Early-season injuries are always a concern, but this year that concern was heightened due to the shortened spring training.
The following injuries have cropped up throughout the past week: Orioles pitcher John Means was placed on the 60-day injured list due to a sprained elbow; Tigers young pitcher Casey Mize was also placed on the injured list with a sprained elbow; Tigers shortstop Javier Baez will be sidelined with an injured thumb; Twins outfielder Byron Buxton injured his knee, and Angels outfielder Mike Trout got hit in the hand by a pitch, which could keep him out of the lineup for a few days.
The grind of the fantasy baseball season is not just because of the six-month schedule but also because of the injuries that compile throughout. Unfortunately, we’re just at the beginning of seeing players miss time. We just need to continue to work hard to overcome them.
1. Cleveland Guardians Infielder Jose Ramirez — The 29-year-old continues to play at a high level and produce for fantasy owners. Ramirez is batting .457 with three home runs, 15 RBIs and six runs scored. The only part we’re missing is the stolen bases, but that will come. Ramirez is a stud and will continue to be a stud for the remainder of the season.
2. Toronto Blue Jays Starting Pitcher Alek Manoah — One of our breakout candidates this season has started off strong through the first couple of weeks. The 24-year-old has made two starts thus far and has only allowed two earned runs in 12 innings. The right-hander has struck out 13 hitters with a 1.50 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. The American League East is a tough division so there will be hiccups along the way, but I’m confident in Manoah’s ability that he will be able to be a strong fantasy option and he’s already shown that early this season.
3. New York Yankees Starting Pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. — The 27-year-old broke out in 2021, finishing with a 2.90 ERA in 22 games. Cortes has followed that up by starting 2022 without allowing a run in his first two starts. The left-hander has struck out an eye-popping 17 hitters in 9.1 innings pitched. Cortes relies on location rather than pure velocity, and it has worked since 2020. It’s hard to say this can’t continue when more evidence is being shown that it can. There’s a chance fantasy owners will have a No. 2 starter with Cortes throughout the rest of the season.
1. Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder Kyle Schwarber — The Phillies have started off the season slower than expected and a lot of that is because of their offense. Philadelphia signed Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the offseason to bolster a lineup that also includes reigning MVP Bryce Harper. However, through 10 games, the Phillies are in the bottom half of runs scored and top half in strikeouts. I’m really not concerned yet, and I believe they will be fine over the course of a long season. Schwarber is a streaky hitter and has started the season cold, as he is batting .139 with two home runs and four RBIs. Schwarber will always struggle against lefties, which limits his upside. A hot streak is coming and fantasy owners are hoping it happens soon.
2. Kansas City Royals Infielder Bobby Witt Jr. — The 21-year-old is a consensus top-two prospect in all of baseball, but that doesn’t mean he will make an immediate impact at the major league level. Witt has struggled, as he is batting .156 and has struck out 11 times in eight games. When it comes to rookies, I have always preached that we need to temper our expectations. This has sometimes led to missing out on those who do make an immediate impact. Witt is going to be a really good player for a long time, but it may be a few months before we start to see consistency from a fantasy perspective by the rookie.
3. Milwaukee Brewers Outfielder Christian Yelich — One of our bounce-back candidates in the preseason hasn’t started off the year the way we have hoped. The power output from Yelich in recent seasons has become concerning, and he has started 2022 by having a slugging percentage of .300. To put that in perspective, last year when many became concerned with Yelich and his power, his slugging percentage was .373. In 2019, Yelich had a slugging percentage of .671. The struggles began in 2020, and it’s continuing this year. I’m worried that we have seen the best of Yelich. I gave the former MVP the benefit of the doubt, but there have been no signs through the first 10 or so days that Yelich is going to turn it around.
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