With spring training in full swing, we examine five infielders with injury questions and what you can expect from them in 2017.
Special to Yahoo Sports
Virginia Zakas, Inside Injuries
1. David Wright, New York Mets: neck surgery
Wright underwent surgery last May to address a herniated disc in his neck. Throughout his first seven years in the league, Wright never landed on the DL, but over the last few years he seems to be a constant with various injuries. In May 2015 he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which means there is a narrowing of his spinal column, and then he had neck surgery in 2016. On top of his neck problems, Wright also has a history of back problems.
It’s hard to see Wright having consistent success throughout the rest of his career. He has had to completely alter his pregame routine due to his neck problems, taking up to three hours to get warmed up and ready to go. Back and neck problems are a major red flag for baseball players, especially as it relates to hitting because of the torque needed to swing the bat. Even if he is able to play, his power will significantly drop.
The problems keep growing for Wright as he was shut down from throwing due to a shoulder impingement after just a few appearances in spring training. There’s serious doubt if he’ll be ready by Opening Day and beyond. He seems undraftable at this point.
2. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies: torn thumb ligament
Story was off to an incredible rookie season in 2016, hitting 27 home runs in just 97 games, but his season was cut short when he suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb. He was able to start swinging the bat again in November and is now “100 percent ready to go.” Story’s power alone makes him one of the league’s best shortstops, but is his health a concern heading into the season? There shouldn’t be any long-lasting affects of his hand injury, and he has past the Optimal Recovery Time according to Inside Injuries’ algorithm.
With his thumb injury behind him, Story should be one of the league’s best and most powerful offensive shortstops again this season. He already has a home run early in spring training.
3. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: various injuries
A right wrist injury plagued Freeman for much of 2015, and he had some lingering problems into last season. Fortunately he was able to play through them. He also had a cracked rib and a finger injury that lead to swelling and discomfort when hitting, but neither of them forced him to the DL.
Freeman is perhaps the most important piece on this rebuilding Braves team, and he needs to stay healthy if he is going to help with Atlanta’s turnaround. But can his body hold up? I think it can. He proved last season that he can fight through minor injuries and still post great numbers. Freeman can hit for power, get on base to score runs and drive in runs effectively, and he’s also a great fielder. Freeman is a guy you can trust going into 2017.
4. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: surgery to release right plantar fascia
Pujols has had two surgeries in the last two years on his injured right foot/toe. After battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot throughout much of his career, he underwent surgery in November 2015 to repair the plantar plate, a thick ligament-type structure between the toe and arch of the foot. He underwent another foot surgery after the 2016 season to release the right plantar fascia plate. Recovery time is typically around four months, but because of his history of foot problems he may need longer to get healthy and ready for live-game action.
As of now, Pujols had been cleared to do everything but lateral movement or running on the field. While this is progress, both are big steps and a significant test that will determine if his recovery is successful. Pujols is approaching his late 30s and has plenty of injury concerns, so he would be a very risky fantasy pick. The Angels can only hope he is a reliable DH this season, but being an everyday first baseman is unrealistic at this point in his career.
5. Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays: torn ACL and meniscus
Ramos could miss the first half of the season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. Because there is also meniscus damage, the recovery time is longer than the standard 6-9 months for a torn ACL. In December Ramos said everything was going well, but now he may be out until at least July. It’s not exactly surprising that his recovery has slowed despite the positive reports shortly after surgery. Ramos also tore the ACL and MCL in the same knee back in 2012. It’s always much worse when you re-tear the same ACL.
When Ramos is cleared to play again, the Rays may choose to use him as their DH for the first month or two. More than likely he won’t be fully healthy until the 2018 season. It’s more important to focus on his long-term health right now and bring him back slowly. If he rushed back and took the field before his knee was ready, he would be risking further injury or other associated problems because his body isn’t ready. As a catcher, he puts a lot of stress on his knees when fielding, and it’s not a risk worth taking within the first year following surgery.