UPDATE: The lockout is over! MLB and MLBPA agreed to a tentative agreement on March 10. The full bodies of owners and players will vote to ratify the deal and Opening Day is tentatively scheduled for April 7. The season will be starting a week late, but 162 games will be on the schedule with the help of some doubleheaders.
Let’s be clear: MLB’s current lockout is terrible. Canceling games is terrible. Not knowing when the regular season will begin is terrible. Everyone who loves baseball should be disappointed with the current state of the league.
But there is a silver lining for some players. Specifically, for those players who spent their winter recovering from an injury in order to return to the diamond as quickly as possible. Perhaps they weren’t originally scheduled to be ready for Opening Day, but with that date completely up in the air, they may end up playing a full season — or something close to it — after all.
Here is a list of notable, fantasy-viable names who now have more time to get healthy before meaningful games are played.
Will miss no time
Alex Bregman, third baseman, Houston Astros
Bregman finished the 2021 season clearly hampered by a wrist injury. It was repaired via surgery in November, and Bregman was cleared to resume hitting again in mid-January. Wrist injuries can be tricky, but the extra time will allow him to knock off any rust and be 100 percent for whatever day ends up being Opening Day.
Mike Clevinger, starting pitcher, San Diego Padres
Clevinger underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career in November 2020. The Padres knew he would miss all of last season but still signed him to a two-year deal when that news broke with the hopes that Clevinger would be ready to contribute in full in 2022. That seems to be the case. The lanky right-hander should be without restraints once Spring Training opens.
Clayton Kershaw, starting pitcher, free agent
Forget one second about Kershaw’s health; we are still not sure where he’ll be pitching next year — or even if he’ll be pitching at all. Retirement reportedly remains a possibility. Otherwise, the future Hall of Famer is coming back from a flexor tendon injury that ended his 2021 season. He said last month that he is preparing as if the season will start on time. Even though it won’t, it sounds like Kershaw will be ready to roll, assuming he does continue his career, whenever the curtain rises.
Charlie Morton, starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves
A comebacker fractured Morton’s right leg during Game 1 of the 2021 World Series. Amazingly, he threw another inning with the injury before being replaced. The veteran underwent surgery soon afterward and said last month that he is “mostly caught up” with his offseason program. Morton may have been held back a bit at the start of spring training, but now, he should be full-go for whenever the season starts.
Anthony Rendon, third baseman, Los Angeles Angels
Last season was a mess for Rendon, who was bothered by groin, knee, hamstring and, finally, hip injuries. They limited him to just 58 games played. He went under the knife in August to correct that hip issue and said after the season that he expects to be ready for Opening Day. There hasn’t been much ink spilled on his status since November, so you have to assume he’s still on schedule. As with most of the players on this list, the more time Rendon gets to prepare, the better, especially as he heads into his age-32 campaign.
Mike Trout, outfielder, Los Angeles Angels
Is Mike Trout healthy today? It’s a question we should all ask Google every morning. But as of now, yes, it seems like the 30-year-old superstar is healthy. This could change at any moment, obviously, but he said during the winter that he was experiencing no calf issues. That’s relieving since Trout didn’t play after May due to a calf strain. He should be considered good to go whenever the regular season commences.
Justin Verlander, starting pitcher, Houston Astros
Similar to Clevinger, Verlander has been out since he underwent TJ surgery in October 2020. All reports say the 39-year-old is on track for the start of this season. Of course, Houston’s two-year, $50 million investment in Verlander this winter is another sign that his health is in order.
May miss Opening Day
Ronald Acuna Jr., outfielder, Atlanta Braves
Perhaps no player on this list gets more of an assist from the delayed start to the season than Acuna. He tore his right ACL in July, meaning that a March 31 return was probably asking for too much. If the season doesn’t begin until late April or early May, Acuna may not miss any games at all. Acuna is being selected in the second and third rounds in some leagues right now, but as the calendar drags on without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 24-year-old stud should find himself not making it out of the first round anywhere.
Lance McCullers, starting pitcher, Houston Astros
McCullers said in February that he is behind schedule in his recovery from a right flexor tendon strain, an injury that ended his season during last year’s playoffs. McCullers will likely not be ready for Opening Day, even if that is at some point in May or beyond. Houston will be extremely careful with its right-hander so as not to aggravate the ailment, which can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery.
Wait and see
Jacob deGrom, starting pitcher, New York Mets
deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball when he’s right. But he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch in an MLB game after July 7 of last season and his status for the start of the 2022 season remains nebulous. deGrom suffered a ligament tear in his right forearm during the summer and, despite being cleared off a mound multiple times, never made it back to game action. The Mets have been pretty quiet about their ace’s health this offseason. This is the type of injury that, if not handled correctly, can lead to a major, year-long absence. He’s still considered a top-10 starter across the fantasy industry, but this will be one of the top storylines in any camp this spring. Your guess as to how this plays out is as good as anyone else’s.
Max Muncy, first baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers
Muncy said in January that he was getting closer to swinging a bat for the first time since tearing the UCL in his left elbow on the final day of the 2021 regular season. So, under a normal schedule, it’s clear that he would not have been fully ready for the start of Spring Training. He’s still being drafted fairly early (in the fifth round on average in ESPN leagues), but we should hope to get another update on his progress soon. This type of injury could really impact Muncy’s power output.
Sixto Sanchez, starting pitcher, Miami Marlins
A breakout start in 2020, Sanchez missed all of last year due to a shoulder injury, culminating with surgery in July. He was expected to be ready for the start of this season. Unfortunately, Marlins reporter Craig Mish said on March 1 that Sanchez is dealing with a separate, undisclosed ailment. With so many questions surrounding his 2022 status, you should probably ignore Sanchez in drafts until further notice.
Stephen Strasburg, starting pitcher, Washington Nationals
The oft-injured Strasburg saw his 2021 season end in July, when he underwent thoracic outlet surgery. The Nationals said in November that he is expected to be ready for Spring Training, and there have been no reports to the contrary since. That’s the good news. However, pitchers have traditionally had a hard time bouncing back from TOS, so even if the former No. 1 overall pick is cleared when the season begins, he may never regain his previous greatness.