First, the good news: It doesn't sound like there is any kind of structural issue with Blake Snell's elbow. He is undergoing surgery to remove a loose body in his left elbow, a minimally invasive surgery that shouldn't require too much time before he can get back on a mound.
The bad news? This might effectively end his Fantasy season. Snell will undergo the arthroscopic procedure this weekend, and while The Athletic reports both the team and Snell are confident he will pitch again this season, it might be too late to make a big impact for Fantasy. Last season, Snell's then-teammate Nathan Eovaldi had a similar procedure in late March and pitched in a minor-league rehab start 39 days later. Snell doesn't have Eovaldi's history of elbow issues, but it still seems likely we won't see Snell back until late August at the earliest.
If you play in a Rotisserie league, you've got to just hang on to Snell and hope he can continue his strong play once he returns — Snell has 31 strikeouts and a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings over his past four starts. He can still provide a big boost if he comes back effective for that last month, especially with the Rays in the midst of a playoff run.
If you're in a H2H league, however, his utility becomes more of a question. With most leagues beginning the playoffs within the next three or four weeks, it's going to be tough for Snell to be there for the first round. It'll still be hard to justify dropping Snell — you don't want him pitching for someone else against you in the final — but you might not have a choice. If you're fighting for a playoff spot, you might need that roster spot more.
You're going to have to decide if Snell is worth stashing based on where you are in the standings, how many weeks are left until the playoffs, how many IL spots you have, etc. But there's one thing there is no question about: You'll need a replacement for Snell.
There's no good replacement for who we hope Snell can be at his best, but there is no shortage of promising pitchers available these days, either. The top option these days is probably Brendan McKay, who seems guaranteed to come back from the minors soon after this injury. McKay struggled in his most recent outing but has ace upside and shouldn't have to deal with any more roster shuffling shenanigans as things grow more dire for the Rays by the day.
I'd also like to see Jose De Leon get a shot for the Rays. The one-time top prospect is working his way back from injuries, and has been brought along slowly, throwing more than 80 pitches just once at Triple-A Durham. However, he has a 3.47 ERA with 53 strikeouts in just 36.1 innings of work this season and has a 3.21 mark with 11.9 K/9 in his Triple-A career. If he ends up getting called up, he is someone to make sure you add.
One player I'll consider adding in Snell's absence is White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez. Don't laugh. Lopez's career has been defined by inconsistency, if not outright disappointment. He's struggling through his toughest season yet, sporting a 5.52 ERA and a league-high 73 runs allowed, but there are reasons to believe he's already turned things around. Lopez has allowed just four runs over his past three starts, with 25 strikeouts and only four walks in that time; He has also averaged 97 mph with his fastball in that stretch, which is about as hard as we've ever seen him throw in the majors, and 3-4 mph up from earlier this season.
You might also want to look into the likes of Asher Wojcieschowski or Jose Urquidy, who Scott White looked into earlier this week. Wojciechowski, like Lopez, is showing signs that he's found a new, enticing level, while Urquidy is starting to live up to his impressive minor-league production. Neither is a sure thing — same with Lopez — but they've shown the kind of upside you would need to replace Snell. Some other names to consider:
- Zac Gallen — Has surprisingly struggled with his command so far, but also struck out nine with one walk Wednesday, a sign of the potential that made him worth waiting on as he tore through the minors this season.
- Tyler Beede — His new slider has led to improved control and some solid production of late
- Kevin Gausman — One of the few pitchers who has been more frustrating than Lopez in recent years, he flashed upside in his last start that makes him tough to ignore, no matter how much you might want to.