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With MLB teams reporting to camp over the weekend, players and team personnel were able to connect for the first time in a long time. As such, there was more clarity about how these players were holding up over their extended break. With zero communication between the two, it was up to the players themselves to follow through on whatever plans were made before the lockout, but even then, it’s never the same because the medical professionals from each team are supreme. That said, here are some updates that have come through over the first few days of Spring Training.

Note: Confidence Level indicates my personal confidence in how quickly a player will be back to full health.

The Good

Carlos Rodon

There were worries about Rodon in the off-season, due to his injury history coupled with diminished velocity from his shoulder ailment. Still, the Giants liked what they saw when in his medicals and felt it was worth the gamble here. They’ve undertaken some renovation projects before, and this one is like no other. Instead of fixing a problem to get the most out of someone, here the Giants will be tailoring Rodon to ensure that he remains healthy enough. They will need to find a plan that works for him, utilize it and hopefully keep him healthy. It is definitely a good sign that he was quickly signed for the amount of money he received and by the team that got him. Confidence Level: medium

Clayton Kershaw

The pitcher who embodies modern day Dodgers’ baseball is back, after signing a one-year deal worth around $17 million. There was some worry about him this offseason as well, as the Dodgers didn’t re-sign him before the lockout, quelling speculation about his long-term viability. It turns out the Dodgers wanted to wait and see how he responded after some time off, and apparently, all is well enough for him to return. It’s been reported that he is just slightly behind schedule with respect to where he was last year at this time, and that he feels capable of pitching an entire season. He says that he is healthy, hasn’t picked up a baseball in weeks, and is ready to win. Time will tell, but for now, he and the Dodgers have been reunited and it (apparently) feels so good. Given the uncertainty of their rotation, he will be needed to prove how healthy he really is. Confidence Level: medium

Max Muncy

Max Muncy confirmed that he had a tear in his elbow, and went through a rigorous program to help himself get better. The good, or even great news, is that he should be ready by Opening Day, which is a massive boost to his value. Having the extra time due to the lockout was actually beneficial to him, and now he looks ready to go. Having a DH in the National League this year will definitely help him get everyday at-bats, provided there is no soreness following his recovery. When he returned to camp, his updates were pretty positive:

For now, wherever he was drafted before camp began was likely a steal. His value, given the unknown, was low, and as such, conservative drafters probably avoided him at all costs. That said, it remains to be seen how his elbow will respond with playing everyday and constantly swinging a bat. For now, though this is great news. He should see everyday at-bats, regardless of what else the Dodgers do in free agency. Confidence Level: high

Stephen Strasburg

Here is some great news for a pitcher whose health is about as stable as egg shells that are walked upon. That said, it’s positive nonetheless to hear that he is in prep mode and not in rehab mode.

While it’s phenomenal that he is on track to throw a live batting practice session this week, it’s cautionary at the same time in that his track record of health is quite ominous. In the past, just when our hopes had been elevated, there came another injury and we found ourselves in a vicious circle of hope and disappointment. All that being said, he is being drafted quite late this season, and anyone who does roster him (I did in TGFBI) needs to understand how short of a leash he should be on when it comes to fantasy, and any type of injury could be a long-standing one. Still, he returns elite value when he’s healthy, so given the cost, he’s definitely worth the investment. Confidence Level: low

Ian Happ

Who knew? The good news is that this was likely a “cleaning up” type of surgery to fix some ailments, but he looks to be right on track for Opening Day. Owners shouldn’t be surprised if he struggles a bit to start the year as he works out the kinks after surgery, especially in the cold weather. Keep in mind, he is slotted to start the year in the heart of the order and is looking to build on a tremendous second half. Patience here is key. Confidence Level: high

The Bad

Ronald Acuña Jr.

This may be surprising to some people, but to me this was never in doubt and aligns with my expectations. Due to the date of his injury, historical recovery timelines and the situation of the Braves, coming back in mid-May seemed a tad optimistic to me, since there’s more to one’s recovery than posting videos of training sessions. The Braves medical staff will now have access to fully help this superstar recover and be back in time to help the Braves defend their title. To believe he was ready for Opening Day seems foolish to me, but I digress. Move him down your draft boards as soon as you can, because even when he does return, there’s likely a small window of him not performing at full strength. Confidence Level: medium

Zack Wheeler

Reader Discretion: This news about Zack Wheeler seemingly came out of nowhere. As such, we may likely hear more stories like this in the upcoming days, since players and teams had zero contact. As for Wheeler himself, shoulder soreness is never a good thing with regards to a pitcher, and this is no different. Since he is one of the highest-drafted pitchers in fantasy, Wheeler’s value takes a bit of a hit here, but a lot is riding on how well the shoulder responds once he takes the mound. Herein lies the problem with the lockout and time away from team personnel.

Unfortunately for Wheeler, it was his decision to stop throwing and then start again, not the team’s. Without medical professionals examining and treating him, he was unfortunately on his own (to some degree) to decide what to do, when to do it and how. Now he finds himself in the unfortunate predicament of being behind schedule with something either potentially more serious or nothing at all. That said, given his injury history and track record, alongside his high ADP, pumping the brakes right now is arguably the best decision possible. Confidence Level: low

Starling Marte

While listed here under “Bad”, the news seems minimal here. Oblique soreness can be a tricky thing that repeats itself over time. Marte’s strength is his speed, so taking that away is detrimental to his overall value. While this is likely just a bump in the road, it’s still worth monitoring going forward. Confidence Level: high

Zac Gallen

Interesting development here, in that Gallen took the initiative to get his own MRI, which revealed the condition. The severity of the issue is unknown as is how long he’s been dealing with it, but the fact remains that he is slightly delayed. Essentially, bursitis in the shoulder is the inflammation of the bursa, which is a cell like structure around places on the body that experience friction. It’s unknown if he will need to change his delivery, as bursitis is usually caused by the late cocking of one’s arm during the throwing motion. He’s likely to test things out soon enough and go from there, but it’s comforting to know that everyone (at least up front), says things are fine and aren’t overly concerned. Confidence Level: high

The Ugly

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Unbelievably bad news here, as arguably the top fantasy player is out for approximately three months. The news, which comes out of nowhere, is understandable due to the fact that all players were unable to connect with their training staff during the lockout. As such, had surgery been an option or even necessary (as it obviously is now), this could have been fixed awhile back. Instead, he might be out until just before the All-Star Break, though timetables change depending on the player and severity. The cloud of uncertainty remains, however, due to the fact that he was supposed to be rehabbing his injured shoulder. With extended time off for other reasons, it remains to be seen what the Padres decide to do about that shoulder. Stay tuned. Confidence Level: low

Codi Heuer

Seemingly out of nowhere, Codi Heuer posted that picture to his Instagram account last week, just before the lockout ended, and revealed that he had surgery on his elbow. Ultimately, it ended up being of the Tommy John sort, and he will miss extended time. He figured to be in the mix for saves in a volatile bullpen, but now he will be on the sidelines looking in. Wish him all the luck in the world for recovery. Confidence Level: low

Joe Ross

From bad to worse, the often injured pitcher suffered a setback in his rehab and will be delayed even more before debuting in 2022. Listed as more of a deep sleeper, he can be all but forgotten come draft season, since his elbow and shoulder have had constant issues dating back years. Confidence Level: low

Adbert Alzolay

Yikes. Something like this is scary, in that it may have been bothering him for a while and he was without the facilities and assistance to fix it. As such, the Cubs are likely looking at a 60-day IL designation, as the specifics are unknown. It could be something within the tissue or even worse a fix through surgery. Either way, look for him to be out for a while, and the Cubs have a hole to fill in their rotation (likely with Justin Steele). Confidence Level: low

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Dave Funnell (@sportz_nutt51)

Dave Funnell (@sportz_nutt51)

Father, Teacher, Sports Fan. Follow me, Dave Funnell, on Twitter @sportz_nutt51

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