MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox

The start of Spring Training is a time for boundless optimism … at least until the players actually report to Spring Training. Players have started reporting to Spring Training across the league, and that always means one thing: Our first batch of bad news for the season.

Players get hurt playing baseball, but they also get hurt preparing to play baseball. In fact, players might be more at risk of injuries in the first days and weeks of spring training than any other time of year, because they're typically increasing their activity significantly once they get to Spring Training. And we always get some bad news about injuries right when players start to report to camp.

The good news is, most of you are a month or more away from actually drafting, so you'll have plenty of information by then. And, hopefully, most of these early-spring injuries will be a distant memory by then. But you still need to know about them. I've collected the most important injury and roster news from around the league over the past few days in today's column, with my thoughts on how they should impact Fantasy drafts where applicable. 

Let's start with Orioles camp, where they got a lot of bad news Thursday. With none bigger than… 

Kyle Bradish has a UCL sprain

Bradish is going to start the season on the IL as a result of the injury to his pitching elbow, and it obviously isn't an overreaction to say this dramatically changes his outlook for the 2024 season. Bradish was pretty much a top-24 pitcher in early ADP and rankings, but he has to move down dramatically after this news – even with Orioles GM Mike Elias telling reporters that "everything is pointing in the right direction for Bradish." That's an optimistic view that may end up looking reasonable, but Elias offered scant details on a timetable otherwise; Bradish had a platelet-rich plasma injection in the elbow and will begin a throwing program Friday, but all Elias would say is he expects Bradish to pitch for the team in 2024.

This could end up being a relatively minor hiccup for Bradish, who had a breakout season in 2023, posting 2.83 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 168.2 innings of work. There was already some room for concern about regression, and now, in a best-case scenario, he's already had his prep for the season disrupted and won't open the season in the rotation. Bradish could return sometime in April and this ends up being a footnote in an otherwise successful season, but this is an extremely ominous way to begin the season.

I was already a bit lower on Bradish in my rankings, but he was a top-30 starting pitcher before this. Now? I'm moving him to SP60, into a range just below other risks like Yu Darvish, Michael King, Shane Baz, and Max Scherzer, among others. That might end up being an overreaction, but it also might be way too high. When it comes to one of my top starting pitchers, I'd rather avoid obvious risks, and a pitcher dealing with an elbow injury in February is about as obvious a risk as you can find. This might just be the start of a lost season for Bradish. 

Walker Buehler will not be in the Opening Day rotation

This one is a bit of an older news item, but the good news here is that there doesnt seem to be any specific injury Buehler is working through. He had Tommy John surgery and missed all of last season while recovering, and the Dodgers are just taking an extra-cautious approach. We don't know what his timetable is, exactly, but Buehler has been throwing bullpen sessions in camp already and is expected to face live hitters "soon." More than anything, it seems the Dodgers are just trying to manage Buehler's innings in a more natural way than what the Marlins dealt with with Eury Perez last year – remember, he had to be sent down part way through the season and was shut down from throwing for a few weeks before coming back.

The only problem here is we don't really know what kind of workload to project for Buehler. Will he be back in the rotation by mid-April? Will he be babied for a few weeks? Will the Dodgers go with a six-man rotation? It adds some uncertainty to his profile, as does the fact that Buehler is coming back from a second Tommy John surgery and we just don't know what he'll look like at this point. He could pitch like an ace for 150 innings and be well-worth a top-40 starting pitcher; he also might just not be the same guy at this point. I'm expecting something more like the former, with Buehler's rookie season in 2018 perhaps serving as a guide – he threw 137.1 innings, struck out 151 with a 2.62 ERA and was the SP26 for the season. Given the risk and uncertainty, I'm ranking him about 15 spots lower than that, but he's a decent mid-round pick with significant upside. 

Justin Verlander is "a couple weeks" behind schedule

Verlander told reporters he is dealing with a "little hiccup" with his shoulder, but has already been throwing in camp, so I'm not sure how serious this is likely to be. Verlander is, of course, 41 years old, so any minor issue could turn into a serious one relatively quickly, and we'll definitely want to keep an eye on his status in the next few weeks. However, Verlander doesn't expect this to impact his availability for Opening Day, though he admitted his timeline is "tight" as he preps for the season. 

Verlander's ADP right now in NFBC leagues is 125.11, so the risk here is somewhat muted. You probably shouldn't expect 200 innings from Verlander at this point anyway – ditto for 200 strikeouts, as he hasn't hit either mark since 2019. But useful ratios and a decent amount of wins on a good Astros team? Yeah, that should make him a solid, if unspectacular SP3 at this point. 

John Means (elbow) is a month behind his throwing schedule 

Means made it back from Tommy John surgery late last season, posting a 2.66 ERA over 23.2 innings, albeit with just 10 strikeouts, but there was some sleeper appeal here given the lineup backing him in that big home park. However, he dealt with soreness in his elbow that kept him off the playoff roster, and now, four months later, it's enough of an issue to be impacting his availability for Opening Day. 

Means is generally just a late-round pick, with an ADP of 275.4, so there's little risk here. However, with other sleeper pitchers like Nestor Cortes, Marcus Stroman, Luis Severino, and Chris Paddack all going later than him without issues right now, I think he has to be behind them. I'm probably not touching Means unless it's a league where 300-plus players get picked, and even then, I need to have an IL spot to stash him in to justify it. 

Gunnar Henderson (oblique) will have the start of his spring delayed

It was a deluge of bad news for the Orioles Thursday, though the Henderson news seems like it might be the least concerning. Obliques are tricky injuries, and anything that derails a players' prep for the season in Spring Training is a concern, but because he doesn't have to build up in the same way a pitcher needs to do with his arm means that this is probably a less concerning thing – as long as he avoids a setback, of course. That's where the fact that it is an oblique injury comes in, because those have a tendency to stick around longer than expected. Avoiding a setback will be the most important thing, and as long as the Orioles let him rest until he is fully recovered, he should be fine. I'm not moving Henderson down in my rankings yet. 

Kenley Jansen (lat) had his throwing program paused

The injury here was described as "general lat soreness" and he's been shut down from throwing for the time being. It doesn't sound too serious now, but it does complicate things for the Red Sox a bit, since there have been some trade rumors surrounding Jansen in recent weeks. If he gets healthy, it seems likely he'll get moved before Opening Day – Jansen is an expiring contract – which makes it tough to know how to value him. Jansen hasn't been a non-closer since 2011, when he was first breaking in, so I'd still expect him to close wherever he ends up, but it's not 100% certain, which is enough to introduce some skepticism into his profile. He tends to go outside of the first 10 rounds in drafts right now, and I like that price enough to draft him there even with the uncertainty. 

Yariel Rodriguez will compete for a rotation spot for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays gave Rodriguez a five-year, $32 million deal, so it's not totally surprising they're going to give him an opportunity to pitch in a more high-value role. However, there are some complicating factors to account for, starting with the fact that Rodriguez, 27 on Opening Day, didn't pitch last year while trying to get out of his contract with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan.

Then there's also the fact that Rodriguez didn't start in Japan, serving primarily as a closer. Rodriguez had a 3.03 ERA with 9.7 K/9 in that role, but he also struggled with his control at times and has a fairly limited repertoire – he throws in the high-90s with his fastball, averaging 95 mph in his World Baseball Classic start for Cuba last year; he also has a sweeper that is his best secondary, along with a splitter he has used very sparingly in competitive games. The development of that offspeed offering will probably determine if Rodriguez's stuff will play up as a starter multiple times through the order, but given the concerns about his workload, I'd be pretty surprised if they pushed him aggressively into the rotation right away. Rodriguez is an interesting deep sleeper, but we might be looking at 2025 for him to realistically make an impact – unless he gets a shot at a high-leverage, late-inning relief role. 

Jonathan India (foot) and Noelvi Marte are behind schedule 

Whenever we talk about teams having too many players for too few spots, I like to quote Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: "Life, uh, finds a way." Attrition is an incredibly powerful force, and teams that have "too many" players tend to find themselves with too few players before long, whether through injury or underperformance. 

The Reds certainly have too many players right now, of course, and it's a problem for Fantasy players and analysts trying to project playing time. Between the four infield spots and DH, they have: Jeimer Candelario, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Marte, and India. Add in Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl, and Will Benson, and you've got 10 players vying for playing time across eight spots in the lineup, which means you're going to have at least two players on the outside looking in every single day unless someone learns how to play catcher. It's a bit of a mess right now … except, it might not be. 

Marte is still dealing with a hamstring injury suffered in December, while India has been limited in his offseason workouts due to a plantar fasciitis injury that dates back to last season. He was supposed to work on outfield defense in the offseason, but hasn't been able to get many reps in, which limits his flexibility. Neither injury seems likely to impact either's Opening Day eligibility, but it certainly could impact Marte's spot on the roster; he seems to be on the bubble as it is, given his defensive issues, so anything that makes his Spring Training more difficult could lead to a trip back to Triple-A despite a strong cup of coffee with the big league team.

India's roster spot is safe after signing a two-year contract in recent days, but if he's still dealing with that foot issue from last season, it's not hard to see how he could be limited enough to help clear up the log jam somewhat. So, while the Reds may get to Opening Day with 10 players still competing for eight spots, it's not hard to see how that issue could also solve itself before we even get there.