Starting pitchers may be the most susceptible players to injuries. In a blink of an eye, a muscle can tear or a ball is sent back in their direction. They also have to, occasionally, run and cover first base, which can end up with a stepped-on or twisted ankle.
In just a couple of weeks in Spring Training, fantasy owners already know which pitchers to avoid and which to take a risk on. Hisashi Iwakuma will miss a few weeks with a hand injury. Matt Harvey will miss the whole 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.
On the flip side, there are plenty of players who are banged up, but should be ready for Opening Day. Those players won’t be mentioned here. The three players listed are fantasy options whose March and April are in question, but could still contribute greatly once healed.
Justin Verlander, DET: The former 2011 Cy Young Award winner is dealing with an abdominal injury. He is questionable to pitch in Spring Training and possible to pitch at the start of the season. Verlander had a mediocre 2013 season, by his standards. He finished 13-12, which were his most losses since 2008.
Verlander has made some progress this spring. He threw 54 pitches on Feb. 18. If he can keep improving his arm strength and stamina, he should be ready for Opening Day. With the struggles he had last season, I would draft him as a SP2. There will be some fantasy owners who draft him as a SP1 based on name value, but in a standard 10-team league, Verlander is in the lower-half of the top-20.
Mat Latos, CIN: Latos is dealing with a knee injury and is questionable for Opening Day. He had surgery last February and is still recovering. The progress he’s made would indicate Latos won’t pitch in April. As of Feb. 23, he’s thrown long toss from 100-120 feet. There is no timetable for his return.
In 32 starts last season, Latos finished with a 14-7 record and a 3.16 ERA. It was the third time in four seasons Latos finished with 14 wins. He also set a career high in innings pitched with 210 and 2/3. Despite coming off elbow surgery in the winter and a recent knee surgery, many owners may pass on Latos. However, he was the Cincinnati Reds most reliable pitcher last season. He’s worth a mid-round selection.
Cole Hamels, PHI: Hamels did not have a good 2013 season. He finished with a 8-14 record and a 3.60 ERA. He won only one start in April and lost all of his May starts. Now, he’s dealing with shoulder tendinitis and is doubtful for Opening Day. There is an expected return date of mid-April.
Hamels has thrown from flat ground on Feb. 23 and is expected to throw a bullpen session on Feb. 25. The fact that Hamels is throwing the ball is a good sign, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. His bullpen outing this week will determine how strong Hamels’ shoulder is heading into April. He will be a bounce-back candidate, but not worth drafting as an ace. He’ll fall to the middle rounds, with SP2 status as his ceiling.