It goes without saying that, while all injuries are bad news, some are obviously worse than others. And the one Adam Wainwright is feared to have suffered during an at-bat Saturday could be a cause for great concern.
Wainwright is set to undergo an MRI to confirm, but Fox Sports reports that the team fears he has suffered an Achilles injury that would end his season. That seemingly implies a rupture, an injury that typically requires surgery and a lengthy recovery process. For comparison's sake, Ryan Howard suffered a ruptured Achilles in October 2011 and wasn't able to return to action until the following July.
Going through DL information for the last five years via BaseballHeatMaps.com, there isn't much of a recent track record for pitchers suffering this type of injury. Every player who went on the disabled list since 2010 for an Achilles injury was a batter; given the way Wainwright suffered his own injury, this makes some sense. Achilles injuries tend to be seen more when an athlete is running or jumping.
According to a 1994 study, 70-90 percent of athletes have a successful return following an Achilles tendon injury, though 20 percent eventually require a re-operation for overuse. So, the good news is, we should see Wainwright again. However, if the initial reports are confirmed, this is probably the last we'll see of Wainwright this season. How should Fantasy owners go about replacing Wainwright, if the worst-case scenario indeed comes to pass?
Luckily, the Cardinals have some depth waiting in the minors when needed -- don't they always? Unfortunately, right now, neither of their two most obvious candidates seems to be ready to step into the rotation.
With Jaime Garcia, we pretty much know what to expect at this point. Which is to say, not a whole lot, at least in terms of reliability. Shoulder woes have derailed a once-promising career, and he is working his way back from another issue that set him back during the spring. He tossed a simulated game Saturday, and will try to do so again Thursday as he works his way back from shoulder inflammation.
Garcia will likely need to progress from sim games to actual rehab appearances before the team considers him as an option for the rotation, so we probably wouldn't see him for at least another few weeks. However, if he does eventually step into the rotation down the line, we know he can be a solid option, albeit one without a ton of upside. Garcia's career 3.50 ERA matches his peripherals, as he picks up a ton of groundballs, with a league-average strikeout rate and solid control.
If Garcia is the safe (relatively speaking) option, Marco Gonzales is the wild card. He competed for a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training, but the same issues that plagued him in a cup of coffee last fall kept him from winning the job. The control wasn't there, as he walked seven batters in 17 1/3 innings, after walking 21 in 34 2/3 last season in 10 appearances.
Gonzales might not have the stuff to get away with middling command, as his fastball tops out in the low-90's. His go-to pitch is a changeup that could be among the best in baseball, and that could be the key to his success in the majors. If he can keep right-handed batters off balance and avoid having a major platoon split, he'll find success. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case last year: righties teed off on him to the tune of a .267/.379/.448 triple-slash line, while he held lefties to a .143/.219/.179 line at the plate.
Gonzales is dealing with his own injury concerns, as he is on the disabled list at Triple-A Memphis with a pectoral injury. However, the DL trip was considered precautionary, so it seems likely he will be available before Garcia, if they opt to go that route.
Given Garcia's track record, it's hard to get too excited about him. He can be a league-average pitcher for a while, but the upside isn't there, and the downside is evident in his injury history. Gonzales, as a Baseball America top-100 prospect, seems to be the more exciting option, if you have to speculate. Of course, neither pitcher is going to be able to come close to matching Wainwright's upside, as one of the best starting pitchers in the game.
This injury could be a huge blow to the Cardinals' chances this season, and Fantasy owners are going to feel it too. There's just no replacing a pitcher of Wainwright's caliber.