HomeTeamsAngelsPerformance Of Injured Players To Influence Title Chases

It happens every spring: players who missed most or all of the previous season with severe injuries report to spring training camps hoping to get their careers back on track.

Almost every team – from contenders to pretenders – has at least one man whose return to health could make a major impact in his team’s fortunes.

Here are a baker’s dozen with the best chances to do just that:

1. Edwin Diaz, Mets – After blowing out his knee while celebrating a victory in the World Baseball Classic last spring, this 29-year-old closer hopes to recapture his form of 2022, when he saved 32 games in 35 tries, posted a career-best 1.31 ERA, and fanned 118 men in 62 innings, spread over 61 games. The 6’3″ right-hander has averaged 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings during his seven-year career. Get the trumpets ready!

2. Gavin Lux, Dodgers – With Mookie Betts moving from the outfield to second base, Lux is the likely shortstop – as he was last spring before tearing his ACL. A left-handed hitter with 20/20 potential, he’s a versatile player who could also fill in as an outfielder or second baseman. The former top prospect is still just 25.

3. Tyler Matzek, Braves – Apparently healed from Tommy John surgery that idled him all of last season, this 6’3″ southpaw will compete with A.J. Minter as the leading lefty in the Atlanta bullpen. A workhorse who appeared in a career-high 69 games for the Braves in 2021, he is best-remembered as the fearless fireballer who fanned three straight Dodgers during that year’s National League Championship Series.

4. Rhys Hoskins, Brewers – Hungry for power, Milwaukee managed to land a prize in Hoskins, a 31-year-old first baseman who could also see time as a designated hitter. At 31, he’s healed from a torn ACL in his left knee and hoping to have the third 30-homer season of his six-year career, all spent with Philadelphia. The big right-handed slugger stands 6’4″ tall.

5. Anthony Rendon, Angels – With three years left on his free-agent contract, this former Washingon third baseman hopes to end a four-year string of injury-riddled seasons. He hasn’t played in 60 games in any of the last four years. When he’s right, Rendon is an RBI machine, even leading the National League in that department with 126 in 2019, his last year in the NL.

6. Dillon Tate, Orioles – A four-year veteran at age 29, this right-handed reliever could prove a valuable set-up man for newly-signed free agent Craig Kimbrel. He topped 60 appearances two years in a row before succumbing to injuries in 2023. He missed the whole year after suffering right elbow and forearm injuries.

7. Oneill Cruz, Pirates – The tallest shortstop in the majors at 6-7, this left-handed slugger gave hint of his potential when he hit 17 homers in 87 games after his call-up in 2022. But he had only 32 at-bats last year before he broke his leg and missed the rest of the season. Probably the best player on the Pirates, he also runs, throws, and fields well. At 25, his best years are ahead of him.

8. Casey Mize, Tigers – The first player picked in the 2018 amateur draft, Mize is a 6’3″ right-handed pitcher who’s battled back and elbow issues in recent years. A control artist whose primary pitches are a fastball and splitter, he should fit into the Tigers rotation if he proves healthy this spring.

9. Shane Baz, Rays – Once one of Tampa Bay’s top prospects, this 25-year-old right-hander is young enough to rebound from major reconstructive elbow surgery. If he pitches well during exhibition play, Baz could be a candidate for the team’s final rotation spot. He’s started nine previous games for the Rays.

10. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins – Multiple shoulder surgeries have kept this right-handed starter sidelined since 2020 but he’s in camp with Miami hoping to resurrect his once-promising career. In 2021, he was the 15th-ranked prospect in the game.

11. Sean Newcomb, Athletics – Lucky to be with a team that can afford to give him a lengthy audition, this 6’5″ southpaw has bounced around a bit – mainly because of constant control problems. After two knee surgeries last year, he’s hoping to become the top portsider in the Oakland bullpen. He pitched only seven times in 2023.

12. Riley Greene, Tigers – A promising center-fielder recovering from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, Greene has youth on his side at age 23. He hit 11 homers in limited action for Detroit last year.

13. Jeffrey Springs, Rays – A 31-year-old lefty who converted from relieving to starting in 2022, he pitched only three times last season before injuries intervened. Beset by injuries, he Rays need rotation help so Springs will get long looks during spring training.

Honorable Mention: Jarren Duran, Red Sox; Huascar Ynoa, Braves; Gregory Santos, Mariners; Lance McCullers, Jr., Astros; Trevor Rogers, Marlins.

Dan Schlossberg, Senior Writer
Dan Schlossberg, Senior Writerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a national baseball writer for forbes.com; weekend editor of the Here’s The Pitch newsletter; columnist for Sports Collectors Digest; and contributor to USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Memories & Dreams, and many other outlets. He’s also the author of more than 40 books. His email is ballauthor@gmail.com.


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