Hill, Jake Arrieta, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Johnny Cueto), blisters can quickly become a recurring issue that will ruin a pitcher’s season. Even when it heals, he could be one of those players that is more susceptible to blisters. The other complicating factor is that Ohtani is a hitter. Each time he picks up a bat it applies more friction and pressure to the affected area. Blisters need time to heal, and if he keeps trying to hit and pitch through it, things are only going to get worse. It’s worth noting that Ohtani also dealt with blisters in 2016 while pitching in Japan and missed multiple weeks.

Tommy Pham CF, Cardinals: groin strain

Pham started to experience tightness in his right groin on Tuesday night. He says it is fine, and the injury is not expected to land him on the DL. Still, this is a serious concern as groin injuries can be quickly re-aggravated. Our algorithm is showing a two-week Optimal Recovery Time. If he tries to play in the next few days, he will remain a High Injury Risk. We also said before the season that Pham has high upside but comes with some risk. We are already seeing that less than a month into the season.

Ryan Braun OF, Brewers: back tightness and calf strain

Braun made our list if High Risk, High Reward Outfielders ahead of the 2018 season due to his injury history. It didn’t take much time for Braun to start experiencing injury problems. He was briefly sidelined with back tightness, and his calf is reportedly causing issues too. While he is not expected to land on the DL, our analytics show that two weeks off would be good for the slugger. His back is a recurring problem, and a few days off is not enough time for it to calm down. Braun also had calf strains in the past, and this can be easily made worse. That’s why he is currently a High Injury Risk and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Josh Donaldson 3B, Blue Jays: shoulder injury

The Blue Jays finally decided to place Donaldson on the DL on April 13 (retroactive to the 11th) as his shoulder continued to bother him. Tests confirmed that there is no structural damage, which is a positive sign for his long-term health, but for now it is a serious concern. The team is also planning to have him miss longer than the required 10 days. Donaldson is battling inflammation and is not throwing or doing any baseball activities for now. Rest and rehab are crucial to allow for the shoulder to calm down. Once the inflammation improves, he can slowly start to throw again. He will need to be very cautious as he ramps back up his activity level as shoulder injuries can be very tricky, especially for an aging player like Donaldson, who has a lot of hard years on his body.

Taijuan Walker  SP, Diamondbacks: Tommy John surgery

When Walker was pulled from his start over the weekend with forearm tightness, it didn’t sounds good. This is usually an early warning sign for a torn UCL. An MRI showed damage to the ligament, so Walker will undergo Tommy John surgery. His season is over, and if everything goes well he could return late in the 2019 season. Our algorithm is showing a 60-week Optimal Recovery Time.

Josh Harrison 2B, Pirates: left hand fracture

Harrison is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks after suffering a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand. This is the exact same injury that he suffered in September last season. Our algorithm is showing a longer Optimal Recovery Time (8-10 weeks), and his recovery could be more complicated because this is a repeat injury. Harrison is no stranger to getting hit by pitches, as he was second in the league last year with 23. While this is a freak injury, he puts himself in danger each time he doesn’t get out of the way. When he does return, hand strength is a concern and will affect his power at the plate. Harrison isn’t worth holding onto unless you have an open DL spot.

Kevin Kiermaier OF, Rays: right thumb surgery for torn ligament

Kevin Kiermaier will be sidelined until July after tearing a ligament in his right thumb on a head first slide into second over the weekend. This is how we see many players cause serious hand injuries such as a fracture or ligament tear. Kiermaier has already been moved to the 60-day DL and will need to undergo surgery to repair the damage. He is now a High Injury Risk and could be for the remainder of the year.

Miguel Cabrera 1B, Tigers: lower back tightness

Before the season started we warned of Miguel Cabrera’s history of back problems, and he has been a High Injury Risk since Spring Training. We aren’t even a month into the season and back tightness is already an issue. While he isn’t expected to miss any time, our algorithm is showing a two week Optimal Recovery Time. He is High Risk due to the highly recurrent nature of back injuries, so don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last we hear of his back bothering him.

Jose Martinez 1B, Cardinals: right Achilles contusion and left wrist injury

Over the last few weeks, Martinez has picked up his fair share of injuries. It started with a contusion to his right Achilles, and now his left wrist is bothering him. It was enough of a concern that he underwent an X-ray, which came back clean. While none of the injuries on their own are very concerning (they come with a 1-2 week Optimal Recovery Time), the fact that he has both upper and lower body issues is a red flag this early in the year. His HPF (Health Performance Factor) is currently Poor, a sign that he isn’t healthy enough to perform anywhere near his best. He was playing very well to start the year, but these injuries could be the one thing that can slow him down.

Eric Thames 1B, Brewers: mild left groin strain

Thames suffered a mild left groin strain on Sunday and missed just one game before returning to the lineup. Even a mild groin strain can take up to two weeks to heal, so he will remain a High Injury Risk for the rest of April. Thames hit home runs in his first two games back, so for now the injury doesn’t appear to be slowing him down, but it could be easily aggravated. If it does get worse, he will need time on the DL for it to heal. For now his Fantasy owners should be cautiously optimistic, although having a backup in place is a good idea.

Waiver Recommendations

Victor Martinez DH, DET

Martinez has posted a .310/.375/.476 slash line so far. He’s not flashy at this point of his career and is limited to the utility spot as a DH, but his numbers have been too good to ignore so far. He’s making hard contact while also not striking out (just five Ks on the season), showing true consistency at the plate. He’s an older player, so there might not be massive upside, but his numbers speak for themselves. Martinez has always been able to hit, but the injuries have taken a toll recently. However, he’s as healthy now as he has been in years and is a Low Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries. That could certainly change given his age, but he’s worth picking up and riding at the current moment.

Jose Bautista ATL

Bautista was just signed by the Braves with the intention that he will become the team’s third baseman after getting acclimated in extended spring training. Bautista playing third is a risky proposition for the Braves defensively and one that could limit his at-bats if he’s truly awful there. When Freddie Freeman took a pitch to his left wrist on Wednesday night in the same location as his 2017 fracture, it looked like another spot could open up. But he avoided a serious injury and is already back in the Braves lineup Thursday.  Even so, Bautista should have an opening in Atlanta’s lineup whenever he is ready, whether or not the Braves have to face any injuries to their starters. It may be a tad early to snag Bautista given that he’s still a bit away from joining the big league club, but he’s worth a stash in deeper leagues given his power and run-producing potential in the middle of a solid Braves lineup.

Mallex Smith OF, TB

Smith will get the opportunity to start in center field now that Kevin Kiermaier is on the shelf with a thumb injury that will keep him out for an extended amount of time (his Optimal Recovery Time is 8-12 weeks). When Smith got a similar opportunity last season with Kiermaier out, he flourished. Since the start of 2017, he has posted a .280/.340/.372 slash line while swiping 18 bases. He’s a big-time stolen base threat now that he will be in the lineup every day (and likely towards the top of it), and he’s still a young player with room to grow in an everyday role. With Kiermaier developing a serious injury bug the last two seasons (he was already a High Injury Risk according to Inside Injuries even before his latest thumb injury), Smith becomes a bigger and bigger part of the Rays’ plans, and he should be on your radar.

Bud Norris RP, STL

Norris has been closing out games for St. Louis while the Cardinals ramp up newly-acquired closer Greg Holland, who signed in late March. However, the job may be Norris’ for longer than expected given the fact that Holland has struggled mightily in his appearances with the Cards so far. Norris, on the other hand, has been lights out, recording four saves so far while posting big strikeout and swinging strike numbers. Given Holland’s history of arm trouble and early struggles this season, Norris should be owned until something changes.

 Chris Devenski RP, HOU

Ken Giles was a big question mark for the Astros in the closer spot coming into the season, and those questions are only bigger now. He has struggled so far, and Devenski now leads the Astros in saves. Devenski has always posted solid numbers and ratios in his long and setup roles, and now that he is getting to close games he becomes a real Fantasy asset. Houston uses the bullpen in a unique way, so he may not get consistent save opportunities. But given his shutdown performances so far this season, and Giles’ inconsistency (and, like Holland, history of arm troubles), he’s worth adding right now.

Freddie Freeman Featured Image: (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

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