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Clinical Notes: Spring Training Injury News
Nate Springfield | Monday March 19th, 2012
Chase Utley's knee is a major concern for the Phillies. (Icon SMI)
Chase Utley's knee is a major concern for the Phillies. (Icon SMI)

Even though most fans view spring training stats as meaningless numbers that can't help predict a player's upcoming season, players dealing with spring training injuries should definitely be a concern to any fantasy baseball owner.

There have been over two weeks of spring training games played and we are inching closer to the start of the season. If you've drafted a player that is hurt, hopefully you have a backup plan to start the season. If you have a draft coming up in the next few days, here are a few notable injuries to keep an eye on.

Chase Utley - 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
The most recent news on Chase Utley is probably most disheartening to both Phillies fans and fantasy owners.  Utley was sidelined and bothered by a degenerative condition in his right knee last season, playing in only 103 games.  News spread Monday morning that Utley, who has yet to make an appearance in a Grapefruit League game, had hit a plateau in the rehab of his knee and that he would be sent to see a knee specialist.  Later in the morning, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. stated that with this current setback, Utley would be doubtful to play on Opening Day.

Fantasy owners who have already drafted Utley as their second basemen should start making arrangements now to fill his spot for the start of the season.  It appears that Ty Wigginton and Freddy Galvis will be the two Phillies sharing time at second base until Utley returns.  Wigginton batted .242 with 15 home runs last season over 401 at-bats with the Colorado Rockies, and would be a more valuable pick up than Galvis because of his multi-position eligibility.  Galvis, a shortstop by trade, should not be considered ownable in any format going into the season.  Last year at Double-A Reading, he hit for a .233 average with 12 stolen bases and 3 home runs in 408 at-bats.

Giancarlo Stanton - OF, Miami Marlins
Giancarlo Stanton (formerly known as Mike) has not seen game action since last Sunday (March 10th) after he took a pitch off of his left wrist.  After taking batting practice the following Tuesday, it came to light that he was also dealing with pain and inflammation in his left knee.  Stanton could miss another week of time, but is aiming for a return to the spring training lineup by this Saturday March 24.  The x-ray of the wrist came back negative, so there is little worry about the wrist being an issue that lingers throughout the season.  It currently sounds like the ailing knee is something the training staff will be able to get under control and have Stanton ready for opening day.

If your league has yet to hold a draft, there is no reason at this time to downgrade Stanton's value.  Since there was no physical damage done to the wrist, his power and swing should not be affected by the injury.  Even if his knee injury holds him out of a game or two early in the season, keep in mind that he hit 34 home runs in 150 games last season.

Corey Hart - OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Staying with National League outfielders, Corey Hart is dealing with a knee issue. Hart underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right-knee to repair a torn meniscus at the beginning of March.  It was originally projected that he would be held out of baseball activities for 3-to-4 weeks, probably starting the season on the disabled list.  The 29-year-old has been ahead of schedule in his recovery, and barring any setbacks this week, is penciled in to play in a minor league spring training game this Friday.  If the rehabilitation of the knee keeps progressing at this pace, he won't have to start the year on the disabled list.

Fantasy owners should keep in mind that Hart hit his 26 home runs and collected 63 RBI in just 130 games after missing the first few weeks of the 2011 season because of injury.  Even if he does start the season on the disabled list, the team will be able to retroactive the date, keeping Hart's time on the shelf minimal.  There is no reason to think that this injury is going to keep him from putting up the same kind of numbers he did last year, if not better if he gets more at-bats.

Joakim Soria - RP, Kansas City Royals
Joakim Soria removed himself from a spring training game on Sunday because of right-elbow pain.  Soria successfully underwent Tommy John surgery on the elbow in question in 2003, and in a statement Monday, he expressed concern about the health of the elbow.  However, Soria was quick to say that it didn't feel the same as it did before he needed surgery in 2003, when he lost all strength in the elbow, but that there was considerable pain in the elbow now.  Manager Ned Yost also expressed that the team is concerned with the health of their closer's pitching arm and Soria will rest until he is re-evaluated later this week.

This should be a major red flag to fantasy owners for a few reasons.  Soria had his problems last season keeping the closing duties, converting 28 of his 35 save opportunities, and this injury could cause a couple different outcomes for his 2012 season.  More than likely, he will be rested more, miss time because of a trip to the disabled list, or be removed from the closer position again because of performance.  The other arms in the Royals bullpen that are capable of closing are Aaron Crow, Jonathan Broxton, and Greg Holland.  It's hard for Soria owners to handcuff their investment with another pitcher because of how many guys could be handed the ball in the ninth inning if Soria is unable to pitch.  Minimal to no investment should be made in the Royals bullpen on draft day until more news is known.

Kendrys Morales - 1B, Los Angeles Angels
After suffering a broken ankle celebrating after a walk-off home run in 2010, Kendrys Morales missed all of the 2011 season, even though it was reported many times that he was close to coming back.  This year, things are sounding similar, but the Angels are being a little more convincing in reporting that Morales will actually play in 2012.  Last week, he made a few appearances in minor league games with no setbacks to his surgically repaired ankle, and is slated to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday.  This is excellent news, because by playing in a major league spring training game, the Angels will not be able to back date a disabled list trip, meaning the team believes Morales could be ready to play on opening day.

Fantasy owners should take note because in Morales' last full season he hit 34 home runs with a .306 batting average, and in 2010, he was on pace to finish the season with 33 home runs with a .290-plus batting average.  The Angels will have the luxury to not play Morales if there is any concern about the health of his ankle because of their depth at the designated hitter position, but he could be a very rewarding middle round risk if he can accumulate 450-plus at-bats this season.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.