The injury bug seems to have claimed its first top-50 victim of 2015.
While injuries to Sean Doolittle and Josh Hamilton have shaken the fantasy landscape a bit in recent weeks, neither had the implications of Thursday's news regarding designated hitter/first baseman Victor Martinez. Tigers fans were shocked to learn that Martinez needs surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, suffered during a recent workout. The surgery will happen Tuesday.
However, while the development puts Martinez's availability for the start of the season in doubt, the true extent of the upcoming procedure, and thus a timetable for his return, seemingly won't be known until after the surgery occurs. There are a couple possibilities, which MLB.com's Jason Beck laid out here. It depends primarily on where the tear actually is.
If he doesn't need to have it completely reattached, he could just have part of the meniscus clipped, a procedure called a partial meniscectomy. That surgery typically carries with it a recovery of just 4-to-6 weeks, though Dr. Victor Khabie, who provided Beck with the details of the surgeries in the blog linked above, speculated that the team would likely implement a more cautious 6-to-8 week timetable given Martinez's history of left knee issues.
If he needs a full reattachment, Martinez could be looking at a recovery that takes several months.
Again, the extent of the damage to the meniscus will ultimately determine the route taken, but there are other variables in play. Because the blood flow in a player his age (36) isn't as good as it is in younger players, the healing potential isn't as great, which is something that could push the sides involved (and the doctors) toward the lesser procedure. Since he's already had the knee operated on several times, Martinez may push for the less invasive cleanup surgery. But it's all speculation at this point. Also, it's important to remember that the Tigers just signed Martinez to a new four-year, $68 million deal. They have to be thinking about more than just the short-term.
So, how do we value Martinez moving forward, particularly in the days before he undergoes surgery?
Say Martinez is spared the full reattachment, and resumes baseball activities in six weeks, he would still be in line to miss most, if not all, of spring training. As a result, he'd need a lengthy rehab assignment, possibly up to a month long or more. Again, speculation, but it sounds to me like an early-May debut for Martinez is a best-case scenario. Thus, I'm pushing him down my board significantly, likely in the 120-160 overall range until more information becomes available. The downside is significant and must be taken into account. Four and a half months of Martinez would still be highly useful, but you never know how he'll perform when he first returns, so I wouldn't be surprised if he slipped out of some top 200s.
There are no clear beneficiaries in terms of fantasy value on the Tigers. Manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday that Andrew Romine will likely see some time at first base in spring training, with Miguel Cabrera (ankle) working his way back as well. The switch-hitting Romine is a shortstop by trade with a .236/.288/.273 batting line, two homers and 15 steals in 447 career plate appearances in the majors, so there isn't much to get excited about. Steven Moya becomes far more interesting, though Ausmus suggested moving Moya to first base could inhibit his development. That doesn't mean the powerful Moya couldn't fill the hold at DH, but his inexperience and the uncertainty surrounding the situation likely take him out of the conversation in shallower mixed formats for now.
Other notes from Thursday:
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez named four candidates for the team's final rotation spot; Mike Foltynewicz, Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez (knee) and Manny Banuelos. Foltynewicz is easily the most intriguing option heading into spring training, at least from a fantasy perspective. Using a fastball that averages better than 96 mph, a curveball, slider and changeup, Foltynewicz struck batters out at a 22.8% clip at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, though the results in 18.2 innings with the big club weren't pretty. However, the strikeout upside alone should put him on the fringes of NL-only consideration for now, and he could shoot up mixed boards with a strong spring. Stults, 35, had a couple decent years in San Diego in 2012 and 2013, but managed just a 4.30 ERA with the Padres last year (4.03 ERA at Petco) and has averaged a mere 5.7 K/9 for his career. Banuelos could end up getting a chance, but he's less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery and seems like a long shot to break camp with the big club.
The Red Sox don't like going to arbitration. By agreeing with Wade Miley on a three-year deal Thursday, the team managed to keep their streak of consecutive years without going to arb alive. They haven't had an arbitration hearing since 2002. Miley has proven a workhorse early in his career, exceeding 194 innings in each of the last three seasons while also turning in an xFIP under 3.80 in each campaign (3.50 last season). His strikeout rate ticked up to 8.2 K/9, yet the lefty still isn't getting much love in fantasy circles, with a current NFBC ADP of 354.29, behind the likes of Jake Peavy (328.38), Mike Leake 345.69) and Jonathon Niese (345.93).
Miley's former Diamondbacks teammate, Brad Ziegler, will not be ready for mound work when spring training begins. Recovering from September microfracture knee surgery, Ziegler has been throwing overhand without issue, but his biggest test is yet to come. Ziegler's submarine delivery puts a good deal of stress on his plant leg – and thus his surgically-repaired knee – so he may have to ramp up to mound work slowly. If Ziegler is unavailable to start the year, Arizona would likely rely heavily on Evan Marshall and Oliver Perez to handle setup duties.