Every week of the MLB season Tim McCullough will join forces with the Inside Injuries team to look at players who are either playing through injuries or coming back from injuries. We break down their stats and how we expect them to perform in the coming weeks.
Jose Martinez 1B/OF, Cardinals
Martinez was one of the nicer storylines of 2017, as the Cardinals gave the career minor leaguer a shot at the majors when the injury bug struck most of their starting outfielders. During his 11 seasons in the minors, Martinez achieved a career line of .294/.355/.411 with below average strikeout rates and near-elite walk rates. Unfortunately, he averaged less than six home runs and 10 stolen bases per season during that span. However, Fantasy owners who took a flier on Martinez in 2017 were treated to 14 home runs and a .309/.379/.471 triple slash in just 307 plate appearances.
Fast-forward to 2018, which found Martinez picking up where he left off. Despite a groin injury during spring training and a bruised right Achilles at the beginning of the season, Martinez batted .375/.446/.604 with three home runs over the first 14 games. Unfortunately, he suffered a jammed wrist around the middle of April, an injury with a two-week Optimal Recovery Time (ORT) and a Health Performance Factor (HPF) designation of Poor from Inside Injuries. The injury’s toll on Martinez’ production is clear. Over the last 13 games, Martinez batted just .222/.300/.352 with zero home runs.
However, since reaching the Optimal Recovery Time over the weekend, Martinez has begun to show signs of returning to form. He has a hit in six of the last seven games, four of them for extra bases. His HPF has been moved from Poor to Above Average. While he has not hit a home run since April 12, his Hard Hit rate (Hard%) has hovered around 40.7 percent, a significant improvement on the 28.2 percent rate of the season’s first two weeks. In addition, his Groundball rate (GB%) has dropped from 53.8 percent to 45.7 percent during that span. As these statistics normalize to the mean, we should see Martinez beginning to hit for power again and his batting average should return to something close to .300.
Yoenis Cespedes OF, Mets
Cespedes has been playing with injuries for most of the season’s first month. He had wrist and shoulder issues coming out of spring training and his .190/.266/.362 line over the first 14 games indicates that the HPF of either Poor or Below Average as determined by Inside Injuries’ algorithm was indeed justified. However, Cespedes has defied the odds and began turning things around over the last two weeks.
Over the last 14 games, Cespedes has batted .327/.358/.612 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. His Hard% of just 24 percent during the first half of April has soared to 41.7 percent over the second half of the month, indicating that Cespedes has regained his power stroke and overcome the injuries that hampered him early on.
However, Cespedes suffered a jammed thumb over the weekend while sliding head-first into a base, missing two games as a result. Inside Injuries’ ORT for such an injury is three weeks, so his return to action so quickly after injuring his hand is ill-advised So, while Cespedes smashed his seventh homer and had three hits in four at bats during his return to action, Inside Injuries’ Health Performance Factor for him remains at Poor, and he is at high risk for additional injury.
Unfortunately, Cespedes has a history filled with injuries and the bad habit of playing through them, and the Mets organization have become infamous for their inept handling of injuries. He played only 81 games in 2017 due to several nagging injuries, and his 2016 season was also marred with long slumps because he played hurt. Since Cespedes is hitting well now and his fantasy value appears to be on the rise, this is a great time to shop him around in your leagues to see what you might get in return from a trade.
Andrelton Simmons SS, Angels
Simmons has gotten off to a torrid start this season, batting .309/.380/.474 over the first month of the season. Inside Injuries’ Health Performance Factor for Simmons remains Above Average, so the expectation is that he will continue to produce despite lingering forearm soreness that has him at High Risk for additional injury.
A look at Simmons’ peripheral statistics indicates that his performance could indeed be sustainable. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) currently stands at .317. While this is well above his career mark of .279, his Line Drive rate of 21.8 percent and his Hard% of 38.9 percent are the main drivers behind his BABIP. The latter stat may experience some regression to the mean, though, as his career Hard% is just 26.1 percent. Even so, this should affect his batting average all that much, as he rarely swings and misses and is laying off pitches out of the hitting zone as indicated by his 4.6 percent Swinging Strike rate and 19.5 percent O-Swing.
The Angels’ offense is generating 4.59 runs per game, which is above the MLB average of 4.45. Simmons’ 18 runs scored is second only to Mike Trout’s 21 on the Angels, so he is clearly benefiting from the team’s improved offense this season. Simmons should continue to hit for a high average, score plenty of runs and achieve a double-digit home run total by the end of the season. As a result, Simmons should be on your radar as a player to target in a trade if you don’t already own him.