Fantasy Baseball Injury Reaction: Aaron Judge's rib stress fracture moves him down the rankings
The uncertainty surrounding Aaron Judge has some clarity now ... or does it? Scott White tries to make sense of a murky diagnosis.
Genuinely. It defies believability.
You might be inclined to say the Yankees have had bad injury luck this spring, and in the case of Giancarlo Stanton (strained calf), it would be a fair enough assessment. But for Luis Severino, James Paxton and now Aaron Judge, it's less luck than poor planning. All three of their injuries date back to the end of last season, and yet none were discovered until they arrived in camp, squandering months of recovery time. That's ... difficult to reconcile, even for those with zero medical expertise (like myself).
Judge's situation is the latest to develop. Turns out the soreness he had been feeling in his shoulder and pectoral region — so vague and yet so persistent — is a stress fracture in his rib, most likely suffered on a slide last September.
And so here we go again.
Unlike Severino (Tommy John surgery, out for all of 2020) and Paxton (back surgery, out for the first six weeks at least), Judge isn't going under the knife ... at least not yet. A CT scan showed some signs of healing, so the Yankees will let it lie for now and reevaluate his progress in two weeks. And for what it's worth, Judge himself seems optimistic:
But, like ... he had a whole offseason of rest already. Forgive me for seeing the glass half empty here.
Surgery could be as extensive as rib removal, which would require some recovery, as you can probably imagine. A quick Google search tells me it's six weeks before the pain is gone, and I imagine only then would the swinging begin. And honestly, I'm not sure how much surgery would even change the timetable. He thinks he can start swinging again in two weeks, but it's not going to be possible until the pain is all the way gone. He risks making the fracture worse until it is, not to mention messing up his mechanics. And even when the pain is gone, he'll still need his own spring training. Dude hasn't seen a pitch yet.
I'm only speculating, of course, but I'm forced to because Fantasy Baseball drafts are already happening. And if yours is coming up, you'll also be forced to decide on Judge despite the murky timetable. He's the best pure home run hitter in the game and no worse than a second-rounder if we can presume good health, but I wouldn't hope for more than a mid-May return at this point. That's one-fourth of the season.
And with that, Judge drops outside of my top 30 outfielders — after Trey Mancini, Nick Castellanos and Michael Conforto. Probably after Ramon Laureano in a standard Rotisserie league. If he actually does return by mid-May, maybe he turns out to be a good value, but I don't think it's far-fetched to suggest Judge could miss half the season with this. As with Chris Sale's injury, the whole thing is touch and go.
The silver lining is that all of those sleeper bats that figured to cannibalize each other's playing time for the Yankees now have a much clearer path. Luke Voit probably won't have to share first base so much with Miguel Andujar, who can split his time between left field and DH. And with Stanton also sidelined to begin the season, former prospect Clint Frazier, who has generated some buzz this spring with an new timing mechanism, has a chance to make his case as well. Voit and Andujar may begin to distance themselves from other late-round targets, and Frazier now is worth a flier in five-outfielder leagues.
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