Baseball Injury Special Report

Below are Four DRAFT DAY ALERTS that were released to Baseball Injury Report subscribers today. Plus Four KEY PLAYERS who need to have their 2007 values adjusted now.

Chone Figgins (3B, LAA)
Up until the last few days, it has been a quiet spring training regarding injuries. However, Figgins has TWO fractured fingers on his throwing hand and that will send a ripple effect all through AL and Mixed leagues that haven’t drafted yet.

The X-ray reports indicate he has a fracture just above the first knuckle in his index finger. We haven’t received conclusive details regarding the fracture of the ring finger. He’ll wear a splint to immobilize the fingers for three weeks then be re-evaluated. The current estimate has Figgins missing 5-6 weeks due to the fractures. If the fingers heal on time we should see him back the end of April.

There is no way to rush the healing process in this situation so it’s unlikely he’ll return in 3-4 weeks as was speculated in some local media circles. The impact on leagues yet to draft could be huge. Depending on the draft pool, Figgins’ absence for a month of the regular season likely will drop his stolen base total from the low 50s into the high 30s to low 40s. This means players like Carl Crawford will see their value go up.

Hank Blalock (3B, TEX)
There has been a lot of talk this spring about how Blalock is tinkering with his swing and stance. That’s supposedly the reason he’s struggling (.219 BA, 0 HR) at the plate so far. At least, that is what we are being told. Last October, Blalock underwent surgery to clean out some fraying in his right shoulder. The press release said it was just some normal wear and tear in the shoulder joint. Some players, such as the Devil Rays Jonny Gomes so far, bounce back quickly from shoulder surgery.

Teammate Brad Wilkerson had more extensive surgery and he’s also scuffling a bit at the plate—but not to the level of Blalock. One veteran Rangers observer stated it looks like Blalock is swinging in a defensive mode. This may be a defensive mode due to the injury last year and the surgery. Or, as another observer stated, his bat speed is slower than last year. This would help explain some of his struggles.

As long as he’s healthy, the shoulder strength will return. We don’t have any evidence to believe he’s playing hurt. Expect Blalock to get off to a slow start at the plate. Once he regains a little more strength and confidence in his swing his numbers will improve. This should happen fairly early in the 2007 season. If you have a draft this weekend or next, don’t go the extra dollar on him but don’t let your fellow owners grab him at a greatly reduced price either.

Brad Penny (RHP, LAD)
Penny admitted earlier in spring training the split-finger pitch he used last season as his offspeed offering took its toll on his pitching arm. We’ve already heard reports that Penny had a twinge in the front of his pitching shoulder this spring but supposedly it’s gone at the moment. According to one baseball observer with whom I discussed Penny’s poor spring (7 IP, 17 H, 10R 6 BB 2 SO), he looks like a pitcher who is throwing with a bum shoulder.

We normally don’t rely on spring training numbers because the sample size is so small, but in Penny’s case they do support the suggestion he’s pitched hurt all spring. Or at the very least, he has some shoulder weakness that is an issue at the moment. Factor in a history of not coming forward with injury issues as soon as they happen and it’s easy to believe his shoulder isn’t close to 100% right now. Until this all plays out, avoid Penny on Draft Day.

Coco Crisp (OF, BOS)
The sore left shoulder that has kept Crisp on the shelf the past week or so is even more noticeable when he bats right handed. He’s received a week’s worth of treatment and is expected back in the lineup this weekend. Normally we would believe the report that it’s minor. However, one Red Sox observer we talked to has seen a couple of his batting sessions recently and says he is laboring while swinging the bat.

We don’t believe Crisp has a serious shoulder injury, but he’s clearly not 100% as we approach Opening Day. If you are drafting today or this weekend, don’t push the bidding on Crisp. If you have a safer option for steals, go that route because there are some unanswered questions about his shoulder at this time.

Here are four key alerts on players whose draft rankings have changed in value and who are covered in more detail in the Baseball Injury Report:

1. Eric Chavez (3B, OAK) has a re-occurrence of the strained forearms that curtailed his batting average and power in the second half in 2006. He hit just 8 homers and batted a paltry .231 after the break. Will he rebound in 2007?

2. Jonathan Papelbon (RHP, BOS) moves back into the closer role for Boston. What are the implications for his shoulder? Can he stay healthy in 2007?

3. J.J. Putz (RHP, SEA) elbow still isn�t 100%. Is he worth drafting or will he just miss a couple of weeks in April while the elbow heals?

4. Joe Mauer (C, MIN) is the top rated catcher in the American League. Will the stress reaction in his left fibula hold up playing on the hard surface in the Metrodome? Should you still consider drafting him or avoid him?

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