Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon has been shut down from throwing due to a forearm strain, an injury that seems likely to make him unavailable for the start of his first season with the club. This seems all but certain to cause Rodon's price to fall in Fantasy Baseball drafts moving forward, but how much should we discount him in the wake of this injury?
If you take the Yankees at their word, probably not very much. Based on what we know right now, Rodon has no elbow damage, but is dealing with a mild injury to the brachioradialis muscle in his left forearm. Rodon will be shut down for 7-10 days before restarting his throwing program, and while Rodon and the team have declined to put a timetable on his return to game action, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters Rodon could return sometime in April "in a perfect world."
That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Move Rodon down your rankings a bit and move on, confident he'll miss a few turns in the rotation and move on, right?
Well, it goes without saying that we do not, in fact, live in a perfect world. If we did, Rodon wouldn't already be dealing with an injury to his throwing arm. And, sure, in a perfect world, this would be a minor speed bump for Rodon, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy. But we shouldn't just assume a currently injured player will return without any issues and be fine moving forward. That wouldn't be prudent.
Over the past two seasons, Rodon's injury track record looks pretty typical for a starting pitcher. He missed a few weeks with a shoulder toward the end of the 2020 season, but ranks 42nd in innings since the start of 2021 – there aren't more than a handful of pitchers who haven't gone on the IL over the past two seasons.
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Of course, history didn't begin in 2021 for Rodon. He missed time in 2020 due shoulder soreness, and that was after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2019. He also had surgery on his left shoulder in 2018 and was on the IL with a shoulder issue in 2017, as well. He has an extensive injury history with his left arm, and getting through the 2021 and 2022 seasons relatively unscathed did not necessarily remove any injury risk.
Rodon was being discounted already due to injury risk concerns, and his price is sure to tumble further – which could, as Scott White points out, lead to a buying opportunity. If the best-case scenario comes to fruition and Rodon is back in mid-April, pitching without issue, he's going to be a huge value if he falls outside of the top 100 in drafts. Even getting 28 starts out of Rodon could be a huge win for your Fantasy team – he made just 24 in 2021 and was the No. 11 SP in Roto leagues.
Of course, the pessimists could be right. They already have a notch in their belt with this forearm issue, and forearm issues have a tendency to turn into elbow issues if you aren't careful – or even if you are careful. Pitching at the major-league level is a hazardous activity, and injuries are an occupational hazard for nearly everyone. Pitchers, as a result, carry a pretty high baseline level of injury risk. Why compound that risk by investing an early-round pick on a pitcher who is already hurt?
This might end up just the start of a lost season for Rodon, who may yet suffer setbacks during the recovery process, turning this from a minor spring knick into a season-long issue. Maybe he comes back too soon and suffers a setback; maybe he is healthy enough to pitch but is just never right and wrecks your ratios for a month before you finally work up the nerve to bench him. Those outcomes are always in play with any pitcher, especially one with Rodon's injury history, but now that he's actually, presently injured, the risk is ramped up.
I'm going to drop Rodon to the SP25 range in my rankings. That'll keep him inside of the top 100, in a range with guys like Chris Sale, Joe Musgrove and Clayton Kershaw, very good pitchers with risks of their own.
I suspect that will probably end up being more expensive than he actually ends up being over the next week or so. Given Rodon's history, any injury is going to garner extreme reactions, and rightly so. Even if he falls outside of the top-100 picks, there's going to be risk involved in taking him. But, again, he was the No. 11 SP in 2021 in 24 starts, so there's still plenty of upside worth chasing here.
And I'll probably be the one chasing it.
But what about the fallout from the injury for the Yankees rotation? It likely means both Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt will open the season in the rotation – German seemed slated for a spot even before this, thanks to Frankie Montas' shoulder injury.
Both pitchers are pretty interesting, too. There isn't much upside with either, necessarily, but both have shown they can be solid options at the MLB level. German has more experience, having put up a 4.37 ERA in 413.2 innings, though he has been better than that at times – including in 2022, when he had a 3.61 ERA in 72.1 innings. He also had a 4.03 ERA in 143 innings in 2019 with 18 wins, and a result like that could make him a solid early-season streamer.
But I think Schmidt is the more interesting option. Maybe that's just because he has less of a track record, but I think there are legitimately interesting skills here. His fastball isn't great – 14.7% whiff rate, .366 expected wOBA allowed last season – but his slider is a legitimate swing-and-miss weapon, while his curveball generates a ton of weak contact. Schmidt has introduced a cutter this spring, and that could help cover up for some of his fastball's deficiencies.
It's a starter's repertoire if it all comes together, and while Schmidt was largely used as a reliever in the bigs last season, he's been a starter in the minors. There isn't a huge track record of him racking up innings, but he does have a 3.16 ERA and 10.9 K/9 overall, so there are certainly some interesting skills here.
Neither German nor Schmidt should shoot up draft boards too much in light of this news, but both become interesting late-round, early-season streamers to consider, especially in 15-team and AL-only leagues. I prefer Schmidt as a dart throw if I have to pick between the two of them.