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Diamond Cuts: Atlanta Burns

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Before we kick off the inaugural Diamond Cuts of the season I would like to give a tip of the cap to Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on March 6 at age 88. Dr. Jobe was a pioneer in sports medicine, baseball in particular, having revolutionized reconstruction surgery on the shoulder and elbow. In September of 1974, Dr. Jobe completed a complete ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction on a Los Angeles Dodger pitcher by the name of Tommy John. The procedure would become commonly known as Tommy John surgery in honor of the initial patient and has saved the professional careers (and fantasy lives) of countless MLB players including John Smoltz, Kerry Wood, and David Wells. Multiple players in this year's fantasy drafts including Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Shin Soo-Choo, and Jordan Zimmerman would not be hot commodities it weren't for Tommy John surgery and Dr. Jobe. Thank you Dr. Jobe, your fingerprints are forever on the game of baseball.

Kris Medlen

Medlen is an appropriate player to spotlight here following the tribute to Dr. Jobe. The Braves starter, who underwent Tommy John in the summer of 2010, left Sunday's start with an elbow injury. It was initially ruled a flexor strain but Atlanta recently announced there was in fact damage ligament damage. The extent of the damage remains unknown and Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who performed Medlen's 2010 surgery, will be review the most recent MRI. Unfortunately none of this is positive for Medlen and a second surgery remains likely. Keep a close eye for the final word from Dr. Andrews but avoid drafting Medlen for the next few days.

Brandon Beachy

Medlen isn't the only cause for concern in Atlanta as Beachy also exited a recent start prematurely. He stated the reason for his departure was biceps tightness that has been an issue for several outings. Like Medlen, Beachy has previously undergone Tommy John and was working his way back after several setbacks. The biceps is a key component of pitching as it works to slow down rapid elbow extension. An inactive or weakened biceps would put undue stress on the elbow, making the ligaments and other stabilizing structures vulnerable to injury. This can be particularly problematic for a pitcher who has already needed reconstructive surgery to the area. Given the numerous red flags around Beachy he should be downgraded in all formats.

Josh Hamilton

The Angels outfielder had a somewhat disappointing first season with the club. Hamilton's home run total dropped by 22 and he drove in 49 fewer runs despite receiving 14 more at-bats than in his final season with Texas. His attempts to rebound this season have already been stalled by a strained left calf that put him in a protective walking boot. Calf injuries can be very tricky to manage and often lead to other lower extremity muscle issues.

Hamilton's situation provides a good opportunity to explain an approach you will see referenced here numerous times in the upcoming season. The kinetic chain model is a method of evaluation in which each joint of the body is viewed as entwined. The kinetic chain can be isolated to one extremity but often affects the opposite side as well. When one joint, or link in the kinetic chain, is injured or imbalanced the entire chain is weakened. As a result other injuries can develop as the body compensates for the weak link. For Hamilton, a weak or limited calf could have a cascade effect on his quadriceps and hamstrings.

Fortunately it appears the Angels medical team has worked with Hamilton to minimize the affects of the injury and the former MVP is nearing a return to play. While Hamilton's inherent injury risk is higher than others I think he's a good value pick given his current average draft position.

Check Swings

Jose Bautista: I'm expecting a big year from the Toronto outfielder after injuries have limited his productivity over the past two seasons. The wrist issues did not seem to affect him last year though a bone bruise to his left hip cut his season short. However bone tissue does a very good job of returning to form and all Bautista needed was time to allow for the healing process to be completed. Now with the hip and wrist healthy he appears poised for a big year. He's hit three home runs already this spring and should be considered a good source of power in all formats.

Zack Greinke: Greinke is progressing nicely through rehab for a strained calf and hopes to return to the mound as soon as Wednesday. He completed a bullpen session earlier in the week and should be ready for the start of the season. As previously mentioned with Hamilton, calf injuries can be tricky so continue to monitor his progress in the coming days.

Huston Street: The often-injured reliever is already dealing with injury as Street has been slowed recently by a groin strain. Groin strains limit lateral motion, a big problem for pitchers, and can be nagging injuries. It's also worth mentioning that Street has previously missed time with a groin injury in addition to abdominal injuries, a rib injury, shoulder inflammation, and a latissimus dorsi strain. Exhaust all your possible options before making Street a key member of your bullpen.

Justin Verlander: The former MVP and Cy Young winner will return to the mound Tuesday after weather delayed his spring debut. Verlander underwent core muscle repair surgery in January. Don't let the nomenclature fool you, the procedure was likely utilized to treat a sports hernia that Verlander feels may have effected his mechanics last season. Look for him to be ready to start the season and consider him one of the top pitching options available.

Ben Zobrist: The versatile Zobrist has been slowed by neck stiffness recently but hopes to be back in action on Wednesday. Though he will be limited to a designated hitter role, he should be fine to return to the field soon. He remains a solid, if not underrated, offensive option.